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5 Big-Screen iPhone 6 Problems Apple Needs to Solve

Gordon Kelly by

5 Big-Screen iPhone 6 Problems Apple Needs to Solve

Apple used to be the master of secrecy. Both the original iPhone and iPad launched without any leaks whatsoever, but those days are long gone.

Since a prototype iPhone 4 was famously left in a bar every upcoming Apple device has leaked far in advance of its official announcement. With this in mind the flood of leaks surrounding the iPhone 6 (the ninth iPhone thanks to GS, S and C variants) say the range’s first major screen size jump is a nailed-on certainty.

To a lesser extent we have been here before. The iPhone 5 bumped the 3.5-inch screen used by every previous iPhone to four inches. It was actually a big deal: aspect ratio and resolution shifts and a great deal of advertising promising the handset could still be used one-handed. But with the leaks placing the iPhone 6 screen at a minimum of 4.7 inches there will be far more upheaval this time and the fact one handed use can no longer be guaranteed for all users is just the tip of the iceberg.

So if Apple is to ace the iPhone’s transition to the ‘big’ time it is going to have to address these five key factors:

1. iPhone Owners Like Their Small ScreensiPhone 6 1

iPhone 6While they may draw disparaging glances from big screen Android and Windows Phone handset owners, if you own an iPhone chances are you like its comparatively titchy screen. You will be well versed in batting off abuse from friends and colleagues too with (perfectly logical) gems like:

It fits better in my pocket

It’s so much lighter

Big screen phones look ridiculous

For the committed iPhone owner, buying an iPhone 6 will mean having to swallow your pride, admit your scornful colleagues were indeed purveyors of the future while you were stuck in the past and that Apple was not at the forefront of this technological evolution. As such Apple’s first major challenge is convincing diehards the switch is a good idea in the first place and they shouldn’t belligerently hold onto their smaller iPhones, form pressure groups and sign petitions until the end of time.

2. iPhone 6 Needs to be Ready For One-Handed UseiPhone 6 1

iPhone 6 5Key to solving problem one will be ensuring it solves problem two: the iPhone 6 must be useable one handed. Apple actually has a major opportunity here. Samsung has been somewhat cack-handed in trying to address this with its Note phone-tablet hybrids and many ideas – including the option not to expand the display to the full edges of the screen - are rubbish.

But there have also been some good ones and Apple must choose where to imitate and where to innovate. Wise choices would be to follow Swiftkey’s ‘compact’ keyboard and to finally hop aboard the swipe typing revolution, which makes one finger typing ridiculously fast.

A major problem is iOS – it has long housed its back button in the top left corner of the screen. For most users that becomes very hard to reach on 4.5-inch screens and above. Surely copying Android and Windows Phone by placing a dedicated back button beside the home button would be too much of a bitter pill to swallow on top of the screen bump so crowbarring it into another part of the UI must be done.

3. Apple Needs to Avoid More App ChaosiPhone 6 1

iPhone 6 4For years Android rightly faced a lot of flak for the inability of its apps to scale properly to the multitude of different mobile and tablet resolutions available. Apple avoided much of this, having only had three different iPhone resolutions over six years, but each time it has switched, users have had to put up with clumsy ‘zoom in’ scaling while waiting for developers to painstakingly update their apps.

The problem now for Apple is in the two years since the last iPhone resolution change Android adoption has exploded. App availability now largely matches iOS and they scale to all manner of aspect ratios and resolutions. If Apple asks users to swallow the leap to a large screen iPhone it mustn’t also make it look like it has thrown its precious app catalogue back into the dark ages.

4. Switching to Flagship Rivals Will Suddenly Be Much EasieriPhone 6 1

iPhone 6 3Laying my cards on the table, I switched to a ‘big screen phone’ in early 2013, dumping my fifth successive iPhone for a Nexus 4. I wrote about the transition at the time and while jumping OSs required some effort, the biggest learning curve was transitioning to a big screen.

It isn’t merely the jump from easy one-handed use to ‘just about’ one-handed use, but you need entirely new muscle memory. How you hold bigger and wider (though not necessarily thicker) phones is initially as strange as the greater finger stretching when you reach around the screen.

As that article concludes, the transition was worth it. The benefits of a bigger phone screen are as obvious as the downsides and the fact Apple is 99.9 per cent certain to ‘go big’ as well shows the positives do beat the negatives. But here’s the thing: switching from an iPhone 4S/5S to a Samsung Galaxy S5, HTC One M8 or Nexus 5 is hard. Switching between those Android phones is not. Once you’ve made the jump the floor opens up.

As such if Apple doesn’t handle the size transition well, all it is doing is training iPhone die-hards to use big screens and open their eyes to rivals they may not have previously entertained. Android and Windows Phone have made the leap already and the user experience works brilliantly. Suddenly if iOS isn’t matching, if not beating, the large screen experience available on these handsets, there’s little point in users continuing to stomach the price premiums and restrictions of proprietary technology.

5. Apple Must Juggle The iPhone Range Very CarefullyiPhone 6 1

iPhone 6 2Looking at all these points the obvious argument to make is Apple shouldn’t throw all its eggs in one basket and neither is it likely to try. Keeping the iPhone 5S as the ‘budget’ handset come the iPhone 6 would be smart and it would be marketing suicide if suddenly the only way to get a smaller phone was a Nokia Lumia or HTC/Sony/Samsung One/Z2/S5 Mini. Rivals would laugh their way to the bank.

At the same time keeping one foot in the past doesn’t make the step up a beta trial. Sales have shown there is a huge market for big screen phones and Apple clearly wants a piece of it. If the company gets it right – and the track record suggests it should – rivals will no longer have a free run at the substantial number of users who won’t entertain smaller handsets anymore.

But get it wrong and the iPhone 6 will offer every disgruntled owner a gateway device to the big flagship phones on every rival platform. No pressure.

Next, read our iOS 7 tips and tricks round-up

Go to comments

RonRoyce

April 8, 2014, 6:48 pm

Apple have two fundamental problems in my view:

1. Patent trolling. The last few years has seen hundreds of millions spent in court rooms protecting its so-called IP. Fed up of hearing about it. It stifles competition and only seems to fill their already bloated coffers to beyond bursting point. Trying to patent the shape of an icon or the word "app" is just ridiculous.

2. The jail card. Once you're in you're stuck. And they milk your wallet like a cow in a dairy. To be fair it can happen on Android but at least it is possible to avoid. The only way out is to jailbreak your phone, and if you have to do that to make it work for you why bother owning one?

The iPod was one of the greatest inventions in recent times and, dare I say it, it saved Apple. Sadly it also made them greedy, and I for one won't be a sheep ripe for fleecing.

Prem Desai

April 9, 2014, 6:56 am

Don't entirely agree with point 1. Fan boys and girls tout the small screen as a plus point but in reality it's because there's no other option.

If Apple increased the screen to 20 inches, they'd still buy it chanting 'bigger is better' !!

Jmac

April 9, 2014, 9:59 am

There may be some who are buying it because there's no choice, but I am delighted with my iPhone's (5S) screen size - increasing the size means it doesn't fit as neatly in a pocket, affects one handed operation (essential when standing on public transport and hanging on with the other hand!), and impacts battery life (or requires a bigger, and thus heavier, battery).

For most purposes - quick casual games, music, email, SMS, the odd bit of youtube and (heaven forbid!) the occasional phone call, the iPhone is exactly the size a phone needs to be. I have no need of a bigger screen on a mobile (though some websites could do with improving their usability on a small screen) - anything needing more real estate is easily called up on my iPad, tethered if necessary to my iPhone. As I see it, "hand-and-a-half" phones / phablets (a portmanteau so cringeworthy it almost hurts to type it) are the worst of both worlds - neither the screen real estate of a "proper" tablet nor the portability of a "proper" phone.

Sodapophead

April 9, 2014, 3:49 pm

Silly article, a lot of people own an Ipad, two handed use hasn't seem to slow the ipad sales down.

TheConciseStatement

April 9, 2014, 4:03 pm

The lack of secrecy argument only works, if you say a smartphone's main innovations are in its design. There's been a growing consensus for some time now that innovation and power really are plateauing, like the PC market before it. They all carry out the key functions of comms, internet, media and photography quickly enough for most people. So for Apple to catch the market on the hop with its 64-bit switch seems like one last trick in the processing grunt bag that they did a damn fine job of keeping secret from competitors and journalists alike.

And as a user it feels as if the wrong features are getting thrust upon me, anyway. The manufacturers keep making phones with bigger, more awkward, power hungry screens in thinner, surroundings, all the while trying to force me to the cloud. Yet, from a utilitarian perspective, I want a screen that is small enough for pocketable, one-handed use, but in a thick enough body to allow for a bigger, longer life battery, and more flash storage on which to keep the increasingly crazy-sized apps, photos and HD videos. In short, the market is insisting on turning our phones into tablets but in none of the ways that actually benefit everyday use.

Perry Crann

April 9, 2014, 4:07 pm

As someone who does not generally carry a bag with me, the “It fits better in my pocket” is a important consideration for me.

Zoddy13

April 9, 2014, 5:23 pm

The 4 inch screen fits perfectly for me, I would not consider even for a second buying an iphone that i cant use with one hand

John

April 9, 2014, 5:43 pm

Some people would say that 'trolling' isn't the correct word, as a 'patent troll' usually refers to a company that doesn't make anything....

....but other than that you are completely correct in 1 and 2.

Apple is a horrible company. They are anti-competitive. They don't want to have to re-earn their customers, they want to abuse litigation stifle competition.

I don't see how good hearted people can own apple products. They are supporting a terrible company.

John

April 9, 2014, 5:46 pm

Sure, there are a few people who would actually prefer a small phone, but MOST apple fans are clearly just telling themselves they prefer a small phone simply because there is no other option.

Assuming apple doesn't screw something up in the process, they will jump to a larger iphone as soon as they can, and promptly forget how much they had lied to themselves during those YEARS while they waited for apple to catch up with samsung and HTC.

John

April 9, 2014, 5:48 pm

Many android phones allow you to get an aftermarket back plate, allowing for a larger battery.

HTC and Apple? No. The closest choice you have there is a sleeve.

Michael Dubanowski

April 9, 2014, 6:04 pm

As a 5 user the idea of "one handed use" has been long gone as people like myself do a lot more with their phones than just texting. Being on web pages, looking at emails and as I do a lot, website admin requires an aweful lot of finger pinching to zoom as reading the print on the tiny 4" screen is almost impossible. That requires TWO hands! If the 6 isn't bigger then Android here I come.

OracleOfReason

April 9, 2014, 6:18 pm

Really, you speak for "most" apple fans? I think not. You don't speak for anyone other than yourself who seems to be ignorant of this market. Large format phone have about 11% market share. MOST Apple fans are saying the exact same thing all other fans are saying with their wallets. They are NOT buying big phone en masse even with Fanbois out there (you) spewing misinformation.

OracleOfReason

April 9, 2014, 6:22 pm

Absolute nonsense. Apple is not a horrible company but they do have horrible anti-fanbois. Trolls who know nothing about these devices and very little about tech in general.

Since you, John don't create you don't worry about people stealing your creations. Samsung does. If Apple drops out, who do they copy? As someone who makes smartphone apps, I am damn happy that Apple is trying to protect intellectual property. When they start losing all of us will suffer.

POP Quiz slick? What percentage of pre-iPhone Samsung phones has a screen and no keyboard? Answer 0%

How about now?

What motivates these anti-fanbois anyway?

OracleOfReason

April 9, 2014, 6:27 pm

As a user of both the iPhone 5s, a Nexus 7, a Lenovo a2107, a Dell Venue 8 pro ,and an iPad Mini I do not want to carry a phablet. I have no need for constant companionship of a large device. When I do need it I'll go to a tablet. I don't want to talk through my tablet and I don't want my phone to be a tablet. And I certainly don't want a phablet on my belt.

As someone who designs and programs for these devices, I appreciate the increased income I get from IOS devices. And I also appreciate not having to tweak my program for every single different model out there. This is exactly the reason why so many programs fail under the different versions of Android.

Geoff Richards

April 9, 2014, 7:20 pm

My Nexus 4 has a 4.7 inch screen and I can (and do) use it one handed all the time (and two-handed where appropriate). There's PLENTY of scope to increase the size of the display on the iPhone 6 without losing that ability, should they want to.

John

April 9, 2014, 8:00 pm

Oh, what a *great* innovation this is! A screen without a keyboard! (Do you really not even know about one of the very first smartphones, ever? Which had a screen and no keyboard? Of course it was poor in countless other ways, since the underlying tech hadn't yet evolved enough.) This is apples great 'innovation' from the last 10 years - a keyboardless approach.

A smartphone is little more than a minitablet with cell hardware in it. Nokia already had keyboardless mini tablets, the n770 and n800. Oh, what a great innovation! stuffing cell hardware in a knock-off of nokias mini tablet!

Sure, Samsung copied Nokia, just like Apple did. Oops, I mean, Samsung copied Apple, who copied Nokia. And Apple copied another company with the fingerprint reader, and has done a LOT of copying of android with iOS7. On the whole, this is a good thing! Anti-competitive patent lawsuits are not.

Its sad that someone who makes smartphone apps doesn't see how apple is poisoning the environment for small players like you.self You must realize you already have no hope of growing into a large enough company to be sued over nonsense patents.

Who loses if apple's nonsense patents get invalidated? People who own apple stock? People identify themselves with apple?

Not the innovators!

John

April 9, 2014, 8:01 pm

> What motivates these anti-fanbois anyway?

A love for the free market.

A love for innovation and advancement.

A dislike for the way that large corporations abuse the political and legal systems to give themselves and edge over newcomers to a space.

John

April 9, 2014, 8:05 pm

The context here is "those apple fans who tout the small screen".

And yes, its obvious that most, not all, of them who go on and on about how a small screen is good are - as prem said - just telling themselves this because they DON"T even have a choice (within the iOS ecosystem).

Most of the apple fans who *honestly* like their tiny little non-HD screens don't bother going on and on about it.

OracleOfReason

April 9, 2014, 8:09 pm

Again, a googlenaut speaks. I owned a n700 and n800 both. It is absolutely clueless to compare the iPhone to these monstrosities. It says a lot about your knowledge (or lack of it) of this market.

Please educate yourself a little bit or wait until you graduate from high school.

Apple copied Nokia right? Foolish in the extreme. You are simply a anti fanboi. The n700s were poor copies of a Newton. They used handwriting recognition and depended on bluetooth 1.2 for a sometimes connection to the internet. You OBVIOUSLY did not suffer with one.

I'll make this bet with you. I'll bet that I have made a lot more money with these devices than you. I run a company that develops internet access hardware and I have two patents under my own belt. That you cheer for the theives says it all.

OracleOfReason

April 9, 2014, 8:09 pm

bullsh*t.

John

April 9, 2014, 8:56 pm

You miss the point. Apple copied some aspects of the n800, or the Prada which copied nokia, just as Samsung copied some aspects of the iphone. The mystery here is why you draw the lines at such convenient places, to make apple out to be the innovator that they aren't.

Funny thing, just a few years ago I was carrying around a n800, As you know, it runs software that you just can't put on an iphone without jailbreaking. And strangers were amazed by it and asked "Is that the new iPhone?". I kid you not. Thick as it is, many people - lacking any context for the device - thought it was the new iphone.

Edit: You know - rounded corners. Metal trim. No keyboard. Classic iphone design! lol

For the last two years apple has offered us nothing but a yawn... a yawn and some jealous, petty patent litigation.

Thisguy

April 9, 2014, 9:37 pm

That is a fallacy. People expect a fairly large screen for their tablets/iPads, but not for their phones. There is definitely something to say about a phone that fits well in your pocket and comfortably in one hand. People don't walk around with iPads in their pockets or take them out while walking. The tablet/iPad experience is completely different than a smartphone experience, and there is a market for both. Personally, I've never bought an iPhone, and I have a 5" S4. The screen is nice, but sometimes I wish it was more compact.

TheConciseStatement

April 9, 2014, 9:54 pm

Hear, hear. I happen to believe once you cross the 4.5" mark, the 'usable arc' of your thumb gets tested too far. But I respect the point that as a developer, in terms of scalability, you may need to choose a slightly higher pixel count than that. Hopefully we agree 5" is true unwieldy phablet territory. The tech columnists seem to have a short memory of just how bemused they all were at the Dell Streak back in 2010. Now everyone has their own Dell Streak and suddenly it's normal. That's not progress, that's revisionism.

Securitass

April 10, 2014, 12:52 am

I like my 4" iPhone 5 screen. Why? Because its a PHONE. Its not a tablet, when I want a bigger screen I pull out my iPad. And if I don't have my iPad on me, that means I'm at a place where I don't need a giant screen to do the few non-phone related tasks that I might do. Now do I think 4" is necessarily the best size for a screen? No, I actually feel 4.3" is the best size as the screen on my old HTC EVO seemed perfect to me.

But really this assumption that Apple fans are mindless dolts is absurd. Granted I cannot speak for all Apple fans, but being that I generally do favor Apple products I can tell you that the other Apple fans I have met are all pretty intelligent people like myself. We don't praise every new Apple product as being revolutionary or innovative. You kids base your impression of people on those stupid Samsung commercials where all the Apple fans are lined up for a new product and are all portrayed as being clueless.

In case it isn't obvious through simple logic, a person's choice in phone/computer brand doesn't dictate whether or not they are capable of independent thought.

Gordon Kelly

April 10, 2014, 11:20 am

My point exactly :)

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