September 14, 2012
This week, with the announcement of the iPhone 5, Apple revealed one of the biggest changes to the popular smartphone's physical shape since its introduction in 2007 - a larger screen. While the update offers improved widescreen usage and a larger work space for apps, some developers wonder how this will affect web UI design.
The new screen is four inches long, as opposed to the 3.5-inch LCD display of every previous edition, and boasts a resolution of 1,136 by 640 pixels. This is enough room for an entirely new row of icons at the bottom of the screen and more information per app. For web designers, however, there could be other uses for this space than a larger window.
According to .net Magazine, there are differing views on this subject from experts in the field. James Gardner, a technology strategist and writer, said that the launch of the iPhone 5 changes nothing for designers, unless they specifically want to do something within the iOS bubble. On the other hand, the new screen size may present issues for responsive design gurus who are used to the iPhone's set pixel count and set it as the "industry standard," as web GUI designer Sebastian Green told the magazine.
"This is going to lead to lots of sites looking odd in landscape on the iPhone 5 and will create work for developers/designers to modify their media queries," Green said. "It just goes to show, even the big companies will change things we all rely on. Responsive designs should not be dependent on certain screen dimensions. It is just more proof that designs need to be fluid in between their media query breakpoints so that they will work on any size of screen."
Ultimately, it is agreed that the new screen size on the iPhone 5 will create a ripple in the design community, but whether or not the resulting changes are positive or frustrating is yet to be seen. Application design could evolve to include more information or improve usability and workspace. However, it could also become cluttered if approached with the "more is better" philosophy. To achieve high-quality design with the new device, it will be up to designers to utilize the extra half-inch as best they can.