Apple news site iLounge released these images of what a longer iPhone, on the right, might look like.
iLounge/Wired
Apple news site iLounge released these images of what a longer iPhone, on the right, might look like.

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Apple news site iLounge releases mockups of what it says the next iPhone is going to look like

iLounge says new phone will have a 4-inch screen, up from the current model's 3.5 inches

To put LTE capabilities in the next iPhone, Apple will need to make more room

CNN —  

On Thursday morning, iLounge released mockups of what it says the next iPhone is going to look like, according to the site’s own unnamed sources. The main differences in appearance between the next iPhone and the current iPhone 4S? A metal back, a smaller dock connector, a 20 percent decrease in thickness, and a longer 4-inch display.

Concept designs for future iPhones are a dime a dozen and usually look like something Syd Mead might have slapped together after a glue-induced aneurysm. But iLounge’s concept looks pretty good. It may not prove to be an accurate prediction in the end, but it’s a sensible proposal.

The most obvious change in iLounge’s mockup is the 4-inch screen. That’s a big bump, as the iPhone’s display has stayed at 3.5 inches with a 3:2 aspect ratio since 2007. Why in the world would Apple change it now?

It all comes down to LTE. LTE radios take up more room in a smartphone than 3G radios and use more power. To put LTE capabilities in the next iPhone, you need to make room not just for the radio, but find enough juice to power it without significantly decreasing battery life.

The problem is there’s just not a lot of room inside an iPhone for anything more than is already there. An iPhone is a densely packed sandwich of silicon, radios, flash storage, motors and cameras. Over the past five generations, Apple has packed in everything that makes up an iPhone about as densely as possible, and the battery still makes up the bulk of every device.

If it’s going to fit anything else, Apple needs to make more room.

That’s one reason why iLounge is saying Apple will be ditching its current dock connector for a micro-sized version: Space saved in this area is space Apple can stuff with a larger battery or make for a bigger LTE chipset. But it’s also a reason why Apple would make the display bigger.

There’s been a lot of talk over the last couple of years that with the iPhone 5, Apple would bump the display up to a larger four inches, but the rumor’s always had a lot of problems. Increasing the iPhone’s display while maintaining its current 3:2 aspect ratio would make the device wider in the hand and harder to operate one-handed. It would also either decrease the pixel density of the iPhone’s Retina display, making it less “retina-ey” and more jaggy to the eyes, or require more pixels per inch to compensate, causing iPhone developers to design their apps for multiple resolutions (the exact same kind of fragmentation problem that’s bitten Android on its ass). No good.

That’s why conventional wisdom (until a couple months ago) was that Apple would keep a 3.5-inch display and eschew LTE until the radios were sufficiently small and power-efficient to fit into the current iPhone’s form factor. But with the new iPad’s WiFi + 4G release, Apple has made it abundantly clear that it is finally ready to embrace LTE. And the way the company is going to do it is by making the iPhone’s display longer, but not wider.