2012 iPhone concept design #2
I realised the problem with my previous mockup was that in order to have enough room for the rounded “pebble” look, there is a bigger margin on the left and right sides of the screen, so either the phone would be wider, or the screen thinner. I don’t think either of these is likely or desirable.
So this time I took a bit more care with precise measurements. The screen in this mockup is exactly the same width as the previous generations of iPhone, and the height is exactly what it would be if Apple increases the screen height to 1152 pixels. More on that later.
One thing that struck me about the iPad 2 design was that although it was about a third thinner than the first-generation iPad, it felt much thinner than that. I suspect this is thanks to the tapered bevel of the iPad 2 back plate, meeting at a thin but subtly rounded edge. So first I thought about an iPhone design more like the current-generation iPod Touch.
But there is a problem with that: The most prominent design feature of the iPhone 4 was its external steel antenna. Moving the antenna to the outside, and making it the principle structural component, was what made the iPhone 4 so thin. So I doubt that moving it back inside is an option for Apple. And besides, I love the iPhone 4/4S design. Something about that steel antenna band makes it feel like a premium product when you hold it.
So instead, I brought the antenna band right up to the bevel of the front glass, and made the back plate taper away from it like the iPad’s.
As a general rule, we expect Apple, and other device makers, to trend towards thinner, smaller, and lighter devices by default. The iPad (3) was ever so slightly thicker than the iPad 2, which was a surprise, but it was clear that Apple did everything they could to match the iPad 2’s dimensions as closely as possible.
The generally accepted consensus is that Apple had to do this to fit the larger battery. However it’s not completely clear whether the extra juice is to power the “4G” radio system, or that giant retina display.
If the former, and the iPhone also gets “4G” this year, then it seems unlikely that the new iPhone will be thinner than the iPhone 4S. But if it’s the iPad’s retina display that needs the bigger battery, well then, the iPhone already has one. And if so, it’s conceivable that the new iPhone could be slightly thinner.
Betting on the latter, I conservatively squeezed the total height to 8.96mm, just a hair thinner than the 9.34mm-thick iPhone 4S. And with the antenna band at only 6.17mm wide, it should feel a great deal thinner when held.
The 4-inch Display
Both my previous mockup and this one are inspired by the hot rumour that the next iPhone will have a taller-but-no-wider display, giving it something very close to a 16:9 aspect ratio. What makes this rumour special is that John Gruber practically confirmed it on his blog, and later on his podcast.
For the record, I don’t have a strong opinion on whether Apple should change the screen dimensions. Marc Edwards of Bjango told me that it would break a lot of apps. I’m not sure if that’s true, but I am 100% certain that if Apple does make this change, almost all iOS developers will update their apps. And for those that don’t, there will be some kind of black bar workaround applied by iOS to make it look just like it does now.
So for what it’s worth, here is what a 4-inch, 640x1152 screen might look like:
I think it looks pretty nice. And I certainly wouldn’t mind having an extra row of apps on my home screen.
With the taller screen, there is no room for the round home button as it currently exists. I played around with different shapes and sizes for the button, but it just didn’t look right. But what if the entire bottom area of the phone clicks like a button, kind of like the trackpad on the current generation of MacBooks? The area indicated by the home button symbol could be touch-sensitive, so when you click there it registers as a home button click.
This would also seem to agree with last year’s rumours about a swipeable home button. When the software activates the gesture, swiping left or right over the touch-sensitive home button symbol could send events to the software. I’m not convinced Apple would do that (lots of problems with accidentally touching it), but it’s possible.
Unfortunately my 3D modelling skills are not even close to good enough to capture all the gorgeous little details that Apple puts into its industrial design. Still, I think this gives a rough idea of how it might look. As for how it would feel in the hand, if anyone out there has a 3D printer, contact me and I’ll send you the SketchUp file.
Finally, here’s a video animation (no sound) of the model. Enjoy!
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