Will the 5.3-inch form factor become the new 4.3?

Taylor Martin
 from Concord, NC
Published: March 15, 2012

About five years ago, all I wanted was a small phone with a nice physical QWERTY keyboard and a trackball. I remember reading a few follow-up pieces on the original iPhone announcement, looking at my BlackBerry Curve and thinking: "Why would I ever want a 3.5-inch display on my phone? Much less a touchscreen?"

I thought I was moving up to the big leagues when I finally decided to take the Android plunge and test out an HTC Hero (CDMA) for a while. Its 3.2-inch touchscreen wasn't necessarily huge in comparison to my BlackBerry's, but it was bigger. Following that, I owned a DROID and a Nexus One, both of which had 3.7-inch displays and I thought they were perfect. That is, until the first 4-inch and greater phones started dropping left and right.

It's crazy how far we've come, really. In just a few short years, the very device that entailed everything I didn't want just five years ago – large, touchscreen display, stylus, no keyboard, etc. – is exactly the phone I'm scouring the Internet in search of today.

And apparently, I'm not the only one. Yesterday, BGR reported a study performed by Strategy Analytics that reveals that bigger phones are in. Of course, this is something we already knew. Anyone who has followed the slightest trends in mobile devices over the past year knows this. Strategy Analytics' survey found that consumers prefer their devices to be thin with 4.0- to 4.5-inch displays. And as you would expect, "females are more likely to consider slightly smaller devices than males. Existing Android owners are more likely to seek larger devices than existing Apple iPhone owners," says the study.

Paul Brown, a Director in the Strategy Analytics User Experience Practice states that, "Almost 90 percent of existing smartphone owners surveyed chose a prototype smartphone with a display larger than their current device."

Again, none of this is surprising. But it only proves that have gotten used to these absurdly large phones that most of use wouldn't have considered just a few short years ago. I don't know the exact figures, but the average smartphone now is larger than 4-inches, whereas in 2009, most Android devices wore 3.5- to 3.8-inch displays.

What I'm saying is that just two years ago, many of us looked at 4.3-inch phones as giant, clunky devices we would never want and 4.0 was the sweet spot. With devices like the HTC Titan II and One X or Galaxy S II and Galaxy Nexus, the average is now exceeding 4.3-inches and – with the exception of the few who love excessively large devices – people view phones like the Galaxy Note and Optimus Vu as outlandish.

As people start using their phones for more, whether it be more social networking, more work, more email or more gaming, the extra real estate makes a difference. Not everyone will flock to 5-inch devices, just like many were hesitant to accept 4-inch and larger phones. But Aaron, who openly disliked the size of the Note at the beginning of his challenge, found himself missing the extra space once he switch back to smaller phones. And I have been drooling over the Note since I got some hands-on with it at CES.

The Note, thus far, has been relatively successful with over two million units sold worldwide, which is surprising for what was initially (and still is, for the most part) viewed as a niche device. Samsung plans on selling another eight million before the end of the year. My question is: will we see Samsung meet their goal? Better yet, will that eight million also include tablets in the Note family? Will other OEMs try their hand at 5-inch phones like Dell, Samsung and LG? And, if so, will 5.3-inches become the 4.3-inches of 2010?

I, for one, hope so. If I get a Note, I will eventually want to upgrade to the next model or maybe even to something different. But from what I hear, once you take the step up to a device of that caliber, it's hard to adjust back down to a standard-sized phone.

How do you feel about the ever-increasing size of smartphones, folks? Do you embrace it? Or hate it? Do you think it will finally impact the size of Apple's "perfectly sized" iPhone this year?