There is constantly a ton of hubbub about the size of smartphones, how easy (or difficult) they are to use and hold, and how much pocket space they take up. Just this morning, a couple of colleagues and I had a mini debate over this. And, as per usual with this particular topic, we came to an impasse.
We – David Beren of TmoNews and Cam Bunton of Today's iPhone and yours truly – are on opposite ends of the argument and agree to disagree. Both David and Cam prefer smaller displays and feel as if 4-inches is the sweet spot for a smartphone display, despite the two having largely different-sized hands. David claims these larger devices are a fad and will eventually "hit a breaking point".
I, however, find larger smartphones to simply be more comfortable to use than their smaller counterparts. My hands aren't necessarily gigantic, but my thumbs have always been a bit on the big side; the more space they have to do their work, the better.
Admittedly, despite having only a 3.5-inch display, I enjoy the iPhone 4S. It's fast, hardly ever falters, usually lasts an entire day and it has a fantastic camera (for a general smartphone). But I have always felt the display is a tad on the small side – few I feel will disagree with me on that. I am constantly misspelling words due to the tiny on-screen keyboard. (Luckily, auto-correct saves me most of the time.)
A year or more ago, I'm sure I would have agreed with both David and Cam and said 4.0-inches is the perfect size. I had just moved up from the T-Mobile myTouch 4G with a 3.8-inch display to the T-Mobile G2x, which has a 4.0-inch screen, around March. The change was very slight, but noticeable. The extra display space was much-needed and welcomed. A few months later, I changed to the Nexus S, followed by the Galaxy Nexus, which was a rather significant jump from 4.0-inches to 4.65-inches.
Back then, I also would have said anything over 5.0-inches was absurd. In fact, I did. I found the Galaxy Nexus to be a near perfect size and thought anything larger would be difficult to use, hold and pocket. Alas, I was wrong. In March, I graduated to the Galaxy Note and I absolutely loved it (save for the display technology). To date, it is still one of my favorite smartphones due solely to its sheer size.
Granted, that doesn't mean I think a 5.3-inch phone is the sweet spot, or, for that matter, than any one of my preferences will appeal to the masses. But I do feel as if we have transcended beyond this screen size debate and what is the "sweet spot" for the majority of people to something much more appropriate and adaptable: choice. Manufacturers are open to more smartphone sizes now more than ever. They won't hesitate to push the boundary for "too big" while they continue to make more appropriate devices for those with smaller hands.
At the end of the day, there is one takeaway from all of this: there is demand for smartphones both big and small. The iPhone, despite its small stature, is one of the most popular smartphones of all time. While a large number of iPhone fans would prefer the next-generation iPhone to be larger, I'm willing to bet it will still sell like hotcakes come launch day. And the Samsung Galaxy S III, Galaxy Note, Galaxy Nexus, HTC One X and Titan II, all of which are 4.6-inches or larger, have been relatively popular smartphones in the relatively short time they've been around.
The only problem, however, is that most Android manufacturers are too caught up in the phablet (or near-phablet) hype and are giving the most attention to the market's largest handsets. While they are still making smaller devices, the majority of the devices smaller than 4.3-inches slip into the mid-range or low-end category.
Here's to hoping this bias from smartphone makers will pass and all smartphone size categories will once again be graced with high-end devices. Then again, by 2014, we may not even be worried about the size of our phone as we may be carrying them in our pockets with a HUD over our right eye or some other peripheral.
Until then, I'm going to try to stick to smartphones over 4.6-inches as those tend to work best with my enormous thumbs. What about you, ladies and gents? Do you side with Cam and David on the screen size matter? Is 4.0-inches the sweet spot? Or, like me, do you prefer the SUV of the smartphone category, 4.6-inches and beyond?