Why 4.7 inches is the perfect screen size for the next iPhone

If Apple makes the jump to a larger screen size for a future iPhone, the Moto X's 4.7-inch display seems optimal.

Goldilocks phone: The Moto X and its 4.7-inch screen flanked by the Galaxy S4 and the iPhone 5 (click image to enlarge). Sarah Tew/CNET

Whenever we do a poll about what new features people would like to see most in a new iPhone, the No. 1 vote getter always seems to be "bigger screen" followed by "better battery life."

With the iPhone 5, the iPhone's screen did get bigger -- or at least longer -- but it's still not big enough for some folks, who are drawn to the more-spacious displays found on competing Android models, led by the Samsung Galaxy S4 , which sports a 5-inch screen, compared with the iPhone 5's 4-inch screen.

The question, of course, is, just how big should the iPhone's screen be, or more broadly speaking, what's the optimal screen size for a smartphone?

Well, while Motorola's new Moto X may not measure up to the Samsung Galaxy S4, and the HTC One in terms of raw performance and screen resolution, after playing around with it for a few days, I think its 4.7-inch screen size is pretty ideal in the context of the overall design of the phone.

The Moto X is slightly taller and a bit wider than the iPhone 5. It also weighs 0.63 ounce, or 18 grams more.

iPhone 5 (4-inch screen): 4.87 inches (123.8mm) x 2.31 inches (58.6mm) x 0.30 inch (7.6mm); 3.95 ounces (112 grams)

Moto X (4.7-inch screen): 5.09 inches (129.3mm) x 2.57 inches (65.3mm) x 0.41 inch (curve: 5.6-10.4mm); 4.58 ounces (130 grams)

Galaxy S4 (5-inch screen): 5.38 (136.65mm) x 2.74 (69.60mm) x 0.31 inch (7.87mm); 4.6 ounces (130.41 grams)

Galaxy S4 Mini (4.3-inch screen): 124.6 x 61.3 x 8.9mm 4.91 (124.6mm) x 2.41 (61.3mm) x 0.35 in (8.9mm); 3.77 ounces (107 grams)

The Moto X has a curved back and is around 0.1 inch thicker than the iPhone 5 at its thickest point. Presumably, some of that extra thickness is because of the size of the battery that powers the Moto X (the phone's battery life is rated at 24 hours or a "full day"). But I'm not going to get into what's inside the phone; I'm just focusing on its external design. What makes the size of the Moto X appealing is that it's basically right in between the iPhone 5 and the Galaxy 4.

The Moto X side by side with an iPhone 5 (click image to enlarge). Sarah Tew/CNET

I don't own an iPhone 5, but I've certainly played around with it plenty. It feels good in hand, though it does seem a tad narrow, particularly if you have no case on it (or a very thin one). I like how the Moto X feels in hand a little better. However, that's partially thanks to the curved design and texture of the back of the phone.

While it wasn't a serious issue, I did occasionally end up with my finger resting on the camera opening on the back of the Moto X (it's in the middle, toward the top, and covered by protective glass). Several other smartphones, including the Galaxy S4, have the camera in the same spot, but because the S4 is larger, I held the phone slightly differently and rarely ended up covering the camera with my index finger. The iPhone 5's camera is placed in the top corner of the phone, not the middle.

Naturally, when it comes to screen size -- and phone size in general -- everyone has his own preferences. For instance, some folks love the oversize Galaxy Note 2 and its 5.5-inch screen, whereas others scoff that it's just too big and ungainly.

In other words, that happy medium between not too big and not too small is a little bit illusive. But if I were selecting the screen size for a larger iPhone, I'd vote for 4.7 inches -- Retina, of course.

As Goldilocks might say, it seems just right.

 

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