Guest Post by Rohan Naravane.
Back in 2010, I had the misfortune of using the Dell Streak, a smartphone with huge screen size of 5 inches. Bear in mind that times were different back then — most phone screens measured anywhere between 3 to 4 inches. The first Galaxy Note that catapulted the big screen trend, was over a year away from launch. If that isn’t enough, just read the language Joshua Topolsky used back then to describe the HTC HD2, a phone with a 4.3 inch display in his review on Engadget:
The HD2 is a magnificent monster. It is a hulking, intimidating, massive slab of a gadget. If you think the device looks big in photos, it’s nothing compared to how it seems up close. Yes, the HD2 is large — some might say too large — almost less a phone and more a tablet.
And here I was, holding this beast measuring roughly the same footprint as a OnePlus 2 of today, albeit with really thick bezels all around, and a relatively small 5-inch display wrapped within. It was big, I had to stretch my hands wide to hold it, it didn’t fit my pant pockets well, I looked like a complete dork as I talked on it — it was a big mess. Little did I know it back then that I’ll have to succumb to phones like these years down the line.
If I want to buy a fairly high-end Android phone today; a phone with a screen size of 5 inches or less, that has at least 3GB RAM, a good camera, 32GB of internal storage and a fingerprint scanner (because you know, they’re super convenient), I have nothing. You can take a look at the plight of small screen phones in a report we collated a while back here.
In these past five years, screen sizes have been conveniently increasing from 3.5 inches to 5.5 inches as the most acceptable size in a smartphone today. If that wasn’t enough, there have been many attempts to even move past the 5.5 inch mark (notably the 6-inch Nexus 6 or the 6.4-inch Xperia Z Ultra, and more recently the 6.8-inch Lenovo Phab Plus). But I wonder how many of these phone makers are keeping a tab on the length of the human hand, that still averages at 189mm. Our hands may have gotten used to holding bigger phones over the years, but they’re not going to magically grow longer to cater to their desperate moves.
I don’t deny that there are many advantages to a big screen. There’s barely any reason to own a small tablet anymore, as phone screens are big enough to read or watch content without squinting. An increase in footprint is also the only way phones are able to get thinner than their predecessor every year. The increased footprint also helps phone makers put bigger capacity batteries without making the phone thicker. Considering there haven’t been major breakthroughs in battery technology for decades, this is a good thing. And you’re gonna need those big batteries to drive features like multi-core processors, gigabytes of RAM you typically find on computers, displays packed with many million pixels, camera sensors that are basically as good or better than point-and-shoot cameras, etc.
I’ll even go as far as to say that the phone industry would have come to a standstill had the smartphone not gotten bigger.
In these past years, manufacturers have also cleverly made big phones easier to hold by making them taller instead of wider. The screen has also encroached on every millimeter of the side bezels, that some phones like the Galaxy A8 almost don’t have any. But taking it any further is futile because smartphones are literally getting out of hand. Will it finally dawn upon phone makers that they can’t go any further than 5.7 inches as practically the largest screen size they should offer?
Sure, you could say that people like me have been complaining for years, but have adapted to bigger sizes just fine. Well, I for one haven’t done so willingly, but what choice do I have? Now, it’s gotten to a point where we need to make some noise to prevent this madness to continue any further. It seems as though people have been voting with their wallets against phones bigger than 5.7 inches too. In a Twitter exchange with the editor-in-chief of this site, we couldn’t think of a single 6-inch+ phone that was a commercial success. We sincerely hope phone makers take notice of this and think beyond just bigger to convince their customers to buy their new product.