Devs ponder iPhone 5 web design impact

Apple has released new models of the iPhone and iPod touch. Both now boast a four-inch Retina display, with a 1136-by-640-pixel resolution at 326 ppi. This replaces the display in previous models, which was 960-by-640 pixels.

"There's a lot more space, especially in landscape orientation with the new full-screen mode," said JavaScript guru Thomas Fuchs on the new devices, "and limits for hardware-acceleration are higher on iOS 6 in general. You should see fewer memory issues and fewer graphical glitches." The first of those points in particular highlights a potential problem for web designers and developers, given that many have relied on set pixel values regarding media queries.

"Until now, everyone has taken the screen sizes of the iPhone/iPod touch for granted with their responsive designs and used them as the 'industry standard' or 'standard screen dimensions' for their media queries," explained web developer and designer Sebastian Green. "They have ignored other devices and targeted mainly Apple products when setting breakpoints, targeting screen dimensions of the iPhone, which has not changed since the first generation." But he warned that if a site has been built to target a specific dimension – the iPhone in landscape – this dimension has now increased, meaning the iPhone 5 and new iPod touch will be served styles for a bigger screen-size media query.

"This is going to lead to lots of sites looking odd in landscape on the iPhone 5 and will create work for developers/designers to modify their media queries," continued Green. "It just goes to show, even the big companies will change things we all rely on. Responsive designs should not be dependent on certain screen dimensions. It is just more proof that designs need to be fluid in between their media query breakpoints so that they will work on any size of screen."

Technology strategist James Gardner said he was "very much of the opinion that the iPhone 5 changes nothing" regarding web design, the caveat being that it changes nothing for designers and developers who weren't living in an iOS bubble: "The interest in the iPhone launch, especially in the mainstream media, is indicative of the importance of mobile devices – and therefore their impact on the day-to-day lives of consumers. In this environment, the requirement for organisations to have a mobile-ready or mobile-optimised presence is increasingly important. This isn't about being innovative necessarily, but simply to ensure consumers have the right experience of your brand – don't sell them short. The information that consumers require on a mobile device, and therefore the relevant user journey, will be different from other channels and requires thought. For me, these are the basics that need to be addressed. The actual device – iPhone 5 or Galaxy S3 – is a distraction."

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