Don't Buy the iPhone 8 if it Comes in Puny 4.7 Inches

First came word that the iPhone 8 might come in three sizes, and now it looks like that report may be completely wrong. According to Apple Insider's inside source, Apple will stick with just two sizes for its next flagship devices.

But the 4.7-inch size wouldn't really make sense if the iPhone's design is evolving as it's expected to.

Credit: Jerermy Lips/Tom's Guide

(Image credit: Jerermy Lips/Tom's Guide)

The initial Nikkei report said that Apple was working on a 4.7-inch, 5-inch and 5.5-inch iPhone 8, with the 5-incher being the new, tweener model in the mix. All three models were also said to sport glass backs, which lines up with previous reports of a radical redesign.

But Apple Insider knocked that speculation down, asserting via its source that Apple will continue to focus on its 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch models — the same size as the current iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus.

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Avi Greengart, an analyst for Current Analysis, doesn't give much credence to the supply chain rumors thus far, but he does find it "extraordinarily unlikely that Apple would launch both a 4.7-inch and a 5-inch phone. It'll be one or the other, along with a model to update the 5.5-inch iPhone Plus."

If Apple is indeed moving toward a near bezel-free front for the iPhone 8, which almost certainly feature an AMOLED display, opting for a 4.7-inch screen size would be a wasted opportunity.

Why not try to squeeze a bigger screen into the same size chassis? Dell did it for the XPS 13 laptop, cramming a 13-inch panel into a 11-inch chassis. And the new Xiaomi Mi Mix phone sports an edge-to-edge display that's 6.4 inches in size that you can use (fairly) comfortably with one hand.

"If Apple can shrink or eliminate the side bezels, 5 inches would be pretty great," Greengart added.

The 5.5-inch screen size for the iPhone 8 still seems just right, as there's way too much bezel around the iPhone 7 Plus. In fact, I found that when sitting down with the Plus in my front pocket, it digs into my thigh. That likely won't happen if the front of the iPhone 8 has an edge-to-edge display.

According to IDC, shipments of phones sizes 5.5 inches and up accounted for 27.1 percent of all handsets sold as of Q2 2016. That was up from 18 percent the year before.

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Still, even as Apple struggles to keep up with demand for the larger 5.5-inch iPhone 7 Plus, it may keep the relatively small 4.7-inch size around instead of opting for a roomier 5-inch panel.

"Obviously, the old adage bigger is better isn't necessarily so," said Ramon Llamas, research manager at IDC. "I'm among those people who enjoy watching Netflix on bigger screens, but not everyone has a demand for a big device."

Llamas also doesn't necessarily buy that Apple is opting for an edge-to-edge design with the iPhone 8. "Samsung has gone Edge because they can do all sorts of applications. Could [Apple] do it? Yeah. Do consumers need it? That's an open question."

But assuming Apple will find a way to make the front of the iPhone 8 all screen, I wouldn't buy a 4.7-inch model. Bigger phones are the future, and Apple should go 5 inches and up from here on in.

Mark Spoonauer

Mark Spoonauer is the global editor in chief of Tom's Guide and has covered technology for over 20 years. In addition to overseeing the direction of Tom's Guide, Mark specializes in covering all things mobile, having reviewed dozens of smartphones and other gadgets. He has spoken at key industry events and appears regularly on TV to discuss the latest trends, including Cheddar, Fox Business and other outlets. Mark was previously editor in chief of Laptop Mag, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc. Follow him on Twitter at @mspoonauer.