Bigger is better. Or so the cell phone makers want us to believe.

Three years ago, smartphones larger than 4-inches were a rarity. By comparison, they were quite large in respect to the average-sized phones, which were anywhere between 3.2-inches and 3.8-inches. Back then, the 3.5-inch display of the iPhone was considered a "normal" size.

Almost overnight, though, manufacturers started pumping out 4.0- and 4.3-inch smartphones like they were going out of style. It all started with HTC. The HD2 was the first 4.3-incher, followed by the HTC EVO 4G. Then others chimed in: Motorola made the DROID X, Samsung outed the Galaxy S and Galaxy S II line and LG made the T-Mobile G2x. While all of those handsets may appear normal – or maybe even small – by today's standards, they were gigantic back then. Our hands and pockets weren't used to holding such bid smartphones.

Yet manufacturers continue to push the envelope with devices like the Samsung Galaxy Note and LG Optimus Vu. And the average smartphone size continues to grow with every new generation of hardware. Just last week, Samsung summoned tech journalists around the world to London to unveil the Galaxy S III – a seemingly normal device at 4.8-inches, but large in comparison to last year's Galaxy S II line, which ranged from 4.3- to 4.5-inches.

Despite all of the excessively large devices, 4.0-inch dimension has widely been accepted as the "sweet spot" in mobile displays. It accommodates most of the modern use cases for smartphones while also creating a balance between those with larger or smaller hands. That said, not everyone likes the 4-inch dimension. Some, like myself, find it too small to use comfortably. Others (usually those with very small hands) find the 4-inch form factor simply too large.

They may be the minority, but they most certainly still exist. However, it's almost as if manufacturers have totally forgotten about people with smaller hands, smaller pockets and smaller purses. That, or they have simply placed them on the back burner.

Aside from the iPhone 4S, what was the last high-end smartphone under 4-inches? Unfortunately, I'm not even sure. The best offering under 4-inches that comes to mind is the HTC One V, and I would hardly consider that high-end. It's a middle-of-the-road phone, no matter how you look at it. It ships with a 1GHz single-core Snapdragon S2 chipset, while its giant counterparts, the One X and One S, feature 1.5GHz dual-core S4 chipsets. It also features a comparatively low-res display at 480 by 800 pixels, while most 4-inch and larger devices tout high-definition displays. (Would it have killed HTC to use a qHD display?) And the camera is 5-megapixels, versus the 8-megapixel shooters of the One X and One S.

As Michael Fisher of pocketnow.com explains, this is the story across the board.

Don't get me wrong, I don't miss smaller phones at all. I love my 5.3-inch Galaxy Note and 4.7-inch HTC One X in all of their high-end, extravagant glory. To me, it would be regression to try to use a 4-inch or smaller phone again. But I will also be the first to admit that excessive display space isn't for everyone. Some people like smaller phones – ones that don't make their pockets bulge or their thumbs hurt after a few hours of stretching to type.

Currently, the best (and only) high-end smartphone under 4-inches that immediately comes to mind is the iPhone 4S. Otherwise, if you dip below the 4-inch threshold, you will be dipping your toe in a cesspool of cheap, low-end Android smartphones that reek of uninspired design and corners being cut just to get a budget-friendly device on the shelves. It's pitiful.

The mobile market is currently like a car lot that sells only large SUVs and a couple, cheap scooters. Maybe one Smart car. No mid-sized sedans or coupes. "Whether the blame lies on manufacturers or consumers, the bias is real, and it's ridiculous," says Fisher. He's completely right. And in the end, bigger is better. Manufacturers have made sure of it.

How do you feel, folks? Do you miss more modest, mid-sized devices with high-end specs? Or are you okay with your pocket-filling smartphone? What's the perfect screen size for you?

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112 Reactions to this post

"What's the perfect screen size?"

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Anonymous 4.0 is just right. Everything else over that is just too big. Too big to use with one had, too big to fit in my back hip pocket. They make my back hip pocket or front pocket sag from the weight. They are obvisouly there - there is no carrying my phone privately at work. They don't fit in my coat pocket - they fall out.
Tyler Kirchman 4-4.5 is pretty good range 4.7 is kinda pushing it
Eugene Yap No. But its has good price for its function
Nathan Yim 3.7 is way too small for my uses now.
George Isenhart Between 4 and 4.6 no bigger, no smaller, Galaxy Note is a bit much.
Jose Santos I use my phone as a tablet so I would say 4.5 - 5"
Giemuel Uy why? cos chuck norris needs to see his next victims in one screen
Jim Nguyen I love my 1.8 inch screen on my razr. It's probably cause in asian..
Eduardo Ordaz Think smaller than 3.9 inches isnt good 4 some. I like 4 inches and up!
Gaurav Bhardwaj 5.3 inch for me...
Drake Galbraith Coleman 4.5-5.0 inches
Alaaeddin Almanassra My razr 4.3 super amoled advanced screen qHD
Yasser Lassalle 4 .9 inches
Nathan Wright Nothing under 4 inches, nothing over 4.7
Devin Martinez I use to think 4.0 or 4.3 but after owning the GNex I gotta say 4.5 should be perfect. Common apple make it lol
Nic Gruwell The 4.7 on the one x doesn't feel that big because it is so light.. still probably too big for most people.
Teresa L Smith 4.5 and up
Marcus Cadwell 4 inches is the perfect medium. Those that like smaller screens would like it's portability and those that want bigger screens can't really complain about how small it is. I love my iPhone 's 3.5 screen, but I can see why people wouldn't
Maxi Fabián Examples of the most sharp screen on the Market: Sony Xperia S HTC Rezound Motorola Atrix 2 Hate SuperAmoled and Pentile displays u.y
Maxi Fabián 4.3" with qHD/HD Res. LCD No pentile =Perfection
Jesse Burgos 4.3 or bigger. I make sooooo many mistakes typing on my my touch 4g
Nahtanoj Divad Htrab 4.3 is the biggest I'd go. Hope iPhone 5/6 has a 4" screen.
Dan Bittner I had the note and the screen was great now I have the HTC one x and this is greatw
Edgar Emanuel Rivera Rojas 4.5 os perfect for me,I am happy with my HTC Vivid
Tailpipe Scoggins I have slightly larger than avg hands, but the best phone I have used, in terms of screen size, was the nexus a, with the 4" screen. I had no problems reaching the upper outside corner. I would have to really stretch when using my evo 4g, with the 4.3" screen.
James Vincent 4" is perfect... big enough to use a website and not so big I'm forced to hold it funny to reach some parts of the screen when using it one handed
Piyush Raisinghani 3.5"-4" is the perfect sizes for me Nothing more than that!
Huey Liggins This huge thing* my god I guess no touch screen is perfect huh? Lol can't wait to see the jokes for that mistake
Huey Liggins All depends on the person.. People with big hands will want big phones. However I'm not a big man and I have the note. It is slightly too big but I have no complaints about the phone at all. Easy to you. Web browsing is the best. The beautiful screen. I watch movies and tv shows all the time with his huge thing. Combining phone and tablet was the best idea since the dell Streak! It's all about preference
Eric Dodds Steven no you're a moron and i'd say 4.3"
Steven Quacoo- Dorby iPhone sets the tone n every other manufacturer has to copy its greatness
John Weber 4.7-5.0 (if they make sizes like 5 in the future) is probably the best size. I'm a big guy and have a 4.5 right now. Its almost right, but I notice myself wanting just a bit more but the note is almost too big. I can't wait for the gs3 to come to America.
Wissam Salah Al-fakiany i got another one 4inch for a white phone and 4+ for a black phones :P i sure hope ppl here and 18+ :P
Armando Sanchez To me the best size for screens are between 4.3 to 4.7
Wissam Salah Al-fakiany and they said that my 4inch is small ...... thats why i bought a note !! :D
Brandon Johnson I really don't care about screen sizes. Smaller ones have the advantage of one handed typing and playing nice with other things in the same pocket. Bigger screens have the advantage of being easier to navigate and watch movies on.
Stephen Milne 4.3 or bigger.
Izzy Izz Lmao..this is funny reading if u didnt kno it was about screen sizes.lmaoooooo
Vishnu Ravi 4.3 inches is the perfect size
Terenzo Apachi Obsolete!
Ronald Brown I dont think they should get any larger than 4.5
Tyrone Rupert 4.3 with a small bezel is perfect. The screens that are past that are for tablet use only and not cellular. I rocking HTC Amaze and this phone is just that. " Amazing".
Richie Soares 4.3 love my tbolt
Jose Be Julme Must have 4.1 or above.
David Tambascio Haven't had larger than 4.3 but willing to try..
Samuel Esparza Not for me, the bigger the better, I want the Galaxy Note. Mainly cause I have big hands and fingers, even with a 4.3 I still make mistakes a lot when I'm typing
Eric Matthews 4.5 is the best...For me..
Susan Hugus Screens need to larger to see the info on web pages. Have a Galaxy Nexus and small hands, but find I like it, since I it fits nicely in my hand because it is thin and light. I never could type anything with my thumbs anyway.
Garrett Vincent im 6"6 i need a bigger phone than4.3 inches. galaxy sIII or gnote here i come. apple crapped the bed by sticking to tiny sizes they could have spear headed that instead of buying that company that made siri and suing thier competition. the next iphone will be 4+inches,and all the apple sheep will then tout how amazing large screens are.
Douglas J Kmiotek I find 4-4.3 inches to be great. I'm luving my Nokia Lumia 900 screen,...it's wonderful.
Kevin Christian 4" should be good enough to get the job done.
Steve Bachman I would like to hold my laptop up to my ear next please!
Edward Camou 3.5" is the perfect size! :D
Robert Centennial The question wasn't what size phone you have.
Eric Huxtable 4 in fine
Rick Sievers 4 inches and up. Anything smaller is for women or men with small hands.
Mike Cooper The argument of "if I wanted anything bigger I'd get a tablet" is really tired and dumb. If I wanted a bigger screen for web browsing and watching movies I'd drop an extra $500 instead of just getting the functionality in my phone! Combining the functionality of multiple devices isn't a bad thing...
Mazin Nasir It's really about the size, it's how they lay it out, like HTC's sensation and desire HD have the same screen size but they both feel different.
Brent Legendre the best small smartphone is the Palm Pre but posers and wannabes rejected its superb-ness and flocked like sheep to the bigger brands.
Christopher Williams @Tom Parkison it's 2012 if your website isn't iPhone or "mobile" ready then you're just being lazy and need to get with the times!
James LeBlanc 4 inch should be perfect
Carlos Nava 4.2' (IPhone 5) - 4.8' (Galaxy S3) are the best sizes ...
Damon Lee 4.8-7.7
Christopher Gronde NOTHING SHOULD BE BELOW 4.7 Bigger = BETTER!
Azmir Sulejmanovic 4.7-inch Super IPS LCD2 display (312 ppi) with 1280 x 720 resolution
Sam Rick 4.5 should be the maximum for a phone.
Michelle Perez Having just moved from a 3.7" to a 4.3" phone, I'd say 4.3" is the maximum I can handle - I am reading and typing things easier on the 4.3" though. 4" - 4.3" strikes the right balance for me as far as handling and readability.
Chris Downs 4.3 inch is perfect!!
Anthony Torres Ortiz 4in! 4.3 is nice but anything more than that forget about it!!
Clemens Riemenschneider my galaxy nexus is a little bit too big for me. so I would say, about 4.5 should be max. also: where are new devices with keyboards? I really miss those, too!
Mia Corbett Like a man size matters.
Tom Parkison Or, their mobile sites are so stripped of features that you have to go back to the desktop version for any kind of use from the site.
Peter Nicholas Bravato 4.3" is the threshold. Don't think they should keep trying to surpass it
Tabib Rehman Depends on size of your hands and what you use. I watch films etc on mine so bigger is better but something like a galaxy note 5.3 is too big for a phone. I did think my galaxy s2 4.3 was big at one point but my htc one x 4.7 feels perfect in my hand
Michael Gonzalez I'm cool with my mytouch 4g... I've been saying that they need to make nicer phones with smaller screens... I don't like the big phones in my pocket when I'm out and about...
Tom Parkison It's not just that Chris... but web sites in general. Most web sites don't have mobile sites. Trying to browse a full web site that has everything including the kitchen sink when it comes to all the gadgets on it, is very difficult on a smaller screen. In this case, bigger screen == easier navigation on some web sites.
Dan Daniel 4.0-4.3 is the sweet spot
Patrick Jackson Jr. 4.3 is big but in my opinion is the perfect size. Great for watching movies. I'm curious about the galaxy note, having never used nor held it in my hands I can't comment on the screen size, idk if its too big or if its perfect for me. The biggest screen I've used on a phone is 4.3 inches.
Justin Michael Duncan Small screens are for girls I need 4.3 or bigger
Christopher Williams 3.5" no one ever complained about the iPhones screen size until other phones started shipping with larger screens. Apple doesn't have to overcompensate for a bad mobile OS and user experience like all of the Android OEM's.
Tom Parkison Though, I do tend to believe that anything bigger than 4.65 inches (ie. the size of the Galaxy Nexus screen) is way overkill.
Allen Jerell Harris 4'3 is fine with me still rocking that sensation hope t Mobile hurry up with this update.
Tom Parkison Bigger screens are better. It's much easier to browse the web (especially since not all web sites have mobile sites) on a bigger screen. Bigger screen == better navigation
Christian Scheunert 3.5" is the perfect size!
Alen Glöckner 4 inches max. No need for bigger, i would by tablet if i need bigger display or watch movies..
Prabhath Jay MUST . HAVE . 4
Matthew Fleisher 4ish is good because anything larger won't fit in a pocket easy
Daniel Rivera A 3.5'' IS ENOUGH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Kiano Pass 4.3 to 4.7 is good for me, anything less and your carrying a womans phone
Spliff Meister 3310 screen does the job.
Tony Abiama 4.7 seems to be pretty good actually. But in all honesty this is a weird question because its going to vary on personal preference anyway.
Rafael Luis Mestre Borges because that way they can spread out components and make them thinner?
Alberto Gutiérrez 4.3" More than that gets a little complicated
Chan Yi Tian Thomas 4.3-4.6 inch?
Shuvam Yadav 3.8 inches is good enough!
Vincent Jean i'am not sure but i might just switch back to the iphone seriously.. i really miss typing with one hand.

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