Ciccarese iPhone 6 Concept

Rumour: Will iPhone 6 have a resolution change?

There are so many rumours about the new “iPhone 6″, including; the shape, how thick (thin) it might be, the screen size and if it will solve all of mankind’s problems.

Some software features we gain include; new ways of connecting one device to another, increased social links, ways to listen out for the music playing, tv shows being watched – the list goes on.

The rumoured potential screen sizes could be anywhere from the current 4″ to 6” and several steps in between.  So how will this affect us?  We can logically assume that a larger screen size will have a larger resolution.

Currently we have these resolutions

  • 320 x 480 Original
  • 640 x 960 Retina
  • 960 x 1136 Retina Tall

So what will the iPhone 6 resolution be?

The likeliest resolution will be;  960 x 1704 – but why?  Simple it is a scaled up version of the most recent resolution.  The exact size is based on a scale factor.

Scale Factors

The original iPhone was a scale factor of x1, Retina was a simple x2 however Retina Tall changed the aspect ratio, but remained x2 in essence.

If the iPhone standard resolution was scaled to x3 then then the width would be 320 x 3 = 960 and the height (adjusted for tall) 568 x 3 = 1704.

For those who did not already know the iPhone Retina Tall does NOT have a 16:9 aspect display.  Whilst this is commonly referred to as a wide screen display it is actually; 40:71.  This is clearly not an aspect ratio that is overly common.

Why would Apple choose x3 scale?

Well the simplest answer would be; “make it as easy for developers as possible”.  By making the change to x3 and having the device continue to use the same device independent scale system – this would be;

  • Original; 1 pixel = 1 dp
  • Retina; 2 pixels = 1 dp
  • Retina Tall; 2 pixels = 1dp
  • iPhone 6; 3 pixels = 1dp – could be

We can make the same apps with the same visuals in the same place – very little work has to be done by developers.  The graphic designers re-supply artwork in new @3x files and all should be nice and easy.  In time developers can choose to add extras for the increased resolution devices should they wish – but for now, nothing breaks.

What if they choose a different aspect ratio?

They can and have.  Remember the iPhone Retina Tall changed from the original 5:6 to 40:71.  Developers had to make a few changes to accommodate the new aspect ratio.  However Apple has a solution; letter box mode.  All existing apps and those not adapted had a black bar top and bottom of the new taller display.  We coped – we are a strong group of developers.

What could a different aspect ratio be?

The most likely would be 1080×1920.  The logical reason for this would be that existing display panels already exist at this resolution and in a variety of different sizes, from different suppliers and using different display technologies.

Another and compelling reason is the competition already have devices using that resolution.  Apple may not want to look as if they are behind the game.

If this was to happen then our letterbox idea would still occur but this time the existing apps would have a black border around each edge.  60 pixels on the left and right side and 108 pixels on the top and bottom.  Would this happen – possibly – but Apple like things to be cleaner and simpler.  Would Sir Jony Ive approve of such a thing?

Just one more thing

Apple could change the whole iPhone design up a notch and bring out something special – there are rumours of a flexible display being considered.  Keep in mind a flexible display does NOT usually mean that you are able to flex it.  Rather Apple could use that flexibility to wrap the screen around one or more edges.  They could even have a curved display, however the two examples already available in the market use simple curved displays as more of a gimmick than a benefit to he user.

Just one more other thing

What if they jumped even higher and went x4? This would give a resolution of 1280×2272 and would require no changes at all to the layout of any apps.  We would then be able to add the newer imagery as soon as we were able.  This would also remove the problem that x4 would give – ‘some pixels would not have an even increase in size’.

So I vote for x4 and 1280×2272 – who is with me?

Image Credit: Ciccarese

Owner of Core 13 Ltd a UK based mobile app development agency. Malcolm is affectionately known by Appcelerator and the big wide world as "The Oracle". With 25 years commercial software development experience from desktop apps to web sites for single users to large enterprises.\n You may have seen some of the many contributions provided within the Titanium Q&A.


  • TheManuz

    Just a note: iPhone 5 resolution is 640×1136, and, while it’s not EXACTLY 16:9, is a really close approximation (16:9 would’ve been 640×1137.7777…).
    They approximated to 1136 instead of 1138 because in points /di will results in the even value of 568.
    That said, I feel the 3x route could really happen, because it will not break their current apps coordinate system.
    However the 1920×1080 solution will result in a @3.375 multiplier which could be hard to handle, but also in a more standardized resolution.

  • Malcolm Hollingsworth Post author

    Thanks; I really appreciate the heads-up on my iPhone 5 width value typo, very clearly not 960 as i had left it – despite a couple of re-reads I missed it.

    The display resolution would need to have been 639×1136 to have an aspect ratio of 9:16 / 16:9. As 640×1138 aspect is 320:569 as the greatest common divisor. Guessing the removal of a pixel from the width was not something they would consider as it would really annoy developers and be a poor albeit tiny backwards compatibility problem.

    If they moved to 1080×1920 I still think the scale factor would remain @3, but use the letterbox borders as they have utilised in the retina tall change as I suggested in the post. Scaling to a non-integer value or at least one that was a 0.25/0.5/0.75 step would be a little harsh – even Android has not done that to us.
    failed to spot that.

    i am looking forward to finding out. Knowing my luck it will be circular and we will all wonder why we never considered that before.

  • TheManuz

    Probably the final solution would be a merge of the two solutions.
    Like you said: 1920×1080, but using a @x3 multiplier.
    The missing space could be easily filled with auto-layouts, available since iOS6.
    Apple always ignore unsupported devices and retro-compatibility, so they probably will rely on this.
    Apps built for iOS5 would probably have letterboxing.

    We also have to consider that Android has already reached 1080p with a x3 multiplier (XXHDPI) on Nexus 5 and many other devices, so they have to keep up.
    Also, 1080p is a sort of a buzz word, they need it! However they’ll probably rename it with a new catchy name, like Infinity Display™ or Horizon Display™ or iCantBelieveItsSoSharp Display™ (notice the “i” on the start :D )

  • Nico

    I vote for not touching the display and maybe improve things like the battery … ;)

  • Malcolm Hollingsworth Post author

    The problem is that the screen size will change – that is happening, the question is to what resolution and how will it affect us.

    On the positive side – the battery life will almost certainly improve. As the device size will increase the battery size will due to the increased space. This logic takes into account the possible reduction in thickness. The screen size could take up more power, but as you probably know newer screens with newer technology families they are comping from are ever more battery efficient. Also the new iPhone will carry the latest CPU which as always will be faster but more power friendly. Finally the newer M7 chip already used to offload battery intensive functions into a more battery friendly solution is likely to receive an update – hopefully a little saving here as well.

  • Joseph Sachs

    Interesting read.
    Let’s hope they find a balance between adding new @4x images than re-working apps layouts. Ti has no auto-layout (today)

    I’ll go with @4x too :)
    That device better handle memory where all images have been doubled.

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