One Reason Apple May Make A Bigger iPhone: Battery Size

A bigger box means more room for more power.

Rumors about Apple's next iPhone continue to roll in, but one of the more persistent ones right now is that among the devices released for 2012 will be a bigger format iPhone sporting a larger screen. Given that there's an industry trend for bigger screens right now, this idea makes good sense. But Apple may choose to follow this route for totally different reason.

It's very simple: A bigger chassis for an iPhone with a larger screen than the iPhone 5's 4-inch display makes room for a larger capacity battery, and a bigger battery will deliver more talk time, more time to watch videos, more time to surf the web—and less time worrying about having to charge your device.

Apple has already pushed the iPhone's battery tech up a notch by slightly incrementing the voltage of the battery used in its iPhone 5. Almost as soon as the phone went on sale, iFixit tore one apart to find that compared to the iPhone 4S the iPhone 5's battery is rated as 3.8 volts and 1440 mAh versus 3.7 volts and 1432 mAh. The difference was enough to squeeze out another 225 hours of standby time, even though the battery is a similar physical size in each device. It's also worth noting that despite the fact each generation of iPhone has had more features and more powerful chips inside, each of which changes could draw more current from the battery, the iPhone's talk time and standby time have remained more or less the same or even improved slightly. Apple's done this by tweaking battery parameters and exercising amazing control over how the iPhone's circuitry and software work. This is the reason "full" multitasking isn't supported.

But peaking inside the iPhone 5 reveals a problem for Apple: It's absolutely crammed to the last few cubic millimeters with chips, antennas, circuit boards, sensors, and battery. We can assume that the iPhone 6 will have yet more powerful chips and features than the iPhone 5, and that Apple will exercise some of the same iron hard control over power consumption, but there's a limit to this sort of approach. Current hot rumors suggest the next iPhone will incorporate a fingerprint sensor and even NFC technology, at last, and both of these systems may really suck juice out of a battery. This is particularly true for NFC, and it may be one of the reasons Apple has held back from implementing an NFC payment system in the iPhone.

At some point Apple is going to either radically improve the battery technology it's using inside the iPhone, or it's simply going to have to use a bigger battery pack. But while there are continuing advances in battery technology, it really isn't developing fast enough to influence the next crop of smartphones.

Apple could achieve bigger battery capacity by shrinking the iPhone's circuitry, but you have to admit that the tiny sliver of motherboard inside an iPhone is already so dense and well designed that it's almost unrecognizable as a stereotype circuit board. A bigger battery could be achieved by using thinner screen tech or a modified case design, but Apple has already used the former trick to thin down the iPhone 5 from the iPhone 4S's depth and is unlikely to use the latter trick in case it makes for a thicker phone overall.

Which leaves us with one clear option: Make the entire iPhone bigger. It's true that a larger screen and its backlighting system may gulp down a little more power, but the bigger volume of the battery you could hide behind the screen's bigger area will more than compensate for this. And as a great demonstration of this, Apple rivals like HTC are already achieving fabulous battery life from their 5-inch-plus devices: HTC's new One phone, for example, can manage something like 17 hours of talk time from its 2,300 mAh battery.

Of course a bigger iPhone lets Apple tout a bigger screen, better viewability for movies and so on, and you can bet that if they do go down this route the chassis will be so tiny that it'll barely be bigger than the screen in order to keep the iPhone "portable." But the real reasons for the size will be more about chemistry.


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  • Jayme Capurso

    Given apple is one of the few companies not to allow a removable battery they dam well better up its size. I really wonder how many people would care about 2 or 3 mills of depth added if it gave them 50% more time using it and just about guaranteed not needing to recharge during the day. It baffles me apple think how thin it looks is more important than it not going flat before days end. All the things they advertise it can do, If you did them all, it would be flat by lunch time. I wonder if the new 64gb 5s can even record video long enough to fill up that much space before it goes flat!

    Also they could have EASILY hinged the 5 at the top with a button release at the bottom to make the screen open without tools so users could put a 2nd battery in with no compromises to its aesthetics. But Apple dont want us to be doing that for some selfish reason.

  • strfx4

    More obvious reason:  people like bigger screens, and Apple finally gives in and slavishly follows Samsung's lead.

  • george

    The only way Samsung could "beat" Apple was to boost its specs, among it the screen size too. Dull consumers, blindly staring at the only things they think they grasp - the numbers - which communicate "bigger and therefore better" buy the Samsung bluff. Yeah, you certainly convinced me that Apple follows Samsung's lead. Oh what a great lead! *facepalm*

  • Jim

    but iphones do not need a similar spec. android phones do because android is more demanding so need faster cpu and so bigger battery.

  • Irene K

    I hope Apple will not make a cheap crappy plastic phone like Samsung does.  A bigger screen is a welcome change.