The next iPhone needs to be wider. I have come to this conclusion after much use and, more importantly, much user observation. The success of giant screen smartphones like Galaxy S III, HTC One X and the appropriately named Razr Maxx HD shows me that people really like huge displays, usability be damned.
I have spent a good deal of time watching people pick a smartphone. A majority of buyers reflexively choose the larger screen. This is probably not a surprise. Go to an electronics retailer, for example, and watch customers staring at television sets. The big, bright, color-intense screens always draw the most favorable responses. Oooh! Ahhh!
The problem with this, of course, is that unlike a television, we carry our smartphones with us, always. A big screen is too bulky. It consumes too much power. Those “over washed” colors quickly become distracting, making games and websites, for example, look not as crisp when viewed up close. Movies can seem stretched. Apps are rarely optimized across this ever-expanding screenscape. Here, I stand with Apple. For optimum use, optimized viewing and a superior experience, the iPhone 5 and its ‘smaller’ 4-inch display is simply better, and much more in line with my actual needs.
That’s why I always tell those in the market for a smartphone to not be so easily swayed by a big, bright screen. I have long assumed that they will come to regret their decision in the days, weeks and months of everyday usage. But I was wrong.
What I have noticed is that most people – in my experience – are willing to accept all the negatives of a device that is too big, too bulky, and consumes battery power much too quickly because they want – as with televisions – a really big screen. Display trumps usability, build quality, ease of use and ecosystem.
If the user can hold the device in one hand, they want the biggest screen possible, period. All the usability studies in the world, it seems, can’t change the fact that us mere mortals are drawn to big and bright like moths to a flame.
Understand, I am not asking for Apple to make the iPhone wider for my sake. I have used every top-of-the-line device on every major platform. The iPhone is the best. Actually, I don’t even think it’s a close contest. For ease of use, functionality, integration, media, gaming, build quality, support and the overall value of the ecosystem, iPhone is simply second to none.
Ever since the original iPhone launched the “smartphone wars” in 2007, iPhone has led the pack. Everyone else is still playing catch-up. No single company (or competing ecosystem) even comes close to generating the revenues and profits from its entire smartphone line-up that just the iPhone 5 contributes to Apple. Nonetheless, and despite its status as the world’s most popular smartphone, Apple needs to make the iPhone wider.
I realize that on its face, my view appears to make no sense. iPhone 5 has a gorgeous 4-inch, 1136×640 (326 PPI) display. Look at it, use it, the iPhone is simply amazing. With the possible exception of Nokia, which sadly has become increasingly irrelevant, no company focuses more on design and usability for its mobile devices than Apple.
The iPhone, like most smartphones, is carried with us everyday, everywhere we go. We use our smartphones to send off a short text, check the weather, update our Facebook status, play a game, read a book, watch a movie and much much more. Sometimes, we even use them to make phone calls. Apple has carefully studied how we use smartphones across different user types and use cases and given us a product that fits into our actual usage perfectly.
Far too many devices are simply ridiculously large. For the dozen times a day we use our smartphones – or hundreds – day after day, usability is at least as important as build quality and price. Some of these large-screen devices are simply too heavy, too bulky, and require two hands or thumbs when only one is better and faster. They fall into the trap that bigger is better. Apple, thankfully, understands this. Their devices are not merely more intuitive, not merely more functional, they are simply easier to use and manipulate. I don’t want to lose that.
There is also the ‘permanence’ factor that iPhone uniquely delivers. That Android smartphone you purchased just last month may not even come with the latest Android OS. It may never have it! If there is a problem with the device, who do you call? Who supports it? How safe is that app you are about to download? These fears are virtually non-existent with iPhone. Nearly every single app, every song, every movie, nearly every game, works on almost every single iPhone ever made. That is a level of security – and value – that no Android or Windows Phone owner can ever experience.
With all of this, why then do I suggest iPhone needs to be wider?
Because in this case, Apple’s values – which nearly always align with the customer’s – do not align. At least, I don’t think so. Regardless of whatever Apple designers believe, regardless of what it will mean to existing apps and content, display trumps usability.
The iPhone is Citizen Kane to Android’s Transformers. Like it or not, and I mean no disrespect to anyone, but most people prefer big and loud and want lots of explosions. Apple can’t ignore this.