The Hills Are Greener: Size Matters

In the glorified internet flame war between Apple fans and Android diehards, screen sizes are a real sticking point. Apple fans think iPhones’ smaller sizes are ergonomically superior to the bigger screens of many Android phones, and they think the iPad’s bigger screen is superior to the smaller screens of many Android tablets.

The latest source of derision from the iOS camp is the Galaxy Note from Samsung, the 5.3″ 1280×800 behemoth of a phone/tablet hybrid. The brouhaha seems to be split between two camps: one, the people who look at its 5.3-inch screen and think it’s massive, too massive for human consumption. Then there are those who feel like it’s big, but not necessarily too big to use, and the benefits of its size outweigh the weight. It is the focal point of the iOS-Android flame war, along with the derision over 7-inch tablets.

But it actually makes sense for this smaller size range, for Android phones and tablets to be five inches and seven inches respectively. The easiest way to stand out next to an Apple product is to look completely different. People who might want a bigger phone will look Android (and with some of the bigger models, it’s physically hard not to look). For those wanting a more compact tablet, Android is the only game in town, unless an iPad mini or iPod touch Deluxe comes along.

Really, where Apple tries to stand out is in screen quality, not necessarily screen size. The iPad 2 screen looks notably nicer than the Motorola Xoom, especially as it has a better contrast ratio. I’d rather watch a video on the iPad 2, just because it looks much nicer, despite the aspect ratio difference. As well, if reports are true, then the iPad 3 will boast a 2048×1536 Retina Display, which may be a bit overkill (and a developer nightmare if it doesn’t have enough horsepower), but odds are that the iPad 3 will have a screen that competitors will be rushing to keep up to.

That, or they just won’t. After all, they are only now just catching up on DPI on phone screens, preferring to go for wider landscape ratios and bigger screens than iOS devices – the Galaxy Nexus from Samsung is the only phone that can come close as far as DPI is concerned.

Apple might not have any reason to change the size of the iPhone. The iPhone 4S, iPhone 4, and iPhone 3GS all outsold any individual Android model over the holiday season, despite being smaller than the average screen on any Android phone. Apple may feel that the 3.5-inch screen size is their preferred ergonomic design. Apps are designed for that explicit screen size, and it would be a new wrinkle for developers to deal with, a slightly larger screen size.

However, rumors of a 4-inch iPhone 5 have floated around the internet, and while there isn’t any proof of this existing yet like the iPad 3’s Retina Display. Steve Jobs may have had certain parameters in mind, but as was said when Apple was demoing Mountain Lion to press recently: “We’re starting to do some things differently.”

Carter Dotson
Carter Dotson, editor of Android Rundown, has been covering Android since late 2010, and the mobile industry as a whole since 2009. Originally from Texas, he has recently moved to Chicago. He loves both iOS and Android for what they are - we can all get along!
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