Size really does matter
Smartphone screens are getting larger. Samsung is pushing the boundaries with its Galaxy S3 and Galaxy Note 2 products. But how big is too big? By Craig Wilson.
If you’re in the market for a smartphone, one of the key considerations, once you’ve settled on the platform, is screen size. With a multitude of sizes, ratios and resolutions on the market, one thing is clear: the average screen is increasing and it’s showing no signs of stopping yet.
Korea’s Samsung Electronics, which makes a wide range of handsets for different markets and budgets, can afford to experiment. From compact, pared-down smartphones with 3-inch displays like the Galaxy Chat all the way up to the 5,5-inch Galaxy Note 2, the company has hedged its bets.
Apple, on the other hand, prefers the one-size-fits-all approach. Until recently, it offered only one screen size, 3,5 inches, but defended it by pointing to the high-resolution “Retina” display on offer. With other manufacturers now offering similarly high pixel densities but on much larger screens, even the mighty Cupertino profit machine has capitulated to consumer sentiment with the iPhone 5 by offering a (slightly larger) 4-inch display.
The latest iPhone is no wider than its predecessors, though, so as not to shock the Apple faithful who enthuse about the ability to use an iPhone with one hand.
Inevitably, the ideal comes down to what users intend to do with the device. As more people begin using their handsets for reading, gaming and watching video, it seems likely the expansionary trend will continue.
In the early days of mobile phones, manufacturers sought to outdo each other by creating the smallest phones possible, but as their functionality expanded beyond calls and SMSes, they started growing again in size.
Put an iPhone 4S next to the Galaxy S3 or HTC’s One X and it looks puny. Put it next to a Galaxy Note 2 and it looks like a small toy. Whether it likes it or not, Apple is either going to have to continue increasing the size of the iPhone — or offer models with different screen sizes.
Selling a range of devices may be the best solution for Apple because, despite its attempts to assert otherwise, one size does not fit all. I love the fact I can access everything on my iPhone with just my thumb while holding the device in the same hand, but then I do most of my reading and video watching on a tablet.
TechCentral’s editor, meanwhile, often scoffs at the iPhone’s diminutive proportions when compared to his Galaxy S3 and lauds the Samsung unit’s suitability for reading everything from Web pages to magazines.
A casual survey of friends suggests the most important factors for people when making a purchasing decision are a high-resolution display and a handset that fits in a pocket. To my mind, this suggests that 5-inch devices — those that slightly larger than the Galaxy S3 — are probably the upper limit for most. Much more than that and you may as well strap a 7-inch tablet to your forearm!
Ultimately, it comes down to personal preference. The 5,3-inch Samsung Galaxy Note was a huge seller in US, but then Americans have long had a reputation for liking things — cars, houses, financial crises — bigger than the rest of us.
Thanks to Apple’s 4-inch iPhone 5 and Samsung, HTC, Motorola and Nokia’s devices that are edging closer to the 5-inch mark, the Galaxy Note no longer looks like the oversized anomaly it once did. And thanks to bigger batteries, a huge screen need no longer mean poor battery life.
Don’t be surprised if by this time next year 5-inch displays have become de rigueur. — (c) 2012 NewsCentral Media