Dear phone manufacturers,
We all know that the world of technology is growing with each passing day and as I write this, I know there is someone somewhere working on a new smartphone design. But before you actually turn that scribbled thought into reality, let me tell you about something that happened recently.
My Editor, Nimish Dubey, recently showed me Asus’ recently launched Zenfone 3 Ultra smartphone. My first reaction? I thought the smartphone was beautiful. And then I picked it up and well, there was a certain inconvenience that hovered around it.
Well, the thing about the Asus Zenfone 3 Ultra which one certainly can not ignore is the HUMONGOUS size of the device. And by humongous, I mean the device sports a whopping 6.8-inch display, and makes no attempts to disguise the fact. I have got fairly large hands for a girl (or so I have been told) but holding that phone in my hands was quite a task for me. With a device that huge, I was kind of stuck between either holding the phone or well, just about anything else. And please note: this was just about holding the phone.
Using it was another struggle altogether. I mean, it is just not possible to use that phone with one hand, which I think contradicts the entire point of ‘mobile phones’ because you certainly cannot be mobile while carrying a device that large – you bloody well have to stop whatever else you are doing. No matter how big your hands are, you really can not type on a screen that big with one hand.
No, this is not aimed at Asus alone. Of late, companies like Xiaomi, Lenovo and Samsung have also ventured into similar projects by introducing the Mi Max, the Lenovo Phab 2 Plus and the Samsung J Max, respectively. They might have been handsome, but they certainly were not handy.
Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.
Those were the words of Steve Jobs, one of the greatest minds in the world of technology who changed the way we look at the tech world. And he certainly knew a thing or two about design. Time and again he stressed on the fact that the devices one creates should be ‘friendly and easy to use.’ But looking at these phones designed with the ‘big is beautiful’ principle seemingly stuck in the minds of the designers, I suspect that idea has just gone out of the window.
My problem with the ‘big is beautiful’ concept is that there is no tangible and long-term proof that it actually even works. Yes, there have been devices with large displays that have sold, but it is not like – the bigger the device, the better it will sell. A glimpse at tech history will show that there have been compact devices which have done sensationally well in the market – the iPhone is a prime example. The iPhone 5S, iPhone SE were fairly popular, and the iPhone SE is one great example of how compact phones can be great at performance. Even Samsung, who is credited with triggering the “big phone revolution” with the Galaxy Note, has been striving to make its S series flagships (and even the Note, ironically) more compact.
I totally get it if you want to provide your users with an amazing video experience or never ending sort of battery life, but I do not think that you really need a 6.5-6.8 inch display to really enjoy a video – I love watching videos on my iPhone 5S, and I can do so while standing in the Metro and hanging on with one hand! And yes, I can easily put it in my pockets – I don’t need a handbag for it! In my opinion, the only good thing about these large smartphones is the massive battery under the hood. And if that is the only way in which a larger battery can be accommodated in a phone, well, then I think you should rather be looking out ways in which you can integrate a more powerful battery in a compact device.
It is not like people never ventured into massive devices – there were tablets and very successful ones and there are still some decent ones out there in the market. But now that the tablet market has been on steady decline, I sometimes feel that you are trying to fool the consumer by giving them a phone that is as big as a tablet. And calling it a phone.
Create a tablet and make it huge by all means and I won’t have an issue with it, but don’t give us these tablets masquerading as handsets please. For there is a relatively large consumer base which will not be able to even try what you have created, simply because it physically cannot. Yes, I know about “niche segments” but then I have not heard one of you ever say that this massive phone is NOT meant for people with small hands.
Designers are adding one inch over another in our phones but the fact that they keep forgetting is that a device, no matter how stylish or beautiful it looks has to be useable (check that Jobs quote again, please).
So, the next time you sit and work on a design for a smartphone, do me a favor. Go for a great video experience by all means. Pump up the battery if you wish. But please do not forget the girl or the guy with relatively smaller hands, who would love to pick your phone up and use it. Easily.
Design, after all, is how it works, isn’t it? And for me, these big phones simply do not.
(The Girl With the Large Hands)