What a bigger iPhone would mean for developers

iphone-6-or-04Rumors of a bigger iPhone have been around almost since after the original was announced back in 2007. While we got a bumped screen size with the iPhone 5 to the now standard 4-inch Retina display, there are rumors that the iPhone could get even bigger, with as big a display as 5.7-inch (which I don’t see happening). If you remember before the iPhone 5 was announced, people were wondering how the larger screen would accommodate applications that had been built for years upon a 3.5-inch screen. Well, what happened was there were ugly black bars on the top and bottom of the app, making it appear as if you were using a 3.5-inch screen. Is that going to happen all over again? I don’t think so.

When Apple went to the 4-inch form factor, it did so by simply making the current screen taller and keeping the same width, therefore changing the ratio to a 16:9 ratio. This was perfect for things like watching video, etc on the device, while also giving more real-estate to applications and the operating system itself (“a whole other row of icons!”). So making that move to 16:9 was something I don’t see Apple doing, and then undoing in the next screen size jump; assuming that happens of course. I think that if Apple jump up in screen size, this time it will be doing so on both the x and y axis, keeping the 16:9 ratio as it gets bigger. What does this mean for developers? Probably not as much as you’d think.

When iOS 6 was announced, a big deal was made out of the discovery that it includes something called Auto Layout. What this allows developers to do is have a UI automatically change based on the size of the screen it is being shown on. For instance, if someone wants to have a button stay in the bottom right hand corner of a screen no matter whether the device is portrait, landscape, 4 inches or 3.5, you could use Auto Layout to say that you the button to be X pixels from the right edge of the screen at all times, and X pixels from the bottom of the screen. Therefore, no matter what, it would be “anchored” to the bottom right corner of the screen, exactly X pixels from the right and X pixels from the bottom. This opened the door for multiple sizes of screens in iPhones, and, low and behold, that’s exactly what we got later that year.

Now, with Apple looking to up the size of the screen, Auto Layout is obviously something that many developers will take advantage of in order to accommodate for the extra size; however, it isn’t only size that rumors have said will change. When Apple released the iPhone 4 in 2010 it introduced a crisp, high resolution display that was nothing like anything anyone had seen before. A lot of people noticed that images inside unoptimized applications looked fuzzy and blurry, and that is because the images were being shown at twice that of their original size. This is where @2x images came into play, and they are still used today in all iPads and iPhones using Retina displays (@2x is also used not the Retina MacBook Pros). Rumor has it though, that Apple will be introducing a new, ultra-Retina display with the upcoming iPhone. This may be true, as with an increased size it would need to either keep the current pixels per inch (ppi) or even best it. This could lead to a new @3x or even @4x suffix for images depending on what resolution this phone becomes.

So, in essence, there isn’t much for developers to worry about. Actually, this would be good news for developers, as it gives them more screen space to use and create software for. More screen space only becomes a bad thing when it gets too big to use it as what it is intended to be, a phone (seriously, how to people use Notes?). In fact, if we see a bigger screen on the iPhone this year, don’t expect many developers to be complaining. Many quickly adapted to the new iOS 7 look, and I’m sure many would be quick to update for a larger screen as well.

What do you think? Hope there is a bigger screen on the iPhone next year? Or do you hope that it stays the same? Let us know in the comments, or tweet me @TiP_Kyle.

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  • RedGeminiPA

    “Hope there is a bigger screen on the iPhone next year?”
    Well, considering NEXT year’s iPhone will probably be a refresh of the new iPhone coming later THIS year, I do hope it has a bigger screen.

  • TBN27

    As long as it isn’t android big.

  • kingsb

    think it should be as there wouldn’t be much for a newer iPhone to hold that meets customer’s expectations, I mean it will be the same so why would anyone consider buying iPhone 6 if it’s coming with the same size, we could keep the 5′s or the 5s-c’s