Claim: Next iPhone to Have Huge 4.6-inch ‘Retina’ Display

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The Apple iPhone 4S with its 3.5-inch, 960 x 640 LCD screen.

What’s bigger, probably a touch heavier, even easier on the eyes and at this point a mostly unsubstantiated iPhone rumor? Word from a South Korean media source (via Reuters) that Apple’s next iPhone — call it the “iPhone 5,” or if Apple mimics its just-released iPad, simply “The new iPhone” — will sport a larger 4.6-inch display.

Reuters refers to the new display as “Retina” quality, once more invoking Apple’s marketing term referring to a pixel count theoretically high enough that your eyes can’t spot individual ones when holding the phone at normal viewing distance. The iPhone 4 and 4S, both of which employ smaller 3.5-inch screens, have 960 x 640 pixel displays, which adds up to 326 pixels per inch — well above the 300 ppi threshold. If Apple maintains that same resolution on a 4.6-inch display, the pixel count would drop to about 251 ppi.

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That’s only slightly less than the new iPad (264 ppi), but since I’d argue most people tend to hold phones closer than tablets — especially while using the iPhone to play games or use apps more involved than the phone dialer — it’s not a great comparison. Unless Apple bumps up the resolution, any claim that a 960 x 640 pixel, 4.6-inch iPhone sports a “Retina” display would be courting disingenuousness.

But let’s assume the best, i.e. that we’d see a resolution bump at that screen size…or use assume nothing at all, since this is just a South Korean media claim. All we can do is speculate about what we might do with nearly five inches of iPhone real estate. Will the screen be edge-to-edge? Will Apple eliminate the home button? Will they shift from glass to plastic to keep the weight down? Will the screen shift to AMOLED? Will it really launch in the second quarter, as claimed? As usual, it’s magical mystery time in Apple-rumor-ville.

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