by Jin S. Kim
The name is everything and the iPhone 5 got off to a terrible start. I really thought Apple would call it The New iPhone. The name iPhone 5 doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. The 4 in iPhone 4 meant the fourth iteration, 4S meant a faster 4, 3G meant it took advantage of 3G networks, and 3GS meant a faster 3G. What does the 5 in iPhone 5 mean? 5 doesn’t mean the fifth iteration because it’s actually the sixth. It’s not 5G. I can’t think of anything 5 might mean other than it’s the number after 4. The 5 in iPhone 5 is almost meaningless. Why use it.
What the heck is 1136×640? I understand how Apple got there, but the result is horrible. The original iPhone started with a 3:2 3.5-inch 480×320 LCD. Apple stuck with it through the iPhone 3GS and then with the iPhone 4 the pixels were doubled horizontally and vertically to 960×640 and birthed the retina display, a display where individual pixels can’t be distinguished at the distance most folks look at the display. The retina display visual experience is wonderful. Apple stuck with a 3:2 aspect ratio and doubling the pixels was genius because old apps looked the same on the iPhone retina display and apps that took advantage of the retina display looked absolutely brilliant. Everything was the same when it came the visual experience, but everything was doubly clear.
But now we have an iPhone with a 16:9 aspect ratio. To me 16:9 = HD video. And HD means 1280×720 or 1920×1080. With 1136×640 most apps will need to be rewritten anyway. Why not just go whole hog, embrace a worldwide display standard, and use a 1280×720 pixel format? Did Apple focus the iPhone to work better with 16:9 video with the 5? I think so. Then it should have used 1280×720. Heck, Apple could’ve claimed the iPhone 5 the king of retina with a ppi of 367. 1136×640 is just wonky.
And why 4 inches? To keep the same pixel width of 640, and the same 326-ppi resolution? If making things easy for developers was an important consideration then Apple didn’t do very well because almost all apps will need to be rewritten to take full advantage of the change in aspect ratio and pixel format. Why not 4.5 inches? If bigger is better why not a little bigger? Everyone else is doing it. Ah yes, Apple didn’t want to make it too big because it didn’t want to make the experience of using the iPhone too uncomfortable. One hand operation will be difficult for most, but it would have been almost impossible if it was bigger than 4 inches. Difficult is better than almost impossible, I guess.
As you may have heard, Apple has increased the size of the display on the iPhone 5 to 4 inches (at an 1136 x 640 resolution), as opposed to the 3.5-inch screens that have dominated every other model in the line. Prior to the release of the new phone, there were many people who argued that the 3.5-inch display was scientifically perfect — having been engineered to match the average reach of a thumb — and a larger screen would create all sorts of usability problems. Undoubtedly those poor individuals are undergoing surgery as we speak in the hopes that they may someday be able to reach the upper left corner of the iPhone 5’s screen with their right-hand thumb. I can tell you I’ve had no such troubles, but then again I have huge, monster-like hands.
I was and still am one of those many people who argued and argue the 3:2 3.5-inch display was and is ideal for people with average hands, not for people with monster-like hands, to whom I would recommend the Samsung Galaxy Note or the LG Optimus Vu. Bigger is not always better and when the smartphone becomes too big to operate with one hand that’s when bigger has become too big. The 4-inch 16:9 display on the iPhone 5 is too big for a great majority of folks who use smartphones. I just saw the Apple’s Thumbs iPhone 5 ad explaining how perfectly sized the 4-inch 16:9 LCD is. The only problem is the dude’s hand is probably much larger than your average hand. The existence of an ad like this suggests Apple marketing is responding to what I think is a valid complaint: The iPhone 5 is too big to use it like you did with the iPhone, iPhone 3G/3GS, iPhone 4/4S. When did it become okay to sacrifice usability for the sake of making something bigger? Did Samsung’s gigantic Galaxy smartphones and their successes have anything to do with it? I’m more than a bit disappointed because it seems Apple went from 3.5 inches to 4.0 inches without a good reason. It went from 3:2 to 16:9 without a good reason. And it went from 960×640 to 1136×640 without a good reason. This is what I would have liked in The New iPhone: everything in the iPhone 5 but with a 3:2 3.5-inch 960×640 in-cell touch LCD. Well… not everything, but if given the choice I would have preferred a thinner, lighter iPhone 4S with a better display, camera, and LTE.
Update 2012.09.25: MacRumors member Leotno reports of light leakage, not from the display, but from the chassis.