There’s not a day for the past couple of weeks that I don’t find the media filled with iPhone prototype images. All of them focused on a next-generation iPhone that’ll change the device most of us have gotten used to for the past five years. There are a couple of interesting details of these leaks, but one of the biggest ones is the dramatic switch that Apple “will probably make” of going from the legacy 4:3 aspect ratio that we’ve seen for years to accommodate a longer screen at 4-inches, with a 16:9 aspect ratio.
The biggest question I ask myself is: does it make sense? Well, Apple has done a lot of things that don’t make sense. They got rid of the 5.25-inch floppy drive with the original Mac back when the 3.5-inch diskette wasn’t even being sold in the market. They killed the Apple Newton just when it had spun the PDA industry. They ditched that same floppy drive with the iMac more than a decade later at times when the flash drives still hadn’t substituted the floppy. And, even today, they also ditched flash-based web content in the multi-media age with their iOS products. There’s no denying that Apple is a rebel in many ways, but rarely have we ever seen Apple rebel against themselves.
See, they’ve always been against many of the standards adopted by competitors and have done insane efforts to push their standards, even when they’ve failed at times: Cough! “Ping” cough! What I’ve never seen Apple do in the past though is switch against one of their standards when it’s successful. Those who disagree with me should ask Tim Cook why OS X is still being called OS X a decade later. The same happens with the iPhone. Whether many of us in the tech world like the thing or not, we have to admit the world is flooded by them, and they’ve proven to be even more successful than all of Microsoft. So, why do I believe that Apple won’t change what according to them, is not broken? Here’s why:
Apple is known for tons of prototypes that never get launched
Please rewind this track to last year and remember how we all went crazy over the iPhone 5 rumors of those days. We thought the device would be curved or tear-dropped, and look like the current-generation iPod Touch with a cellular radio. Did it happen? No!
Apple is known for prototyping. Jony Ives is a master of building different iterations of each product in order to feel them before he starts building them. I wouldn’t be surprised if after the iPhone-4-Gizmodo-debacle, Apple hasn’t figured out a way to stir our attention away from the real next-generation iPhone with one of those prototype duds just like they did last year. Yes guys, we were all fooled.
16:9 is complicated
One of the biggest challenges of this aspect ratio is that a lot of people still type on the on-screen keyboard using landscape orientation. If Apple stretches the screen, they’d stretch the keyboard into a proportion that just won’t allow anything else other than the keyboard to be shown. Try doing this in Android and you’ll know what I’m talking about.
The same happens with movies at times when most of the iPhone adopters are like you and me, and grew up watching movies in the 80s. All of these are stuck in the old 4:3 aspect ratio. It’s not complicated to watch a 16:9 movie with black bars on the top and bottom, but try to do the same on a 4:3 movie with black bars on the left and right. The movie, as a result, will look a lot smaller.
Then imagine having Apple obligated to update their whole product-line just because of this change. It’s just too complicated to be Apple.
Surely we have seen some confirmations of a 16:9 emulator on the iOS 6-beta version of X-Code, but again, Apple has tried a ton of things they never released. Developers would have to rebuild all their apps to fit this aspect, and it just seems too far fetched that Apple would release such a changing product at times when they haven’t announced it with enough anticipation for developers to work ahead of its launch.
The bottom line
You know what, everything I’ve written doesn’t mean that I don’t wish I was wrong. I do want an iPhone with a larger display, and unless Apple ditches the home button and gives us a clean slate that’s just a screen with a minor bezel, I find it hard for them to pull it off.
Yes, I do want a larger screen on my next iPhone, but something just tells me that the 16:9 aspect ratio isn’t the way to go. I still ask myself why Apple is so persistent on keeping their home button in front of the device having so much space at the right. If they brought the screen lower into the bezel, it really wouldn’t matter how big they made the screen, it would still be able to be operated with on hand.
Whether I’m right or wrong is still weeks from being seen, but be sure to share your thoughts on how it should be in the comments.