Thumbs and pinkies

The “Thumb” ad from Apple has me thinking again about the size of the iPhone 5. I don’t notice the size difference between it and my old iPhone 4 when it’s in the pocket of my (non-internet) pants, but I definitely notice it when it’s in my hand.

Of course I like the added screen space and the ability to see more of every app. But the iPhone 4 was certainly easier to use one-handed. Although Apple’s ad says the new size is just perfect, I find the extra thumb stretch necessary to reach buttons in the upper right corner a bit too much. I have to slow down and reposition the phone slightly to make sure I tap the button I want.

Much of this has to do with how I hold the phone. Here’s my usual position:

Hold the phone

I use my pinkie as a prop to keep the phone from sliding out of my hand. I could, of course, grip the phone a little tighter, but this is much more comfortable. Also, I have a general distrust of friction.

Anyway, the pinkie lifts the phone up and makes that upper right corner just a little too far away. When I need to tap up there I pull the pinkie back and squeeze the phone tighter. This lowers the phone a fraction of an inch and allows my thumb to hit the upper right corner easily. It’s not a difficult maneuver, but it’s one that wasn’t necessary with earlier iPhones.

The “pinky under” grip isn’t how Apple shows the phone being held, but the guy in the ads clearly isn’t holding the phone at all.

Hold the phone, Apple style

We all know that the phone is unnaturally still in the ads because there’s some prop holding it in place, but I don’t recall the earlier ads making that fact as obvious as this one does. Without the need to actually keep the phone from falling to the ground, the model is free to position his hand however he needs to.

None of the foregoing is meant to imply that I’m unhappy with the 5. It’s clearly the best phone I’ve ever owned, and on the whole I prefer the new size. But it certainly isn’t perfect, as Jim Dalrymple’s gushing review would lead you to believe. The perfect size changes from person to person and task to task, and until we have changeable screen sizes, whatever dimensions a manufacturer chooses will be a compromise that tries to strike a decent balance between all of these desirable sizes as well as various manufacturing, financial, and logistical constraints.

I’m happy with my new phone, but I’m sure I’d be just as happy if it were a little bigger or smaller in either direction.