Making the iPhone Physically Smaller But Keeping the Same Screen Size

• Updated June 14, 2017

With the release of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, the iPhone has now joined the ranks of Android phones with large screens. Personally, I think these screen sizes are just right, but everyone always want more. In this case, more means a physically smaller phone that some how retains the 4.7" or 5.5" screen size. How could Apple conceivably do this?

There isn’t much that can be done on the top of the phone. It could probably be made a bit thinner, but with the front and rear facing cameras, the proximity sensor, and the ear piece, it would be very difficult and probably pointless to try.

The left and right bezels are already very thin, but they could probably be made a bit thinner or be edge-to-edge.

That leaves the bottom of the phone where the Home button lives. But the Home button is iconic on the iPhone, it can’t be removed! Anyone who knows Apple understands their war on buttons (iPod Shuffle and the Apple Mouse). If there was any button to go on the iPhone or iPad it would be the Home button.

However, the Home button has a lot of functionality tied to it:

  • Return to Home screen
  • Press-and-hold to activate Siri
  • Double-press to activate multi-tasking mode
  • Double-tap to activate Reachability
  • Press and hold and press the Power button to take a screenshot
  • TouchID fingerprint scanner

Almost all of this functionality, except TouchID - I’ll get to that shortly - could be replaced by a “touch area” that lights up briefly when activated. Something similar to the Palm Pre 2. This would allow the bottom of the phone to need less real estate. The “double-press to activate multi-tasking mode” would need to be changed since there is nothing to press with a touch button, there is only something to tap. Perhaps a triple tap would work. Or, because there is now a “touch area”, new gestures could be introduced to activate the features above.

But, most importantly, what about TouchID? How could it be replaced?

Touch screen technology is constantly evolving. Screens are becoming thinner and thinner, packing more and more pixels, and introducing features that are typically not part of a screen (e.g. haptic feedback). It is only a matter of time until your fingerprint can be scanned on any part of the screen instead of a designated part of the phone. Instead of putting your finger on the Home button you put it on any part of the screen. When your fingerprint is needed, iOS simply displays a modal dialog (similar to what it already does) asking you to place your finger anywhere on the screen. When you successfully authenticate, the box would go away or if you fail to authenticate it would prompt you to try again.

It makes sense that you would scan your fingerprint on the part of the phone that you are actually always touching. But, we all know this feature could be taken one step further.

To use an iPhone or iPad you are always touching the screen. You are always putting your fingerprints all over it. Assuming any part of the screen could be used to scan your fingerprint, why not have a security feature that would lock the device the moment a fingerprint that isn’t registered touches it. This would further complement the existing feature to lock the device after not touching the screen for a set amount of time. If you share your iPhone or iPad with someone, simply add their fingerprint, or a feature could be added to temporarily turn off the lock-screen-if-a-non-registered-fingerprint-touches-the-screen feature. But, now I’m digressing. Perhaps a future post will delve more into this.

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