A consistent platform is a huge deal. The whole point of the iPhone is that it's touch friendly. Part of the iOS user interface guidelines is making sure touch areas are the size of a finger tip. This is heavily emphasized.
If there were different sized iPhone screens with incompatible aspect ratios this guideline would be meaningless. An app that has finger sized touch zones on a 4.3 inch widescreen phone would not on a 3.5 inch standard screen phone.
Apple's designers know this. It's on purpose. And Apple's designers decide what its devices look like. That's why the iPhone 4 has a 3.5 inch screen.
If you want to wonder why the original iPhone had a 3.5 screen, you've got to go back to 2007 when everyone else was still trying to copy the Blackberry. A 3.5 inch screen at that time was already unprecedented.
I don't doubt Apple prototypes iPhones with different screen sizes and there is pressure to upgrade. But the fact Apple has not just shows how reluctant it is to break with consistency. If Apple moves to a new screen size, I think it will have to be larger for backward compatibility with old apps. I highly doubt it will go smaller, ever. All old apps would suck on a smaller screen, and Apple doesn't deliver sucky user experiences. And if it does go larger, it will be a big deal. I wouldn't expect a new screen size for a long time after that.
Notice for example how the buttons in Android seem to have the wrong dimensions all the time, they sort of look chunky or stretched.
I think Apple made the right choice with solving this with resolution doubling.
That being said, I have seen some games with nice UIs that scale appropriately with resolution, that is, changing resolution doesn't change the screen size of the controls. I can't for the life of me think of any at the moment - they're not that common, but they do exist.
A 3.5 inch screen at that time was already unprecedented.
It's not productive when a commenter completely ignores an argument and instead proposes his own theory, without considering that the arguments need not be mutually exclusive.
I guess that the extra wiring needed for retina resolution means that you need more backlight to get the same display brightness. If so, one way to market a slightly larger display with say 250 pixels per inch would be by stressing it as having better battery life ('easier to see for the elderly' would work, too, but such a line does not fit Apple's image well)
The problem as I see it is that for marketing pressure they could switch to 4 inches displays, and the issue showed by the original poster is a bad one for smart users interacting with their device with just one hand (this is at least how I use it and how I see all my friends interacting with it).
Actually the iPhone software keyboard appears to be designed for a good one hand interaction since it works incredibly well even when you think you are putting your thumb in a too wide and imprecise area but actually you end pressing exactly the intended letter.
If there was a reason for the original display to be 3.5" is likely exactly that: the largest screen that is possible to get while preserving one hand interaction and reasonable size for holding it in your pocket.
3.5 inch screens were a standard size for PDA screens.
That's like saying 'the only difference between driving a car and riding a horse is that you feed the horse hay'. Not having a stylus makes a world of difference, both in how easy it is to use (using a stylus sucks donkey balls, and I did it for 10 years (using a stylus, not sucking donkey balls)) and what you can do with it (e.g. swiping is, in practice, impossible with a stylus)
And the switch to non-stylus screens required vastly different screen tech, so it's not like Palm in the 1990's just made an unfortunate choice and they could've switched at any time.
I lost my PDA stylus years ago. Adjusted the setting slightly and my finger worked fine. Palm did not need any radical new tech to hypothetically make touch.
Apple did need a different tech (transparent capacitive touch) for multitouch. But stylus-less finger friendly touch screen interfaces were around for 20 years before the iPhone.
The multiple finger manipulation was innovative and an improvement. (Though the Synaptics touchpad driver permitted basic multi touch years earlier.) Finger-based UI was not innovative and has a long history before Apple.
I remember the skepticism around Jan 2007 when the iPhone was announced. They said, "Pure touch? No way. Won't work. You need to have a keyboard." I was one them! Even I said, "yeah, the UI is pretty, but the touch screen probably sucks." However, once I played around with my first iPhone, I bought one the next day based purely on the amazing performance of the touch keyboard.
Pure touch phones already existed in 2007 before the iPhone, but they sucked donkey balls. In fact, many of them still do. To downplay the iPhone's touch UI is disingenuous. To this day, the iPhone still has the best touch response on the market. Followed by WP7, WebOS, Android and lastly BB OS in that order. I own an iPhone, WP7 and a Nexus One and use them everyday. Typing on Android is like eating fried chicken with a chopstick.
It's much like today's TomTom devices. They are advertised as being 'touchscreen', and the UI is designed as such (with big buttons etc) but they're still a bitch to operate. I mistype at least 20% of my interactions with it, and like I mentioned I have a decade of experience with working around finicky touchscreen technology (as much as I hate to admit).
I'm not saying you or anyone else wasn't able to operate a previous-generation touch screen with their finger, but the experience simply wasn't good enough to make it mainstream. For example an on-screen keyboard is/was out of the question on a Palm.
It really is the perfect size for me, and I'm a 6'0" lumberjack of a human. Any bigger and it would be less comfortable to use.
I may even buy the 4.2" is too large argument since devices do get a bit unwieldy, but why not anything between 3.5" & 4"? I own a Nexus One (3.7") and I think its a perfect size - I can usually reach my thumb across with minimal effort on a 4" screen as well.
tl:dr; Claims about perfect size of phone, without any data, except images of phones superimposed with one random sample of thumb size.
I guess the moral of the story is that if you have 2-inch range of motion with your thumb, you shouldn't get anything larger than an iPhone and probably can't draw consistent diagrams.
He does not claim 'this size was chosen because my thumb is this large'. The blog post suggests: this size is chosen so the device can be used optimally by most of the population and he demonstrates the argument with his own thumb, without claiming it is therefore true.
Now you may very well be unconvinced by the argument and point out that you wonder whether there is any data available to test the suggestion and that it may be coincidental otherwise. However, that does not warrant the statement 'the diagrams are highly misleading'. It warrants 'the diagram may be misleading'.
I would like it very much if HN commenters would appreciate such subtleties and argue "I'm not sure you're right, because ...", instead of "You're wrong, because ...". His argument makes perfect sense and deserves to be recognized as such.
and adjusting the angle I hold the device with my fingers
I think a lot of folks here are not actually considering how they hold their devices and can easily operate them. I have found over and over again that I can't reach the upper corner of the other side and have been annoyed I had to shift the device around in my hand to reach it (for instance while eating an apple with the other hand). I've dropped it once that way. I'm not small, I'm not clumsy. I don't have arthritis or any lack of agility in my hand. Of course I can reach the whole screen with my thumb, if I change the way I hold the device. The point is that you don't want that. The article makes perfect sense to me and completely stacks up with my experience of using my iPhone.
I hold my device resting on my fingers, not gripped in my hand. The first knuckle joint (i.e. the one closest to the fingernail) of my index and pinky fingers are aligned with the center line of the back of the device; the device is balanced on top of my fingers. This gives me the biggest range of movement over the surface of the device, and more importantly gives me better fine control over what my thumb hits - not only is thumb movement a factor, but fine finger movement as well. Adjusting the angle of holding the phone doesn't mean "shifting the device around in my hand" - it merely means changing the angle of my fingers.
I think a bigger factor in how the iPhone is better designed than most other phones is how touchscreen sensitivity drops off around the edges (if this behaviour is indeed deliberate). Before I moved to Android, I used to hold my device gripped between my fingertips and the center of my palm, but I found this didn't work as well with the Nexus One, because the sensitive edge of the touchscreen meant that the little fold of skin from my palm was creating phantom touches on the screen edge. So I stopped gripping my devices; I now hold them all resting on my fingers when I'm using the touchscreen.
For a man? For a woman? For an American? For an Asian?
Ever considered those differences?
I fully understand there is most likely some of normal distribution of sizes, but that's a fact that the author seems to have largely ignored as well.
On an unrelated note, the site seems to be down.
I'd be willing to bet that the iPhone's original screen size was dictated more by battery concerns than the average mobile thumb length of tea drinkers in the midwest or whatever crazy metric people want to use. Bigger screens use exponentially more energy. Once that size was decided, Apple's basically stuck with it, since iPhone apps use absolute layouts and are designed for a 3:2 screen. You can't just scale the app to the new aspect ratio without stretching assets (squares become rectangles, circles become ellipses), and iPhone apps are designed against a specific aspect ratio.
Increasing a 3:2 screen to 4.3" would make the screen 2.4" wide; the iPhone's screen is currently 1.9" wide, and the Sensation/SGS II have 2.1" wide screens, by comparison. If you think the SGS is hard to use, a 3:2 screen of the same size would be downright intolerable.
That's not what he's arguing. I can reach the pedals of my car with the seat all the way back, too, but I'll probably plow into someone as a result.
He's arguing that it's not comfortable to do so, and I agree. Stretching my thumb across the iPhone screen (top-left / top right) is as close to uncomfortable as I'd like to be. When my thumb is over there, the phone arches forward because of the position of my index finger, almost moving the phone out of my hand. Any larger of a screen and it'll go flying.
Whether or not Apple decided on the original screen size because of this, it was a good decision to not increase the size of the screen with the 4S.
EDIT: Spelling. I don't know why I mentioned "normal" either.Apple simply wants to cover a majority of users.
Specifically, the original iPhone was 1.1 mm narrower than iPods, and iPhone 4 is 3.2 mm narrower.
I think he's reading too much into the design. Larger isn't necessarily better. The iPhone 4's screen is good enough for me, I've never had any issues except for trying to read pdfs, which is one reason why I keep considering getting an iPad. But for everything else, I find the screen more than good enough and it's still small enough to fit in my pocket.
That said, I would not buy an iPad again. I would by a Kindle instead. Just some food for thought regarding your PDF reading needs.
I think you got his argument backwards.
I could probably extend well past the edges of the Android phone, as well. So I don't think that "average thumb length" had anything to do with the size of the iPhone screen.
So, while I think the diagram is exaggerated, the writer does have a point. My guess is that the 3.5" screen works very well a very large percentage of adult hands (say 75%) and acceptably for, say, 95%. I think a 4" display would probably pull things out of the bell curve. I suspect given that Apple probably made a LOT of prototypes that the iPhone's screen size was determined empirically.
To me, the iPhone4 feels almost exactly right in terms of width (I think it could be up to half as thick without feeling flimsy).
I'm all for giving Apple's designs as much credit as possible, but it's still a far cry from even that to "wow this thing about the design I just noticed that works for me must have been something they considered for the populace at large."
Remember, Apple sells one basic body shape to its entire market. No single Android phone sells anything comparable to as many units as the iPhone. The body shape has to be usable for 95% of Apple's potential market, which includes everything from teenage girls to grown men. Apple undoubtedly thought about exactly the problem the author raised.
Surely Apple would have done that on purpose!
I was looking at notebooks and thinking I want a big screen but with the keyboard in the center. I want my hands write in front of me, but I don't want to look to one side. I 'know' apple do it that way. Then I found an HP that was almost like that but the F was more left than the J was right, which are the home keys, so I thought still no good. Then I looked at the Apple and it was the same the F was more left that J was right. So I decided it must be right to do that, because Apple know best.
I like this typo, intentional or not!
The fact that you don't know if something specific happened does not mean that you cannot reason about the high possibility of it happening given the historical information you have available.
Given what we know about Apple, Ives et al, what exactly do you believe of the two:
1) Apple picked the dimensions at random or without thought
2) Apple studied to find the best compromise for the device's dimensions
"Median hand comfort" vs "maximum screen real estate" is probably something they at least toyed with.
Apple's not shipping a bigger phone yet because it's something they can hold back on until they need to do it. The iPhone 5, iPhone 5s, iPhone 5XL iPhone 6... one of these will eventually do it so as to sell you something new.
I still think people like big screens on smartphones and thumbs be damned plus nobody seems to like voice recognition or Dragon Dictate would be on every PC.
There's a reason iOS5 features a "splittable" keyboard that brings all keys within thumb reach of both edges of the screen.
You'd have basically two iPhone screens next to each other, portrait - that gives us 4.9" diagonal, maybe a smidge wider would still work, but nowhere close to 7".
That's the only way to guarantee a comfortable reach for all screen locations. A 7" tablet is still way too large if the goal is complete two-hand operability. That's not a design goal of a table though, in its normal use case.
In any case, I have no problems against the 7" tablet form factor, so I'm not sure what the issue is.
Apple gets a lot of things right, but come on, let's not imagine that every single thing they do is perfectly thought out.
Compare to the iphone 4, which while being a nicer phone, has huge great lumps off the top and bottom of the screen - which means less pocketability / ease of management - not to mention that most iPhone 4s are even larger (and less attractive) due to the plastic bumper.
The form factor is what sold me on the defy over the first-class range of android phones, despite it being a bit underpowered and having one or two other issues, some of which were due to Motorola bloatware that went away when CM7 went on.
I find that in portable devices, getting the right size for you is a much underrated question when people look to buy tech.
Didn't get a Defy in the end, went for the still-cheaper ZTE Blade, but the new Defy+ is very tempting.
Android handsets are becoming ridiculous. We spent all this time trying to make things small, but in an effort to differentiate themselves, manufacturers started making things huge again.
Most of the high end phones would not even fit comfortably in my jeans pockets.
There's definitively a large market segment for whom the iPhone form factor is too small. Myself included - it was one of the big things that stopped me from getting one; I just can't type on the thing at a reasonable speed.
My HTC Desire HD is more than small enough to fit in my pocket, and rests comfortably in my hand, and I love having a decent sized display and I can actually type on it at a tolerable speed. I could easily handle a device a bit bigger than that with one hand, I might just get one because it reduces the number of situations where the screen is "too small" for it to be nice to use.
That's one big advantage Android has over the iphone. Android can cater to different segments while the iphone is one-size-fits-all (literally and figuratively).
Most Android phones are increasing the screen size while decreasing the bezel, but only the increased screen size gets quoted. The next generation using Ice-Cream Sandwich, such as the Prime you mention, can replace the capacitive keys at the bottom with on-screen buttons, just like Honeycomb tablets. The screen size alone doesn't tell you everything about the device size.
This site shows a comparison (note you can click in the top right corner to resize the pictures to actual size)
It's only slightly bigger, yet has nearly double the screen area.
They have not really decreased the bezel that much either. But area increases as a square so you get good returns.
I'd handled the HTC Desire HD a fair bit (someone at work has one). The opposite end of increasing as a square is that small increases are bigger than they sound. It's a lot of phone there.
I am sure a lot of people are fine with it.
If they could make everything edge to edge, I'l be right there with with.
Sometimes you wonder why such speculative (not to mention defensive) articles get on the front page on HN. Aren't we supposed to be more rational and balanced?
Reddit has the same misconception. In reality, voting-based aggregators are at the whims of the user's personal feelings and preconceived beliefs, no matter the community guidelines.
HN has one nice benefit in that misleading titles can be changed, which I greatly appreciate.
The one thing that android is missing out of course is the Appstore eco system, it has a long way to go to match software availability/quality of Apple appstore apps.
Camera in Samsung GS2 is probably best among android phones, but i dont think its a match for iPhone 4 and definitely not a match for iPhone 4S.
Apple wants to maintain a consistent environment for users, and a larger screen may cause problems for some apps.
Apple was unable to secure a sufficient number of larger screens and chose to keep the current size due to availability.
Alternative to the last possibility, Apple may have committed to buying a larger number of screens than they needed and do not want to take the financial hit of writing them off.
A larger device may have required more testing time, pushing the release date past the holiday season.
Apple isn't likely to confirm or deny reasons they chose not to increase the screen size, so no matter how sure you are of your reasoning, it's still speculation.
Apparently, this is why Apple makes so much money. Because some people design phones without considering that 13 y/o girls texting and posting on Facebook are a core demographic.
Clearly Apple's only goal wasn't to release a phone that everyone could comfortably operate. But consideration of hand sizes was undoubtedly a spec, to be balanced against other specs. The engineers probably got some ultimatum along the lines of: "we're only going to have one basic model, to maximize our margin, so figure out the screen size that hits the greatest number of target customers."
The iPhone is a reasonable size for people ranging from teenage girls to guys with pretty large hands. Probably too big for people with child-like hands, and too small for the big guys with massive paws, but very likely hits 90% of the potential market. I don't think the 4.3" Android phones hit the same sweet spot. My girlfriend probably couldn't operate one comfortably with one hand. That's okay for Samsung, which has a segmented product line, but not for Apple.
i believe apple will release larger screens at some point and all this apple-mind readings will be forgotten even by their writers. And those people will search miracles elsewise.
For what it is worth, iOS 5 helps with thumb typing on the iPad.
Before getting it, I too though it might be too big. But nope. Using it since 6 month.
As long as the body is thin like the SGS2 its perfect. There's only a small region at the top right I can't reach and which I don't need to.
Also note that his graphic is wrong, as the SGSII is much higher, but not much wider than the iPhone (and thats probably why it works so well despite the size)
'nuff said, here's the pic:
I'm right handed and almost always am using my right hand, but the image in the article looks like the left hand is the common case.
Anyway, if the right hand is the common case then the Galaxy is actually the ergonomically superior format because you have to ask yourself, what is most commonly in the furthest position that you would be pressing with your thumb? The back button. Yet on the Galaxy, with it's dedicated button, it's well within reach.
You also had to note your thoughts on holding, storing in pockets, etc.
Afterwards we had an open discussion period and most people seemed to agree that the iphone size was close to best, but that perhaps the screen should take up more of the real-estate, like how it does on the droid.
The average length of an adult male hand is 189 mm, while the average length of an adult female hand is 172 mm. The Females had at AVERAGE is 17mm smaller than their male counterpart.
With this in mind and simple mathematics, your theory is completely wrong.
Even if that was not the case, companies making phone's these days are forgetting that regardless of the myriad of features that smart phones might have these days, they're still mobile phones... and not small tablets. Mobile phone's should be confortable to use and confortable to keep in your jeans pocket in my opinion.
If anything, I'd say it was chosen because the size 'feels' about right.
For me the SGS II is way too big; it doesn't fit in my pockets comfortably and it feels awkward when holding it to my ear.
There's a balance - bigger is better in terms of a touch interface but smaller is better in terms of convenience. Somewhere around 3.5" seems about the best compromise for a smartphone.
For me at least.
In this diagram the base of thumb seems to be halfway up one side of the phone which seems restrictive to me.
This is only my opinion and YMMV, of course. But for me at least, it's so wonderful that there are products out there that take ergonomics into account instead of just dashing for the biggest possible spec.
For some reason I really react annoyed at people using an accent instead of an apostrophe (4′s vs 4's).
I'm not sure why, but this always gets me
Since none of these characters can be easily produced on a standard US keyboard, I suspect that the blame belongs not on the author but on his publishing system that thought he meant "4 feet" (or perhaps "4 arcminutes").
I now work for a company that has some of the highest-rated and most perennially popular apps on the app store, and the focus on details is insane. We will go in and fix a tiny animation inconsistency that would last barely half a second on screen - but people perceive this polish, whether they are conscious of it or not, and it crosses that gap between merely functional and actually pleasurable to use.
Maybe the blogger has small hands?
As I see it, that's how the iPhone penetrated enterprise. Everyone is a consumer, but not everyone is a business consumer. Regular people go to work and turn into business people. If regular people love the iPhone at home, why wouldn't they want to take it to work? Why were companies in 2006 designing smartphones only for business people instead of for everyone?
The iPhone is well designed.
Therefore they used a 3.5" screen.
Therefore the iPhone is well designed.
Statistical hand breadth is around 3.8-3.5 inches (men, women).
Mark my words...