Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A Bigger iPhone and a Smaller iPad

When the standard size for a notebook screen was 10.4”, I visited a PC maker that was planning to introduce a notebook with a 15” screen. The planned notebook was termed a “Resider”, too big to actually carry around. By the time 15” notebooks were introduced, bezels had gotten thinner and overall notebook technology had improved to the point where a 15” notebook could be carried around. However, the continued technological advance has indeed made the 15” class something of a resider. It is more and more likely that if you carry a computer around with you (other than your smart phone) it is a tablet with a significantly smaller screen. That screen will have many more pixels and much higher visual bandwidth than the 1990’s resider.

There is nothing magical about any particular screen size. It is a trade-off among the 3 dozen or so other factors by which a display will be measured. For mobile devices, cost, convenience, and battery life consumption are the main factors in the equation of which screen size is a result. As thinner and lighter notebooks allowed for bigger screens, thinner and lighter screens allow for bigger screens in smart phones. Improved resolution in screens allows for smaller screens with increased visual bandwidth in tablets.

The introduction of a bigger iPhone and smaller iPad, narrows the gap between smart phone and tablet devices ever so slightly. If rumors are to be believed, Apple initially rejected the idea of a sub 10” tablet due to the difficulty of inputting data (typing). That and the ability to conveniently be viewed by multiple viewers are the prime differences between a Tablet and smart phone today. As smart phones run into the resolution limit of the human eye, about 220 dpi for older folk, increasing the display size becomes necessary in order to run more visually complex apps and display advertising. However, although there is no magic barrier that determines what is a pocket sized device; smart phones are already quite large for most pockets.

In “The case for a flexible touch panel keyboard,” (published in Touch Panel, Sep 20, 2009), I make the case for a second, roll-out, screen for phones. The roll-out screen could serve as a keyboard or as the primary viewing device when there needs to be multiple viewers. Such a configuration would narrow the Tablet/Smartphone gap even further or eliminate it entirely. In other articles, I have argued that due to the increased cost, the market making application of OLED technology will be one that makes use of the technology’s physical flexibility. The scroll design will find some application long before it is needed to rescue the crew of an unfortunate Mars landing (reference the movie "Red Planet"). I expect that it will be a new form of the tablet rather than just as a display.



  1. There are not so much difference between both i phone and i pad. The size of screen of i phone is slightly bigger than i pod.

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  2. An article published today deals with some of the issues of screen size. Facebook needs to sell advertising; they also need to be able to pitch it on mobile screens. Although the LCD makers can make screens with more pixels, moving much beyond 220 dpi, no one will be able to see what is on the screen. Ergo. Facebook needs bigger screens to advance its business model on mobile devices. Ergo Facebook needs Oleds.

  3. LG may one-up Apple with a cell phone with a 5" screen, further muddying the waters between a cell phone and tablet. At 5" it is 2" or 30% smaller than a small tablet but but 25% larger than a large cell phone. If anything, it will be an interesting adventure in consumer acceptance.


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