What is the perfect smartphone size? It's a question we continually find ourselves coming back to as mobile manufacturers seem to be throwing various smartphone sizes at a metaphorical wall of users to see what sticks.
Over the last four years, Android manufacturers have explored virtually every variation of display size between 2.5-inches and now 6.3-inches. As smartphones continue to grow, however, fewer and fewer flagship models are anything shy of gargantuan. Few of the high-end Android smartphones of 2012 were smaller than 4.7-inches. And all of the most notable Android smartphone announcements from CES consisted of devices with 5-inch 1080p displays. High-end Android devices in the 4-inch to 4.5-inch range are increasingly scarce with each passing month.
Windows Phone makers are following similar trends as Android manufacturers, though with much more subtle trends. And they have yet to lose focus on those small-handed consumers.
Apple answered years of endless requests for a larger smartphone, but played it very conservatively, launching a new smartphone with a taller display. The width of the display stayed exactly the same to continue promoting one-handed use and avert the shock of a phablet-like smartphone. But the firm has seemingly left us large-handed folks without an option. Rumors allege Apple will be bringing a larger iPhone to market in the not too distant future, however. (Fingers crossed!)
And then there's BlackBerry. The BlackBerry Z10 was announced earlier this week with a 4.2-inch display. While the size initially strike me as odd, it sort of makes sense. It's larger than the iPhone 5, which many have said is still too small, yet it's smaller than all the giant Android smartphones, which are oft-called far too large.
It's an unspoken sweet spot. If you think BlackBerry made a device without considering ergonomics, you clearly don't know the mentality of the Waterloo-based handset maker. There is a reason its keyboards are renowned as the best mobile keyboards … ever. The screen size certainly seems small by comparison, but maybe it's just right.
There is, however, a simple answer to the above question: no single size is perfect for everyone. And, frankly, it couldn't be more true.
A female friend of mine has almost doll-sized hands and finds even the iPhone 5 to be a tad large. I also have a friend well over six-feet-tall whose palms are larger than all five of my digits fully extended. He finds most smartphones to be difficult to use, as they are typically too small and troublesome for his gigantic fingers to use accurately. The Galaxy Note II, though, is a step in the right direction for him and is much more comfortable to use. And then there are the rest of my friends whose preferences all lie within the two extremes, between phones with displays between 4-inches and 5.5-inches.
For months now, I have said that the 5.5-inch Galaxy Note II is perfect for me. And it is … in certain situations. The size makes most actions with the device more comfortable to perform. Browsing the Web and watching videos could not be more awesome (from a phone).
There was a time where I needed to get used to the extra large chassis of the Galaxy Note II. And just a few hours after unboxing the phone, the phone began to feel "normal". However, after using it for so long, I started realizing just how often I needed to use the device with only one hand. By all means, I have learned how to in my three months with the device. But that doesn't mean one-handed typing is comfortable. It is a two-handed phone – no bones about it.
I still like the size, especially if I'm not using a tablet alongside it.
My preferences and unusually large hands land somewhere between the 4.7-inch to 5.5-inch range. My thumbs constantly fail me when I'm typing on the narrow display of the iPhone 5, but I sometimes find myself struggling and reaching with the Galaxy Note II.
The Nexus 4 arrived on my doorstep yesterday. I wrote a piece yesterday evening about how it feels as if it were made for a hobbit. The display is noticeably tiny. And I still get that shock factor when I turn on the display an realize how much real estate is missing. But I'm already getting used to using the device with one hand and coping with the smaller display.
However, I do not feel the 4.7-inch display on the Nexus 4 is perfect for me. It's just a hair small. I suppose I could blame the on-screen buttons for that, as it effectively makes the usable display space somewhere around 4.5-inches, so long as you're not watching a video.
Of all the devices I have used over the years, I have to admit the HTC DROID DNA felt the best in terms of size. (Build quality and design are great, too.) The 5-inch display with dedicated capacitive buttons allows for one of the highest screen-to-phone ratios ever. It's narrow like the HTC One X, meaning it's not all that much larger than the Nexus 4, but crams a noticeable amount of extra display real estate in the additional vertical size.
If I had to choose a single display size to use for the next year or two, it would be 5-inches. Not only because it feels the most comparatively … natural, but it also offers the highest density (albeit unnecessary) of any other smartphone display size. It's a size where the aspect ratio can keep the device narrow while still adding markedly more space. Plain and simple, it was the most comfortable smartphone display size I have used to date – it's neither too small or extreme.
I'm interested, though, folks. We've established more than once that what may be perfect for me may not (most likely isn't) perfect for you. You may have much larger or smaller hands than I. So tell us in the poll below and in the comments section what your idea of the perfect phone size is.