iPhone 5: New Screen, New Dock Connector

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There are a number of trends in the smartphone industry that have started to snowball during the last few years, but Apple has been company that can be relied upon to turn its nose up at such trends. Over the last few years, competing smartphone manufacturers have been pushing towards larger and larger devices, yet Apple has stuck resolutely to the 3.5 inch screen size it had chosen for the first iPhone in 2007.

When 4 inched phone screens first made an appearance many people thought they were ridiculously proportioned and nobody could possibly want a phone that large. But now 4 inches has now become the norm for much of the smartphone industry. In fact, with many phones pushing beyond 5 inches, even resulting in a whole new hybrid category of “phablet”, 4 inches seems rather small and the 3.5 inches that Apple has always favoured now seems rather miniscule.

Large iPhone Screen

There is a large body of evidence which suggests that for the iPhone 5 Apple has made the decision to move beyond the 3.5 inch screen size of earlier iPhones. Apple has tinkered around with its iPhone screens before, introducing the high resolution Retina Display for the iPhone 4, but the new screen size is likely to have much greater implications.

The original 320 x 480 resolution of the iPhone and the later 640 x 960 Retina resolution both resulted in the same 3:2 aspect ratio, so getting iOS to work on both resolutions was a simple case of scaling graphical content. Yet instead of extending the iPhone 5’s width and height like other large smartphones Apple has decided to extend just the height, resulting in a more elongated model and an entirely new aspect ratio.

Widescreen & Auto Layout

The new aspect ratio of 16:9 will have many benefits, as will be obvious to anyone who is familiar with widescreen, but it could also cause some potential problems for iOS. It is no longer simply a case of rescaling graphics for the larger screen, as this would result in graphics that would appear “stretched”.

Apple has added a feature into iOS 6 called Auto Layout. It was demonstrated by 9to5Mac that Auto Layout resulted in an extra row of app icons being added to iOS when it was forced to run in the new 1136 x 640 screen resolution that is rumoured to be used by the iPhone 5. It also resulted in the onscreen keyboard being more spacious when used in landscape mode.

This Auto Layout feature will most likely only apply to iOS design elements used by the interface and some standard apps. While many third party iPhone apps also make use of these design elements, the majority do not. This leaves the possibility that app developers will need to update their apps to account for the new resolution. While many big app developers will have no difficulty doing so, many smaller app developers may not have the time or resources to go back to old apps to add support for the new screen dimensions.

This leaves the possibility that existing apps will either have their graphical content stretched to fit the screen or, more likely, older apps will be run in a “letterbox mode”, with black bars at the top and bottom of the screen. This would be much like watching a widescreen movie on a square television set. On the plus side, widescreen videos would no longer feature these bars.

The letterbox mode seems like the more obvious choice. This is how old PlayStation games are displayed on Sony smartphones that include PlayStation certification. The original PlayStation console was designed solely for square television sets, resulting in a black bars appearing on PSX games running on more rectangular Sony phones.


New Dock Connector

Another change that Apple is planning for the iPhone 5 also has the potential for some rather major implications. Apple is thought to be ditching the proprietary dock connector that it has used on iOS devices for the last few years and replacing it with a much smaller, more efficient, and less compatible design.

While this new design will no doubt offer improved transfer speeds and battery charging times (or else there would be no need to introduce it), it will also be problematic for existing iPhone users who have amassed a large collection of accessories. Would you want to fork out so much money for an iPhone 5 if you can’t connect it to your speaker dock?

It seems unlikely that Apple would force people to spend more money replacing their existing accessories. Apple will most likely launch an adaptor that would allow older accessories to work with the new dock connection.

When the iPhone 4S was launched in October 2011, many disgruntled fans were left asking “where is the redesign?” In their minds, the iPhone 4S was too similar to the iPhone 4. Now it seems they will get what they asked for, but could these major design changes be a hindrance to the iPhone 5’s popularity? Unlikely. Analysts are already speculating that the iPhone 5 could rack up over 250 million sales, especially with an additional 1.3 billion Chinese customers now being potential Apple customers.

If the iPhone 5 does achieve this level of success it will become the biggest selling mobile phone of all time, knocking the Nokia 1100 from the top spot that it has held for a few years. The iPhone 5 will be unveiled on September 12th and, with a full week before it goes on sale, it will most likely steal the Samsung Galaxy S3’s title of most pre-ordered gadget in history, too.


About The Author

This post was written by Simon from Best Mobile Contracts, the UK’s leading mobile phone comparison website and source of mobile phone news.

Picture of Kokou Adzo

Kokou Adzo

Kokou Adzo is a stalwart in the tech journalism community, has been chronicling the ever-evolving world of Apple products and innovations for over a decade. As a Senior Author at Apple Gazette, Kokou combines a deep passion for technology with an innate ability to translate complex tech jargon into relatable insights for everyday users.

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