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The past few years, Apple has taken flak for the “cramped” 3.5 inch displays on iDevices. Four inch and larger displays have long been the norm for Android handsets. But Apple stood by their decision to stay small, claiming that smaller touch screens were ideal for one-handed use.  I was a pretty staunch fan of the 3.5 inch screens for that exact reason: one-handed ease of use.

Naturally, I had my doubts about the new 4 inch “tallboy” iDevices. But my 2nd gen iPod touch was aging, so I upgraded to a 5th gen. This graphic, in particular, calmed my pre-order qualms about 4 inch screen ease of use. But a couple months with the 4 inch display has reinforced my high opinion of 3.5 inch screens.

IMG_0543

The above graphic omits the realities of everyday use. “Back,” “Cancel,” and “Done” buttons almost always live at the top of the screen. To scroll to the up of a long page, you tap the top of the screen. Notification center pulls down from the top of the screen. Search boxes are usually at the top of the screen. But the top of the screen is white, not blue. It’s out of reach. Two-handed operation is often inconvenient. Perched atop the device’s lofty summit, the lock button is the hardest to reach.This design is like a restaurant that keeps it’s food supply in an attic. Every time an order comes in, someone has to run upstairs to get supplies. Tiresome.

Making things worse, many apps split touch targets between top and bottom. This means a lot of scooting the device up and down. Note the touch targets below – evenly split between top and bottom.

Split UI Elements

Split UI Elements

Split UI Elements

Granted, extra screen real estate has its benefits. Movies are larger, I scroll less frequently when reading, there is more space above the keyboard. I enjoy these aspects of the 4 inch display. But to work effectively, touch targets must be moved to the bottom of the screen. Like this.


IMG_0576

Thanks, Instagram. If all relevant touch targets were moved to the bottom of the screen, we would enjoy the best of both worlds: complete one-handed control and extra screen real estate.

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