2005: 2.4”! Blackberry is the best!
2007: 3.5”! Who need that much screen estate? (iPhone)
2010: 3.7”- 4" is the perfect size. (Nexus One)
2011: Who is going to buy a Note? 5.3” is ridiculous. (Samsung Galaxy Note)
2012: I think 4”- 5” is a good size. Phablets will not succeed, I’m sure. (Samsung Galaxy S III, iPhone 5)
2014: There is no good under 4.5”. Phablets rule the world. (iPhone 6/Plus, Nexus 6)
2015: 5.5”? I believe that’s a good size.
Phones have changed over the years. They have become faster, more beautiful and have turned into status symbols. The phone screen has seen an insane growth too. From those tiny 1” screens on Nokia devices to the huge 5.9” screen on the Nexus 6P, screen sizes have almost quadrupled in the last 10 years.
New iPhone rumours are suggesting that a 4” iPhone 6C (or 7C) is coming next January, leading me to ask the question, 'is there any market left for these small screen smartphones?'
If you look at the success of phones like the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 and iPhone 6/S Plus, or even the Nexus 5, iPhone 6/6S and Samsung Galaxy S6, you can conclude that small phones are dead. Most people find 4” too small, and sure, it is true even with me. I consider 4.7” - 5” the sweet spot considering my hands are large enough to handle that size with one hand.
But there is far more to the story than average consumer demand. Why are large screens required?
There are two reasons that compliment each other here: battery life and media consumption. Most of today's smartphones are always connected to the internet and are used to watch videos, read articles online and play games. A larger screen improves on all these activities. And with larger screen sizes, more space can be provided to larger batteries that will be able to feed energy to the huge screen as well and the powerful processor for a longer duration. Today’s phablets last a full day even on very heavy usage. This proves to be a great recipe for huge phones.
Both the Note 5 and the iPhone 6 Plus have huge batteries. (Source: iFixit)
So, are small phones dead? Yes, almost. Why almost? Because there are so many people on earth who still consider 4.5” too large for their hands. Just because manufacturers are building large phones doesn’t mean that small phones are dead. This fact is proved by the popularity of the Xperia Z3/Z4 compact and the iPhone 5S. Both are still rated to be some of the best phones small hands can use, and it’s true that people are still buying these ageing phones.
Finally, what’s next? If Apple does replant the 4” iPhone phenomenon, we might see a big boom in small phone screen sizes. I do not hear any other phone manufacturers venturing into this market, but that might change.
In part, I do support this growth in screen size. I am not a phablet user, but I do consider them great devices. For me, it is all about the fact that I can still use my 4.7” phone with a single hand. But I cannot represent everyone and I do believe phone manufacturers should have the full range of phone screen sizes. It should be the consumer’s choice.
Which phone size do you prefer?
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Statistics source: A comprehensive look at smartphone screen size statistics and trends - Alex Barredo on Medium