The next iPhone, which may or not be called iPhone 5, will have a 4-inch screen according to several unidentified sources cited in news stories this week.
An array of bloggers and technology commenters are already accepting these mainstream media accounts as confirmation of the long-rumoured big-screened phone.
The unsupported conviction or hope that Apple would create bigger iPhones has burned bright for over a year. Many expected that what turned out to be iPhone 4S would have a larger screen, but it kept the 3.5in display. Android-based phones from rivals such as Samsung come in a variety of diagonally measured screen sizes, many much larger than the iPhone's 3.5in display. The Samsung Galaxy Note has a 5.3in screen, for example.
A close look at the stories by The Wall Street Journal and Reuters reveals that they, too, rest on a thin foundation. Despite their length, both actually add very little detail about the purported big screen iPhone. And both use almost identical language to describe their sources: "people familiar with the matter" and "people familiar with the situation."
The next iPhone is "likely to have a larger display than its current models have, with the company ordering bigger screens from its Asian suppliers, people familiar with the matter said," according to the WSJ. "The new screens measure at least 4 inches diagonally, the people said. Production is set to begin next month, the people said."
If the production schedule is correct, that would suggest the phones will be released, if not announced, later in 2012, rather than earlier as some had predicted, or hoped.
According to Reuters: "Apple plans to use a larger screen on the next-generation iPhone and has begun to place orders for the new displays from suppliers in South Korea and Japan, people familiar with the situation said on May 16."
And, apart from both stories asserting, based on the same sources, that Apple will rely on a trio of manufacturers for the new screens - Korea's LG Display, Sharp and Japan Display, a recent merger of the display production units of three companies - neither story adds anything more.
But that was enough for folks like Richi Jennings. He concluded: "The iPhone 5 release date is basically now known. And the rumours of a larger, 4-inch screen are all but confirmed."
But as with all such "reports," the weight to be attached to the conclusions hinges on the identity, reliability and motives of the sources. And neither Reuters nor the Journal sheds any light on these. Their sources may be from display manufacturers or they could be rumour sites that claim to have sources in display manufacturers.
The principal objection to a larger-screen iPhone, and to iPhones with multiple screen sizes, has been the impact on software developers, who would have to change their existing application code for the new size and generally speaking to factor in multiple display sizes when targeting iPhones. To allow apps to remain unchanged, and keep the existing iPhone resolution of 960 by 640 pixels, Apple would have to increase pixel size, but that would reduce the "Retina Display" pixel density, currently 326 pixels per inch.
One possible solution, outlined in April 2012 in an informative post at The Verge, is for Apple to change the phone screen's aspect ratio, currently 3:2, to 9:5. That would let Apple extend the diagonal screen size to 3.99 inches, making the screen taller but no wider, and possibly allowing the iPhone to retain the same overall dimensions. The pixel density would still meet Retina Display standards, but the screen overall would have 20% more pixels than iPhone 4 and 4S, according to The Verge's calculations.