Problems facing supersized iPads and iPhones

Problems facing supersized iPads and iPhones

Summary: It's easy to think that scaling up a device is simple – just make a bigger screen and bung the electronics inside – but in fact there is nothing simple about it, especially when that device carries an Apple logo.

SHARE:
TOPICS: Apple, iPhone, iPad
23

Rumors are circulating that Cupertino consumer electronics giant Apple is secretly testing supersized iPhones and iPads. But there's a lot more to scaling up these popular iDevices than dropping the blueprints into Photoshop and making it bigger.

The rumors suggest that the iPhone will see a bump up from the current 4-inches to 4.3-inches, while the iPad gets supersized from 9.7-inches up to a colossal 13-inches.

It's easy to think that scaling up a device is simple – just make a bigger screen and bung the electronics inside – but in fact there is nothing simple about it, especially when the company behind it is crazy about delivering a good, all-round user experience. In fact, there's a lot to take into consideration.

Here's just a few considerations:

Ergonomics

Are the bigger screen easy to use? Apple made a big deal of the fact that a 4-inch screen on the iPhone 5 meant that it could still be operated single-handedly with a thumb. Has Apple found a way to make an iPhone with a 4.3-inch screen that can be operated in the same manner?

In my testing of handsets on the market with screens larger than 4-inches, I have to admit that adding 0.1-inches to a screen can make the difference between the device being usable or awkward to use. 

As for a 13-inch iPad, well, that's an absolutely huge screen, and if you've ever handled a screen of this size – I have – then you'll know that it presents some huge design challenges. Weight and thickness are of paramount importance.

Is this why Apple is interested in Liquidmetal?

Battery life

While adding 0.3-inches to the iPhone might not be seen as much, adding 3.3-inches to the iPad means a massive increase in power consumption. This will undoubtedly mean bigger batteries, and this in turn means a heavier tablet. More weight potential means a clumsier experience.

Supply chain

Can the supply chain deliver enough large screens to meet demand? There has already been rumors that the new iPhone has been delayed because of screen shortages. Display output is measured in area, not panels, and adding a few inches can put significant pressure on panel makers.

Apple sells millions of iPhones and iPads every quarter, and anything that puts a crimp in the supply chain could cost the company hundreds of millions in revenue.

Price

Apple has managed to keep the price point for the iPhone and iPads constant. New iDevices cost the same as the old iDevices they are replacing. No price tag shocks for upgraders.

Bigger can mean more expensive, so Apple will need to squeeze the supply chain in an effort to keep the price tags on the bigger devices in check.

Fragmentation

Apple has worked hard to keep different screen sizes from causing fragmentation within the iDevice ecosystem. Apps scale nicely between the iPhone and iPad, the iPad and iPad Mini, and retina display and non-retina display devices.

The bottom line

While there undoubtedly a fascination with increasing screen size when it comes to Android and Windows devices, Apple is essentially only competing against itself, and the pressure to add more inches regardless of whether they are useful or not, doesn't exist.

This means that Apple doesn't need to take chances. Instead, it can bring products to market that consumers actually want, as opposed to forcing unwanted design tweaks onto users.

Topics: Apple, iPhone, iPad

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

23 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • I think its great that the computing world has competition now

    Apple is great for what it is and then you have android phones which are as well. Personally, I have a great dislike of microsoft so I hope windows phone, surface and RT fails but in general I want competition. I don't want android to become so dominant like windows PCs are/were whatever, so I'm glad we have apple (also dislike them too but its only because of their patent war and their holier than thou attitude).
    drwong
    • I'm glad Windows Phone, Surface and RT won't fail

      That MS will take their time to do it right.

      I'd hate to be stuck using Android (avoid them and it's malware like the plauge), forcing me into using Google, one of the most 'distasteful' (being polite) companies of the past 10 years.

      Apple and MS I have no problem with, since both give me what I need and want, and they do it right by putting out the best products, plain and simple, end of story.
      William Farrel
      • Re: That MS will take their time to do it right

        They've been hard at work at cooking the perfect Windows tablet for the last 12 years, and they're almost halfway there!
        ldo17
        • Name noe Windows tablet that Microsoft put out before the Surface tablets.

          You won't be able to name one.

          Which again says that, you are nothing but an ignorant troll.
          adornoe@...
          • Previous Microsoft Tablets

            If is something of a fine point but although Microsoft didn't MAKE tablets before the surface (as far as I know) they certainly supported and SPEC'd (important part) Windows tablets before this.

            I like the surface pro (and even the RT at its new price) just fine but Microsoft has been laboring (and selling) tablet (software) products a long time.
            David Fetrow
          • David Fetrow: Fact remains that MS didn't make tablets before the Surface

            tablets.

            The other part of the tablets equation is that, though MS didn't make them, they were still having to show some support for those that did try to make Windows-based tablets. That's how a mothership company would be expected to behave, even if they weren't too crazy about the idea.
            adornoe@...
          • ..."MS ... show some support for those that did try to make

            Windows-based tablets"

            Adornoe, have some new for you, look here:
            http://reviews.cnet.com/windows/microsoft-windows-xp-tablet/4505-3672_7-31164178.html
            Its called Microsoft Windows XP Tablet PC Edition 2005. As the name indicate, is an XP operating system running on Windows Tablets. So Yes, 13 years ago, there were Windows tablets on the market! I know, hard to believe, like the mythical and highly praised Zune...

            btw, terrific concept of those pre-ipad tablets: Put a full Windows OS on the tablet (and a few fans inside)!

            Anyhow seem that MS was doing a little more than "show some support for those that did try to make Windows-based tablets" The way you phrased, sound like almost they were forced!
            theo_durcan
          • Nice try, but you failed again...

            Ido17 mentioned a Microsoft tablet, and Microsoft had NEVER produced a tablet before the Surface devices.

            Is that still too hard to understand?

            And, your link proves exactly what I was saying, which is that, MS was just trying to support the OEMs that tried to create tablets with Windows inside. But the fact remains that, Microsoft never produced any Windows tablets.
            adornoe@...
    • Good post

      just as Larry responded I'm alarmed that a single mom can make ($)7030 in 1 month on the internet. did you read this web link... c­a­n9­9.ℂ­ℴ­M
      BrendaBarajas
    • ...Apple's patent war?

      @Dr Wong

      "...also dislike them [Apple] too but its only because of their patent war..."

      So I trust you also dislike Google and Samsung for their patent wars, particularly as they are abusing SEPS in breach of contracts and anti-trust law. Which makes them even more "holier than thou" when the spout corporate platitudes like "Do no wrong"
      Henry 3 Dogg
  • "Personally, I have a great dislike of microsoft"

    Understatement of the year.
    ForeverCookie
  • RE: Problems facing supersized iPhones

    A "supersized" iPhone would be fine as long as Apple concurrently produces an iPhone Mini with a display size in the range of 3.5 to 4.0 inches. This would allow Apple to compete with "supersized" Android smartphones while, at the same time, provide for users that prefer a smaller display.
    Rabid Howler Monkey
  • Fragmentation

    I can remember, in the early days of a single Iphone form factor and no Ipad, Apple's developers priding themselves on being able to achieve "pixel-perfect" layouts. This was in contrast to Android, which supported a range of form factors right from the early days, and incorporated a responsive-design UI layout manager to cope with this.

    Of course, all that "pixel-perfect" baloney went out the window with the Ipad Mini, which has to scale down apps written for traditional Ipad dimensions. And what about those black bars Iphone 5 users saw with existing apps? And while the same Android app can be written to scale across handset and tablet form factors, and everything in-between, something like Microsoft's Office app works only on Iphones and not Ipads.

    So which platform is suffering the worst from "fragmentation"?
    ldo17
    • Right from the start??? You may want to stop smoking what ever you are ...

      ... smoking.

      Yeah, they "supported" stuff that even today they are not supporting right.

      Some people think that mediocrity is acceptable.
      wackoae
    • pixel-perfect

      ((( "Of course, all that "pixel-perfect" baloney went out the window with the Ipad Mini, which has to scale down apps written for traditional Ipad dimensions." )))

      Nope, you're wrong. The iPad mini is 1024 x 768, exactly the same pixel dimensions as the original iPad. The difference is that it displays that resolution at 163dpi vs. 132dpi on non-Retina iPads.

      ((( "And what about those black bars Iphone 5 users saw with existing apps?" )))

      The black bars were unobtrusive, and have been all but completely eliminated in the year since the iPhone 5 has been on the market.
      buddhistMonkey
    • Speaking from experience, android is much more fragmented

      Developed iOS apps and supervised porting them to android. You never can tell how a android is going to look on the next phone that comes out, especially since you can't target them ahead of time. Plus there are so many android versions in common use that it's hard to know what functionality you'll have available. Not an impossible mission, but a much more complex and expensive proposition than developing an iOS app.

      FYI, Apple does have a parametric layout system called "autolayout" that a developer can use, optionally. It's been around since iOS 6, so almost a year now. Just like the java layout managers, it makes a beautiful layout more difficult to build. But once you've built it, it will attempt to adapt to screen size changes. With varying degrees of success.
      vineel@...
  • Uh.. reality check time

    "This means that Apple doesn't need to take chances. Instead, it can bring products to market that consumers actually want, as opposed to forcing unwanted design tweaks onto users."

    Given that 75%+ of the phone market is Android (and a big chunk of that - bigger than Apple - is Samsung), this statement is utterly inane. Clearly consumers WANT a range of sizes instead of being forced to take what they're given by Apple.
    TheWerewolf
  • Accesories will suffer!

    Apple accessories have been the highlight of the ecosystem, multiple form factors will likely degrade as the market will need to determine which form is selling enough to justify production cost.
    Neverhood
  • Interesting

    Can it be that they'd add a compatibility layer to OS X, a la the much reviled Metro/Modern interface? Let the OS X line run iOS Apps?
    kcsmith2
    • At some point I expect this or something like it

      Apple will create some merging of OS X and iOS. Why? Because people will be wanting it. When this happens, I also expect Apple fans to validate however Apple does it (whether it mimics Windows 8 or not) and the other fans (Android/Windows) will despise it (again, whether it does what Microsoft did or not).
      grayknight