Whenever the next generation iPhone comes out – either next month at Apple’s Worldwide Developers conference, later this year, or sometime in 2013 – it will likely look dramatically different.
According to a report by the Wall Street Journal, Apple is planning to expand the screen size of the iPhone from 3.5 inches to at least 4 inches. This, apparently, is in response to the success of Samsung (now the worldwide leader in smartphones) going to larger screens. Its bread and butter device, the Samsung Galaxy S III that will arrive in the U.S. in the coming months, boasts a 4.8-inch screen. The Samsung Galaxy Note is succeeding as a hybrid smartphone/tablet with a 5.3-inch display.
While most consumers will likely welcome an iPhone with a larger screen, this notion could give app developers pause. Of the many reasons why developers embrace the iOS platform is the uniformity of form factor across iPhones and iPod Touches, as well as separately on the 9.7-inch iPads.
If a larger iPhone is indeed in the works, along with the possibility of a 7-inch iPad Mini, developers will be forced to create separate variations of their applications to suit an expanding line of device types. This is more significant than optimizing apps for iOS upgrades and what appear to be annual hardware releases.
While Apple has latitude and no doubt will show restraint, too many form factors available to the public at any one time could make iOS feel more like Android. For all of its qualities, many developers are reluctant to go all-in on Android as there are dozens of form factors that run on different versions of the operating system at any one time.
Apple’s move toward a larger iPhone screen won’t create a wild west, but it does show that the company is moving past its originally colonized territory closer to the Mississippi.