For now, iPhone 4s is better than the iPhone 5 you wanted.

October 5, 2011

Note: so my previous headline was written before some tragic news broke. Rest in peace Steve Jobs. The world won’t be the same without you.

When people said they wanted an iPhone 5 yesterday, as far as I can tell, there are 5 things that they think it should have included that would differentiate it from the iPhone 4s that was introduced. I’d like to evaluate all of them.

Different Shape

The iPhone 4 and now iPhone 4s are 9.3mm thick. According to the UK Advertising Standards Authority that makes it the thinnest smartphones in the world.

People wanted a new design in their iPhone 5, and since Apple design is a one-way street by “new” they meant “thinner.” The most popular of these thinner mockups included a tapered design like the bottom of these two 9to5 mac images.

So this shape is different, but it better than what we have now? John Gruber made the point before the iPhone 4s event that a tapered iPhone would make the phone awkward and unbalanced to hold in landscape orientation. I’d suspect that for this reason, when the iPhone 5 does come out, it won’t be tapered. It will probably look like a thinner iPhone 4(s).

All of this ignores the fact that a thinner phone means less room for a battery. I don’t believe Apple is willing to sacrifice on battery life in order to make the world’s thinnest phone thinner. The iPhone will get thinner when a thinner battery can provide the same battery life to an even faster processor.

Larger Screen

People wanted two things from their screen: A screen that takes up a larger percentage of the face of the phone and a screen that is 4”+. The first one of these will probably happen eventually (next model?). The second one will probably not happen any time soon (I’m thinking years).

The iPhone, iPhone 3g, iPhone 3gs, and iPhone 4 had 3.5” screens. Do you this trend is because Apple is incapable of making larger screens? No. It’s because Apple thinks 3.5” is the right size for a phone. It’s the same reason that Apple only makes 10” iPads.

From a developer’s point of view (I am not a developer, this is just what I understand) the less resolutions that one has to deal with, the better. The iPhone 4 had 4x (2x height and 2x width) the pixels of the iPhones before it.

To me it seems obvious that all iPhone will have their current resolution 960×640 resolution. A 4” screen would have that same resolution, but it wouldn’t look as good. Not going to happen. Maybe when there exists a 1,920 x 1280 4.5” screen, Apple will make their screen bigger. Until then, if you want a bigger screen, buy something else.

I see the iPhone getting smaller around a 3.5” screen before I see it getting a bigger screen.

4G

If you thought Apple would include 4G, you aren’t paying attention. Apple won’t sacrifice on battery life (and probably form factor) for a feature that only a small percentage of their buyers would be able to take advantage of. As it is, networks don’t maximize potential 3G speeds and Apple raised the bar there for the 4s.

NFC

See above. Form factory and battery life for something that people don’t use. Apple pioneers technologies that it can control. If NFC catches on in a big way, maybe they’ll put it in their next phone. But maybe not even then. Blu-ray, anyone?

Larger home button that allows for swipe gestures

Well shoot, I actually like this idea. See the 9to5mac article again for what I’m talking about.

Conclusion

If the iPhone 5 included everything these people asked for, it would be worse and it would make the iOS ecosystem worse. I would be more likely to buy the iPhone 4s.

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