Apple will finally increase the size of the iPhone's display from 3.5 inches to "at least four inches diagonally," according to the Wall Street Journal. Citing unnamed sources, the Journal reports that Apple is ordering larger displays for the next-generation iPhone from LG Display, Sharp, and Japan Display Inc. This time the information comes from sources familiar with Apple's supply chain.
We've heard this report before. Many times, in fact, though most often from less-reputable sources. With the Journal throwing its weight behind the notion of an iPhone with a larger display, it's at least fractionally more likely to be legitimate.
Does the next-gen iPhone's display really matter? You betcha.
All the iPhones released since 2007 have had displays measuring 3.5-inches. The original iPhone, iPhone 3G, and iPhone 3GS all had 320 x 480 pixels. Apple doubled that resolution to 640 x 960 pixels with the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S. The incredible pixel density of the iPhone 4/4S screens let Apple market their "retina displays" to consumers as superior to the competition. In terms of pixel density, at least, Apple's retina displays are incredible.
The resolution of the iPhone 4/4S screens was doubled for a reason: it made life easier for iPhone app developers. Developers could more successfully port their iPhone 3G/3GS apps to the iPhone 4/4S. What the Journal doesn't say is what resolution the new iPhone's screen will have. This metric is just as important as the size.
While the larger size will likely appeal to users across the board, Apple won't want to make things difficult for its legions of app developers. Some have suggested that Apple could boost the size to 4.0 inches and keep the resolution the same. The pixel density would drop, though it would still be a rich display.
At this point, Apple has to increase the size of the iPhone's display.
Competing smartphones that run Android and Windows Phone surpassed the 3.5-inch mark years ago. Many of today's devices ship with displays measuring 4.3 inches or more. Today's flagship Android phones seem to have settled on the 4.6-inch to 4.8-inch range for their displays, most often with 1280 x 720 pixels. Just look at the HTC One X or the Samsung Galaxy S III. These newer HD displays work well with HD content that is available from a wide range of content sources, such as the Google Play Store, Netflix, and others. They also look darned good.
As much as Apple might want to stick to its own guns with respect to screen size and resolution, it would be better for Apple's customers if Apple conformed to the 1280 x 720 spec that's quickly becoming the norm for high-end devices. Will it? Probably not, but we can always hold out hope.
Apple isn't expected to debut the new iPhone until later this year, most likely in October.