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Cellphones Displays Hardware

Don't Super-Size My Smartphone! 660

New submitter Steve Max writes "Editor Paul Ockenden wonders, 'Has anyone else noticed what's been happening to top-end smartphones recently? They've started to get big – really big. But do people really want that at the expense of carrying around such a huge, heavy lump of tech in their pocket?' The trend for bigger and bigger screens is clear, but is it what consumers want? Is it what you want?"
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Don't Super-Size My Smartphone!

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  • Bigger != Better (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jmorris42 ( 1458 ) * <jmorris@NOSPAM.beau.org> on Friday July 20, 2012 @11:34AM (#40712857)

    I carried a Palm III and then a Handspring Visor for decade. I thought the size was the biggest negative. Now phones are even larger in height and width but a little thinner in most cases. Good grief. Which is why I looked around and got a tiny import Android phone with a puny 2.3" screen, just to carry something small for a change.

    If I wanted to carry a tablet around I'd buy a frickin tablet. And that might be an option to consider if a tablet could replace both my laptop and phone but they currently can't. Even if you buy a tablet with a cell link they never seem to allow them to make a call or send a SMS text, but with a BT earpiece or a good speakerphone implementation a tablet could serve as a phone, it is just an arbitrary 'product differentiation' decision that disallows the option. Meanwhile tablets with keyboards are getting close to the lower bound of laptop territory. So someday I might be able to replace two devices with one... but not today.

    • My phones have actually been going down in size since the early 2000s. My Treo 650 was the same size or maybe a bit smaller than my Treo 180, and my N900 is a bit smaller than my Treo 650. The only time size went up is when I went from a dumb phone (some cheapo Motorola) to a PDA-phone (Treo 180).

      • by Z00L00K ( 682162 )

        As long as the phone fits into the breast pocket of my shirt I'm good. But what I miss on modern phones is the lid that my m505 had to protect the display.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 20, 2012 @11:59AM (#40713379)

          Why are we even complaining about this? You can buy anything from a dumb-phone to a Galaxy Note. Pick what you like and leave people alone.

          • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 20, 2012 @12:02PM (#40713445)

            Apple only sell one size.

            This is their astroturf, like that asinine "Google doesn't get packaging" Slashvertisement earlier.

            • by Compaqt ( 1758360 ) on Friday July 20, 2012 @02:15PM (#40715807) Homepage

              Yeah, that's what my first impression was.

              When screen sizes were often small, the iPhone's large screen was heralded as a great thing.

              But now that somebody else (Samsung) has a best-selling larger screen, iFans say "don't make it bigger".

              • by icebike ( 68054 ) * on Friday July 20, 2012 @02:40PM (#40716177)

                I believe you've hit the nail on the head. This is an iPhone concentric view point.

                There is no shortage of smart phone models to choose from. People can have the size they want from any of 6 more manufacturers, in any platform except IOS. You often see people drawing a line in the sand that suggest 4.3 inch screens are the absolute maximum size they would ever buy, and a year later they post about 4.7. In the mean time they saw 4.6 and fell in love with it.

                There is no reason for a blogger to jump into this fray. The market is deciding quite nicely.

                (Actually it seems there was no fray until Ockenden decided to create one to garner readership, so I stand corrected, there apparently was a rather self serving reason for him to jump in).

                I can't imagine a worse situation than having phone development directed by bloggers.

                When large phones go unsold in favor of small ones the market will know exactly what is too big. The "Samsung Note" sells well. But not well enough for many others to enter that niche. The smallest smartphones [thetechworld.net] are selling as well. But again not as well as the flag ship phones from all the big manufacturers.

                So Ockenden, please just butt out and vote with your wallet like the rest of us.

        • by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <bassbeast1968 AT gmail DOT com> on Friday July 20, 2012 @01:33PM (#40715081) Journal

          What I miss is phones that had actual batteries instead of the whole iSliver crap we have now. i don't know about the rest of you but I'd happily take a phone that's a little fatter that gives me 30% more time. I'd just rather not have the "thin is in" if its gonna make me carry around a damned charger all the time that takes up more space than if they'd just put a decent size battery on the damned phone!

          At least we still have plenty of choice in that matter in the laptop/netbook arena but I wonder how long that will be the case, I just don't see what is the point of putting these ever more powerful CPU/GPU combos into phones if you are gonna cripple them with teeny tiny iSliver batteries just to rip off the iPhone look.

    • by dc29A ( 636871 ) * on Friday July 20, 2012 @11:41AM (#40713005)

      I use monthly about 4-5 minutes air time on my phone. Rest of time is maps, browsing, reading and games. Phablets are prefect for me. I keep telling people that I don't have a phone but a small tablet with a phone app.

    • Re:Bigger != Better (Score:5, Informative)

      by clarkn0va ( 807617 ) <apt@get.gmail@com> on Friday July 20, 2012 @11:47AM (#40713117) Homepage

      Your post is immediately more interesting than the linked article, because you actually claim experience with a larger device, albeit an archaic one that hardly resembles the smart phones the author is bemoaning.

      Ockenden criticizes this 'growing' trend, quotes some twitter users criticizing the trend, and then concludes that the manufacturers of these smart phones don't know anything about their market, because consumers obviously want the old phones; great battery life and diminutive size are obviously all that matter.

      This article would have been far more interesting had he actually claimed to have tried one of these newer bigger phones, or at least talked to somebody who has. I carry a Samsung Galaxy Note for work, and the biggest reservation I had coming from the much smaller HTC Desire, was its huge size and potential to eat battery life--the same concerns mentioned by Ockenden. Having read some reviews and seeing that the reviewers quickly overcame the same concerns after very short time with their Notes, I decided to take the plunge. Honesly, it took no time to get used to the size, and whenever I hold a smaller phone I'm amazed that anybody can find them useful for anything, and the battery life is at least as good as the Desire.

    • by uniquename72 ( 1169497 ) on Friday July 20, 2012 @11:50AM (#40713191)
      I like big phones. I buy big phones.

      The whole debate is dumb: There's no shortage of choice at the small end; there's just more choice at the bigger end.

      How is more choice a bad thing?
      • by bogaboga ( 793279 ) on Friday July 20, 2012 @11:56AM (#40713321)

        I like big phones. I buy big phones.

        You got that from my head! You nailed it! The debate is dumb. Just look at the numbers...Samsung sold millions of the Galaxy Note in a few months.

        And guess what: I am waiting for the next version. I spend little of my time making calls. To me, what matters is that big screen and I have come to love it.

        • by Guppy ( 12314 ) on Friday July 20, 2012 @12:39PM (#40714101)

          I like big phones

          ...and I can not lie,
          You other brothers can't deny,
          When Tim Cook walks in with a white plastic case,
          And puts a round corner in your face --
          You get sprung!

        • Just look at the numbers...Samsung sold millions of the Galaxy Note in a few months.

          To be fair, was that a result of the screen size or the pointy stylus?

          To date that has been the most frustrating part of the whole touch revolution for me: the fact that we had to trade off precision and usability in cold weather for, basically, multi-touch capabilities. I don't have a Note, because they came out after I 'settled' for the S2X (which I do love, btw, just can't use it for scribbles or sketches), but once I'm ready to move on, it'll be a stylus-capable interface or nothing.

          And yes, the bigger

      • by Foresto ( 127767 )

        The whole debate is dumb: There's no shortage of choice at the small end

        What are you smoking?

        How many smartphones with modern features, modern specs, and popular OS can you name that are compact enough to comforably fit in most people's pockets? Be realistic: This currently means iOS or Android, 1GHz+ CPU, and jeans or women's clothing (not cargo pants or overcoats).

        I can think of exactly three: the Xperia Active, the Xperia Mini and the Xperia Mini Pro. All of those are made by a single manufacturer. You

        • by geminidomino ( 614729 ) on Friday July 20, 2012 @02:31PM (#40716053) Journal

          How many smartphones with modern features, modern specs, and popular OS can you name that are compact enough to comforably fit in most people's pockets?

          I think that part may be overstating things a bit. Admittedly, I'm not a small man, but if I can fit a Nook Color with cover in my pocket, then I can't help but think someone complaining about a 4" phone in their pocket may be playing "princess and the pea" just a little.

    • I don't know, I like 3-4" phones. You can do quite a bit more with the screen real estate, ESPECIALLY if it has an on-screen keyboard. However, I'd be even more happy if the phones were twice as thick, and 3-4 times as heavy, if the space/weight were effectively spent on improving battery life and recepetion.

    • I've run through various sizes of phones over the years Kyocera QCP-6035, Treo 650, 700p and a few of the original Palms before them.

      I have an HTC Evo 4G and it's just about the right size.

      Phone is 4.75" x 2.5"
      Screen is 3.75" x 2.25"

      So lets say 5" by 2.5" is a reasonable size for the phone itself. Big enough to see maps and such, small enough to still fit in my pockets or more importantly, on my hip.
  • by pisces22 ( 819606 ) on Friday July 20, 2012 @11:36AM (#40712901)
    ...they wouldn't buy them.
    • by ethanms ( 319039 ) on Friday July 20, 2012 @11:42AM (#40713015)

      If I buy cable TV and it includes ESPN, does that mean I want ESPN? No.

      Consumers want certain features. If those features are only available on a phone with an extra-large screen, they are forced to buy it, or otherwise skip the feature they want.

      I own a iPhone, not because I'm in love with Apple or it's feature sets, but because I like the size. I do not want a larger phone.

      • >>>If I buy cable TV and it includes ESPN, does that mean I want ESPN? No.

        And ESPN charges 3-4 dollars per home each month. What a rip. I thought this part of the article was insightful: "I recently witnessed HTC's official Twitter account proudly retweeting a couple of folk who claimed theyâ(TM)d managed to get a full day's use out of their HTC One X phones, as if this were some kind of epic win. Wow! A whole day without a trip to the charger! I'm sorry, but in my book a full day is the

      • by msobkow ( 48369 ) on Friday July 20, 2012 @01:05PM (#40714585) Homepage Journal

        That's an interesting theory you have there, but I'd like to know what features it is that consumers want that are only available with a large screen. I did a bit of shopping recently, and none of the sales reps or literature mentioned anything that the large-screen phones could do that the small-screen ones couldn't, at least with Android-based models from the same manufacturer.

        I know many people who bought large-screen phones because they watch video and view pictures on their phone far, far more than they use it for calls. However, they've pretty much reached the limit of pocket size. Once the phone won't fit in someone's shirt pocket, they're not interested in it as a phone and seem more likely to opt for a full-scale tablet instead.

        I know very few people who make heavy use of smart phones as phones. The heavy phone users still seem to prefer older, smaller devices whose screens are completely useless for displaying photos or browsing the 'net, much less watching a video.

        I suspect most people who buy smart phones are like my friends: they need/want a portable internet device more than they want to make phone calls. Technically they have to be able to make phone calls, but it's the "extras" that guide their buying choices because every cell phone can make a call, right down to the $30 clamshell phones.

    • This is true bigger is better. For a phone about 5" is the max. Well with fondle slabs, the sky is the limit. My 4.3" Android is no bigger than the smaller iPhone screens and I have small hands. Not too large. Anything beyond a 5" would be a tablet.

    • by Kenja ( 541830 )
      Consumers want 20 inch screens that fit in their pocket. They's stupid.
  • by smellsofbikes ( 890263 ) on Friday July 20, 2012 @11:37AM (#40712909) Journal

    My wife got an HP Veer specifically because it's smaller than a credit card. Most of her clothing doesn't have pockets big enough to fit an iPhone, so she got a dead-end phone with an antiquated OS because she's not going to carry a giant phone around. Her friends all think it's fantastic.

    • Most of her clothing doesn't have pockets big enough to fit an iPhone, so she got a dead-end phone with an antiquated OS because she's not going to carry a giant phone around. Her friends all think it's fantastic.

      That's because her friends don't have to actually use it. The size might actually be fantastic but that doesn't mean the phone is. I used to have a Nokia E70 "smartphone" with a fold out keyboard. It looked cool and everyone would say so but the screen was too small for practical use and the software interface sucked hard. It was easier to carry but it was a crappy phone. As you say, her phone is antiquated and there is a price to pay for that. My wire carries her phone in a belt holder for the same r

      • by shimage ( 954282 )
        It's not really as simple as "appearance vs function". Size is part of the function of any portable device. If the phone is big enough that you have to make concessions to accomodate it, then that's a problem. There is always give and take between portability and usability. As photographers like to say, the best camera for the shot is the one you have with you. And my dislike of holsters is not simply due to my (non-existant) fashion sense.
    • Oh yeah, I loved that phone.
    • by Kozar_The_Malignant ( 738483 ) on Friday July 20, 2012 @12:37PM (#40714061)
      I keep an old unlocked Motorola Razr V3 for just that reason. If I am going out in the evening, I slip my SIM into it instead of carrying my smartphone. All I need is to be able to send a quick text, make a restaurant reservation, or call a taxi. If I'm in Europe, I'll stick a local chip in it from TIM or whatever for the same use. It fits nicely into the ticket pocket of my jacket without looking like I'm packing a pistol. I suppose if I felt compelled to log everything to Facebook and Foursquare, I might feel differently, but I don't.
  • The convergence of tablet and smartphone: Just put a mic and a speaker in the right places on a tablet with a cell modem.

  • The 5" Dell Streak was probably the best hardware piece I wished to own. Sadly, the software part was disastrous. I still think a 5" screen smartphone-tablet bridge device would be perfect in terms of covering both smartphone and tablet functions. Pair a Bluetooth headset with the device and all of a sudden size is no longer that important.
    What I mean is I would pick a 5" screen device any day instead of carrying both a smartphone AND a tablet.
    So yeah, supersized smartphones are bad if they are only conside

  • by Antipater ( 2053064 ) on Friday July 20, 2012 @11:39AM (#40712947)
    It's not about consumer habits. It's just that all the people who designed "bigger and better" SUVs for the auto industry got fired during the recession, so now they've started new careers making gadgets.
  • I have an iPhone 4. The screen is almost perfect on size: I can reach the whole screen with my thumb, most of it comfortably, while holding it in my palm. But it's a little too thin: it tends to get gripped too loosely because there's no depth to fill the hollow behind it. But the trend is larger screens and thinner devices. Hopefully not everyone will jump on that trend.
    • I find the iPad is also too thin. There's definitely a lower limit where decreased thickness no longer makes sense. The tapered edges (to give the illusion of even lower thickness) sure don't help.

    • Agreed, if they doubled the thickness with batteries that would be amazing.
  • by jeffmeden ( 135043 ) on Friday July 20, 2012 @11:41AM (#40713001) Homepage Journal

    I personally like the larger screen devices that are going on the market. Being a male of above average height and hand size, these kinds of phones are just as easy for me to carry, and offer a better visual experience (after all why have such a powerful smartphone if you are limited to 3.5" of screen space). Surely the larger phones aren't for everyone, and to that end there are still smaller screened phones you can buy, no one is making you buy a large screen phone. Choice is good!

  • I got the LG Optimus Slider (3.2" screen) because it has the largest physical (sliderout) keyboard possible while still fitting comfortably in my pocket along with my keys and other stuff I carry all the time. I wouldn't mind a slightly taller phone (I have deep pockets), but I wouldn't want it to be any wider and certainly no thicker. My primary reason for a smartphone was email and some very light web browsing/GPS. Angry Birds works ok on it, but I'd be just as happy playing Tetris on my old Tracfone to p

  • This seems like it'd be better suited as a poll with options. That being said:

    I like the size of the iPhone because it's just the right size. Regardless of whether Jobs would bless my holding-technique, it fits right in there, and my average-sized mitts can reach the whole screen without needing two hands. On the rare occasion I find my phone accidentally being held Landscape, I'm often initially awkward in putting two hands on the device. Just doesn't feel right.

    I had a brief fling with a Droid X last year

  • by rodrigoandrade ( 713371 ) on Friday July 20, 2012 @11:44AM (#40713057)

    Just look at the sales numbers for things like Galaxy Note, Galaxy S3, and HTC One X.

    Huge screens = huge sales.

    Personally, I'm salivating over the Gaaxy Note 2, which should have an even bigger screen than the original.

  • by toygeek ( 473120 ) on Friday July 20, 2012 @11:44AM (#40713063) Homepage Journal

    They are small computers with phones built in. Anymore, people use Bluetooth headsets to talk, so hold a big thing up isn't a big deal. And when they text, which people do far more than talk anymore, on average, people want big screens and keyboards. Same goes for web browsing, pictures, etc. So, the trend is to provide a smaller portable computer and communication (and tracking, depending on who you listen to) device.

    The focus has shifted.

  • I wouldn't want anything bigger than my Droid X. It's big enough to use the screen for maps and browsing but small enough to hold for phone purposes.

    If I had anything significantly bigger, I'd likely have to rely on a Bluetooth accessories all the time.

  • I don't want a bigger screen, I want a good phone with a solid hardware keyboard. As of right now there is virtually no alternatives to BlackBerry Bold 9900 or maybe Droid Pro (slide out keyboards don't count, they're barely better than on-screen ones and make the device size balloon even worse than large screens)... I'm sure majority of consumers want to watch videos and play videogames on their mobile devices - I want to keep using mine for communicating and a hardware keyboard just cannot be beat.

  • I bought a Galaxy Note, and I love it. I'm not going to put anything else in the same pocket with it anyway, so why not fully utilize that space? The screen size makes it so much more generally useful than phones I've had in the past.
  • I'm fine with a slightly larger phone as long as it's comfortable in my jeans pocket. The iphone screen is too small IMHO and I don't like typing on it. I like a big more screen real easte.

    Last night was the first time I was able to demo a Galaxy 3. I held it next to my Galaxy S2 (Sprint epic touch version) The G3 is a hair longer because it has rounded edges. The screen is .5 inches longer and it's mostly accomplished by having less bezel area. I'm fine with that kind of change.

    The Samsung Note is ano

  • Yes. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MetalliQaZ ( 539913 ) on Friday July 20, 2012 @11:49AM (#40713181)

    I want the biggest screen that fits comfortable in my pocket. Thin and light would be good, too.

  • by jtseng ( 4054 )

    Sure, this guy may not want to supersize his smartphone, but he doesn't speak for me or other people who may want the functionality of a smartphone with the usability of a tablet. Either the author doesn't realize different devices fit different needs, or the author wasn't able to think of a more interesting or pressing issue to write about.

  • by tp1024 ( 2409684 ) on Friday July 20, 2012 @11:51AM (#40713205)

    It's that easy. Why do people keep making prescriptions that would affect absolutely everyone, just because they personally don't like something?

    If you want a small phone, buy one, period.

    Anything else is just saying that your taste and your desires are more important than anybody else's. That's just not true and sure sign of pure arrogance.

  • by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Friday July 20, 2012 @11:53AM (#40713249)

    I had an Android phone, and now I have an iPhone - but if the rumored 7.85" iPad comes out, I'm seriously thinking about carrying that and a small dumb phone instead.

    I've seen the big phones, and their screens seem like the worst of both worlds... still too small to really be useful, but big enough where the size starts to be something you have to think about. Given that I hardly ever make phone calls, I think what I'd really like is a smallish tablet that happens to have phone hardware built-in - but it would have to have the ability to vibrate/ring/alarm to really replace a phone for me. Such a device would fit in the cargo pants I usually wear or in the coat pocket I've got handy 9 months out of the year.

  • by RollingThunder ( 88952 ) on Friday July 20, 2012 @11:53AM (#40713271)

    As somebody that sold the Motorola "book" cell phones back in the early 90's, I find it funny calling these tiny things "huge and heavy".

  • In the other side of the spectrum, tablets are getting smaller. So next article would be "Don't undersize my tablet"?
  • I have an IPhone 4S, and it's about the right size for me. Most days, I wear jeans to work, and anything bigger than the IPhone would be uncomfortable to carry around in my front pocket (not to mention cumbersome to take out when I need to answer it). I can see the benefits to having a larger screen with a higher resolution, but the bottom line is you have to drag it around with you.

    There's always the option of using a belt clip, which would make it easier to carry around a phone with a larger form factor,

  • When technology writers happen upon a slow news day, it seems the first thing that comes to mind is to cry about something meaningless. Often times, it's a trend driven by consumer demand that they don't particularly like, that they're not at all obligated to take part in. Seriously, what's next, somebody crying that that the packaging for some tablet device isn't aesthetically pleasing enough?
  • by DragonWriter ( 970822 ) on Friday July 20, 2012 @12:08PM (#40713541)

    But do people really want that at the expense of carrying around such a huge, heavy lump of tech in their pocket?

    IME, more often than not, with typical attire, men with large smartphones carry them on belt clips, and women carry them in purses (many of which have dedicated compartments for them.) That's actually not that uncommon even with smaller phones.

  • by YumYumClownMonkey ( 903920 ) on Friday July 20, 2012 @12:10PM (#40713571)
    Wherefore art thou, Zoolander phone?
  • by FridayBob ( 619244 ) on Friday July 20, 2012 @12:14PM (#40713637) Homepage

    The phones are getting bigger, because customers seem to be attracted to bigger screens. But once the screens become too big, the devices also get too big, at which point people start to want smaller phones again. After all, the main reason to carry it with you is because it's a portable communications device; all that computing power is great, but only if the devices remain small.

    Therefore, the only solution is to not have such big screens on the phones and instead use external display devices. The possibility of using e.g mini HDMI connectors to couple them to larger monitors is one solution, but I think a much better one would be to connect them to head-mounted displays (HMDs). Then it would once again not be a problem for the phones themselves to have smaller displays, allowing them to be used primarily as input devices.

  • by Cornwallis ( 1188489 ) on Friday July 20, 2012 @12:27PM (#40713863)

    I'd be satisfied with a phone that doesn't drop calls.

  • by hawguy ( 1600213 ) on Friday July 20, 2012 @12:30PM (#40713919)

    The screen on my Galaxy Nexus is the perfect size for me. Still fits in my pocket, and my thumb can reach the entire screen while the phone is held comfortably in my hand. It's a bit of a stretch to reach the pull-down notification bar, but it's still within reach. I think any larger screen would be too big to use one handed.

    My girlfriend, on the other hand, can't use my Nexus one handed, her thumb is not long enough to reach the top of the screen, and it's even a bit of a stretch to reach over to the left-side of the screen. So she's much happier with the 3.1" screen on her phone.

    My Nexus is still large enough for us to both comfortably watch a movie on an airplane. A bigger screen might be nice for that, but not if I need to carry it in my pocket or use it one handed while standing in the bus.

  • by Sponge Bath ( 413667 ) on Friday July 20, 2012 @12:47PM (#40714263)

    Here [eetimes.com] is an EE Times article on the same subject. The article and commenters agree people using mass transit (mostly outside the US) want to minimize carried weight and prefer a single device with a large screen instead of two devices (pad and phone). If you are already carrying a day pack, the size is less of a problem than weight from two batteries.

  • by Sloppy ( 14984 ) on Friday July 20, 2012 @12:56PM (#40714433) Homepage Journal

    Has anyone else noticed what’s been happening to top-end smartphones recently?

    (emphasis mine) If I may paraphrase the question: "Has anyone noticed that if you select among the most expensive phones which have the most expensive components, probably because they have the largest screens, that this tiny subset of the market happens to have the largest screens?"

    is it what consumers want?

    Yes and no. Some people do, some people don't.

  • by phriedom ( 561200 ) on Friday July 20, 2012 @01:32PM (#40715059)
    Everyone should think the way I do, and if you don't you're overly influenced by marketing trends. If you would just listen to me, then all the manufacturers would give me exactly what I want. We don't need choice as long as everyone realizes I'm right.
  • by nospam007 ( 722110 ) * on Friday July 20, 2012 @04:45PM (#40717861)

    Come on, people over 500 messages and no:

    'Is that a Galaxy in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?'

    I'm kinda disappointed.

The IQ of the group is the lowest IQ of a member of the group divided by the number of people in the group.