Should the iPhone 5 get a larger screen?

With new Android phones arriving with larger screen sizes, some CNET readers think Apple should go bigger with its next iPhone. Is that a good idea?

David Carnoy Executive Editor / Reviews
Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable reviewer of mobile accessories and portable audio products, including headphones and speakers. He's also an e-reader and e-publishing expert as well as the author of the novels Knife Music, The Big Exit and Lucidity. All the titles are available as Kindle, iBooks, Kobo e-books and audiobooks.
Expertise Headphones, Bluetooth speakers, mobile accessories, Apple, Sony, Bose, e-readers, Amazon, glasses, ski gear, iPhone cases, gaming accessories, sports tech, portable audio, interviews, audiophile gear, PC speakers Credentials
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David Carnoy
3 min read
Many of today's smartphones have screens that are larger than the iPhone's 3.5-inch display. Eric Franklin/CNET

Last year, with all the new Android smartphones with 4-inch and larger screens hitting the market, I posted an article asking readers whether they thought the iPhone's screen was too small. In a poll, close to 50 percent of the respondents said, yes, they'd like to see Apple make the next iPhone's screen larger.

Now I'm getting some grief from readers after leaving out "larger screen" when I recently updated my piece on the the 20 feature upgrades I'd like to see in the iPhone 5, so I thought I'd better take a second stab at a topic a lot of you feel strongly about.

"I can't believe that a bigger screen wasn't on this list!" distantbrother said in one comment.

"Yes I know that 3.5-inch screen is OK for most people but if CES '11 says anything, it's that people want phones with big screens, and I think it's well within Apple's capabilities to make a big screen with a thin bezel that will still have a smallish form factor," TaylorPassofaro wrote.

A commenter who goes by the handle flametrick was a bit more indignant:

#1 LARGER SCREEN. Out of 20 wishes not one mention of a larger screen? That's the number one reason I'm jumping ship and going with an Android phone as soon as my contract is up. I don't think I'm the only one that likes larger screens just look at all the big screen Androids at CES. The iPhone needs at least a 4" screen. If that would mean a larger form factor so be it. I'd gladly sell my iPhone dock on eBay. As it is I'll be selling it anyway.

As I've noted before, I haven't experienced a desire to inflate my iPhone 3GS' 3.5-inch screen size, but I can certainly see the appeal of a larger screen, particularly as more people read e-books and watch movies on their phones. That said, I've heard some owners of Android mobiles, including editor Jeff Bakalar (an HTC EVO owner), complain of lackluster battery life. Also, I find phones like the EVO (4.3-inch screen) and Droid X (4.2-inch screen) a tad bulky.

From a design standpoint, I prefer the Samsung's Galaxy S series, which has a 4-inch screen and is available from various carries under different names: Captivate (AT&T), Vibrant (T-Mobile), Fascinate (Verizon), and Epic 4G (Sprint).

As to which screen is the best, check out editor Eric Franklin's Battle Royale series where he tests and compares the screen performance of the iPhone 4 against other competitors, including the new HTC HD7 Windows Phone. In his shootouts, the iPhone 4 consistently places first, but Franklin focuses more on image quality and less with the actual size of the screen.

If nothing else, the larger screens of Android models have helped distinguish them from the iPhone and given folks like flametrick another reason to jump the iOS ship. How important is screen size for consumers when determining what their next smartphone will be? That's hard to say, but let me know what you think in the comments section below.

Editors' note: Technically, the iPhone's screen is slightly larger than the 3.5-inches diagonal that Apple advertises.

Related: A tale of four smartphone screens (Battle Royale 3)

See also: iPhone 5's 20 most-wanted features