A crazier-er prediction: The super Retina iPhone “Plus”
I think it’s pretty safe to say that Apple will at some point make a larger iPhone. It’s probably not for me, but Apple makes lots of products that aren’t for me. The important point is that the “big phone” category is selling better than they thought it would. One of the things Apple does better than anyone else is release products they previously swore they would never release.
Marco Arment has a pretty good theory of how Apple could pull off a iPhone “Plus”: Take the iPad’s 264 ppi, Retina screen and cut it down to match the iPhone 5′s 640 x 1136 resolution. The advantage to this strategy is it uses a component Apple is already familiar with and makes the transition easy for app developers because it’s the same exact resolution as the iPhone 5. No need to rewrite any apps.
There’s only one thing weird to me about an iPhone “Plus”. At some point in the next two years, Apple will come out with a Retina iPad mini. What that likely means is Apple will take the same screen they use for the iPhone 5, and just cut it larger to fit the Mini. This will double the Mini’s pixels to 326 ppi. Can you even imagine how great an iPad mini will look with a 326 ppi screen?
What that could also mean is Apple’s low-end iOS devices (iPhone 4/4S, iPhone 5, iPad mini) would have higher 326 ppi resolutions, but their high-end devices (iPhone “Plus”, iPad) would have lower 264 ppi resolutions. That might not matter a ton for the iPad because its larger screen means you hold it further away from your face, but an iPhone “Plus” with just 264 ppi would have a noticeably worse screen than both the iPhone 5 and a Retina iPad mini. In comparison, the 4.8-in Samsung Galaxy SIII has a 306 ppi display. Would Apple really release a 4.94-in display at 264 ppi?
Of course, Apple has a history of introducing iOS devices with lower resolutions and then migrating them to higher resolutions after a year or two on the market. In fact, it’s happened with every iOS device, so there’s a major precedent.
But that has me thinking – the ultimate solution is Apple eventually introducing a “Super Retina” screen for the iPhone “Plus” at an currently unfathomable 528 ppi. I feel funny even mentioning a screen density that high, but in June 2013 it will be three full years since Apple announced the first 326 ppi screen for the iPhone 4. In 2007, they introduced an at the time unfathomable 163 ppi screen for the original iPhone. If screen resolutions are doubling roughly every three years, we can’t be very far away from 528 ppi or even 652 ppi screens.
Sure enough, many of the major screen manufacturers, Toshiba, LG, and Sharp have been showing prototype screens running at or around 500 ppi as early as 2011. All they need is someone to place a strategically large advance order that would corner the market and secure supply before any other company does. Know of any one like that?