August 31, 2014

Smartphones: How big is too big?

cellphone-psycho

Alright guys, it’s time to have a serious discussion about our expectations from our smartphones.

All the hubbub over the Galaxy Note II is understandable. Too big for my tastes, but after using a friend’s, I can honestly say that I see the merit and understand how the Note line claims a whopping 8% share of the Android user-base. The 5.5 inch display is hard to manage at first, but after acclimating, as long as you have somewhere to stow it when not in use, it can make sense for certain needs. At that sweet-spot in screen size I can also understand the desire for a stylus. The display is big enough to do some serious art or photo editing but still small enough to be portable and need something with a fine tip to be accurate. For heavy media consumers and creators, the Note line just makes sense.

Now, even being an artist myself, I prefer the size of the Galaxy S III, 4 and Nexus phones. But would honestly consider getting a Note were I to start creating more with my phone. Why don’t I? I have a tablet.

Lately the social sphere has been abuzz with news about 5.8, 5.9, 6.3 and now a ridiculous 6.44 inch display Sony device.

Really?

Come on now… Enter Nexus 7 stage left:

IMG_20130530_152305So, for argument sake, let’s say your only devices are a dumb-phone and a desktop with nothing in between. Here are your options. Buy a brand new, top-of-the-line phablet, those types of devices usually start at $299 with a 2-year contract at release. Or you could pay $99-$199 for the latest, normal-sized, high-end device and order a Nexus 7 from the Play Store for $199.  If you do the latter on the right day, you could actually get out for less than you would buying the brand-new phablet.

I realize that the original Galaxy Note is cheaper now, and the Galaxy Note II has seen a slight decrease in price with the release of the S4, but let’s look at this seriously. Why do you want a phone that big? The bigger the screen is, the more likely it is to break. Also, I foresee issues with men carrying anything much larger than the latest Note in their pockets.

Okay, depending on the size of the bezel, these rumored 5.8 and 5.9 inch sizes of the Mega and the third Note might also fall into the same sweet spot as the Galaxy Note II, although I doubt it.

Here’s how I feel about it. I don’t care if a device makes phone calls or not, if it’s less than an inch smaller than what is arguably the most popular tablet on the market right now, It’s a tablet.

What I would like to see is manufacturers racing to see who can pack the most power and battery life into 4-5 inch devices as possible and giving us more form factors than the normal 16:9 aspect ratio slate phone.

Here’s what this would accomplish

  • Give the consumers a wider range of devices from which to choose.
  • Help manufacturers develop identities and find what they’re best at.
  • Help more devices from each manufacturer remain relevant for longer.

Not that I’m a fan of physical keyboards, but I know people who won’t buy a phone without one, and to my knowledge, there isn’t a single high-end device with a physical keyboard available. I know the Kyocera Echo wasn’t a huge success, but at least they took a chance on a new form factor instead of just asking “how big of a phone do you think people would be willing to buy?”

All that said, I do understand why manufacturers are doing this. 8% is a huge market share for a single device and I get other OEMs wanting a piece of that. But can they do it right? The LG Vu line has been a fantastic failure, the Dell streak had it’s fans, but still, nothing compared to how well the Galaxy Note family has done.

Any phablet owners out there find yourself actually using the stylus? If so, do you think you would need it were the screen any bigger? How big of a device are you willing to buy? Can other manufacturers strike the same gold as Samsung? Let us know what you think about adding so many more phablets to the market in the comments below!