Problems facing supersized iPads and iPhones

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.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Contributing Writer

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:


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.


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.


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.

Editorial standards