Apple After Steve Jobs

How Apple could circumvent fragmentation with an iPhone 5 with a bigger screen

The iPhone 5 maybe the most anxiousy awaited device this year. Just like the iPad, the screen plays a major role in Apple’s iPhone devices. Rumours about a bigger screen model are all over the web since a long time, even before the release of the iPhone 4S. Here is a simple idea.

Suppose an iPhone 5 with a 4” display. To keep its Retina Display status, Apple must use a higher resolution screen. Suppose this screen at a 1200 x 800 pixels. The problem with a bigger screen with a new resolution is fragmentation. Developers are currently developing their apps with two resolutions in mind: 480 x 320 and 960 x 640 for the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4 respectively. By introducing another screen size, Apple is effectively creating fragmentation in its device lineup and nobody wants that. Not only that but introducing another resolution like 1200 x 800, this would pose a scaling problem because it is not the result of a nice multiplier like 2x or 3x (compared to the iPhone 3GS which is the reference resolution). It would be something in between. But, it seems pressure is mounting on Apple to introduce iPhone with a bigger screen (not as big as the Samsung Galaxy Note but…).

What if an application on the new iPhone 5 runs unmodified? It would not cover the entire screen, leaving space around it while running. Would it be ugly? Well it depends. It would certainly leave room for something else. By having applications running at their normal resolution, this would introduce something really cool that was available on the webOS: a flipping card metaphor for switching between running applications. As you can see, this isn’t new but this wouldn’t be the first time Apple borrows ideas (great ones) from others.

The following illustration show how big an unmodified application would look on the entire screen. On each side, you see part of other applications in the background. This would remove the need for the current application switching tray that we have on iOS 5. With a flip gesture starting form the left edge or the right edge of the screen, users could switch between applications.

At the bottom, space could be used to allow user-defined shortcuts (volume controls, frequently used apps, device settings, etc) that could be flipped right and left. iOS 6 which will certainly be announced this year could introduce “full screen” mode for applications that would take full advantage of the bigger screen. Switching from full screen back to the flipping card metaphor would be done via a pinch gesture. This new feature would kind of introduce fragmentation but at a more tolerable level.

This proposal meets three basic objectives:

  • A way for current application to run unmodified on a bigger screen iPhone limiting ecosystem fragmentation.
  • Introduce a better application switching mechanism that is currently offered in iOS 5.
  • Introduced a widely requested feature: user-defined shortcuts for often used features.

Do you think this proposal is viable idea? Is it a good compromise effectively letting Apple introduce this new device limiting ecosystem fragmentation?

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