My friend and colleague recently wrote an article about the Samsung Galaxy Mega, and further about large phones. He questioned the necessity of such large phones, using the Galaxy Mega line as an example. I respect his opinion, and in many ways agree. People have been fighting large phones for a long time, and the reasoning is sound. Why do people even need such large phones? They have reached a point where they are no longer usable with one hand at 5.5″. So what’s the point of going further?
Well the Galaxy Mega line serves a really important purpose. Phones are getting bigger and bigger, and the general population seems to like it. You can’t imagine how many times I’ve had people rave about their Galaxy Note II to me, even if they’re five feet tall. But not everyone can afford a Galaxy Note II. In the US, we have a market very focused on high end devices. However, other countries are not like that. That’s where the Galaxy Mega line comes in.
In many countries, people buy phones outright and use them with cheap carriers. The Galaxy Mega line brings the large form factor people want in a cheaper package than our $600 high end phones. No, the devices aren’t destined for US soil, and they shouldn’t be. We don’t have the market for them. However, many countries do. That’s why Samsung releases so many low end phones: they sell and they serve an important purpose for many many people.
But what about big phones in general? Why do so many people like them? Why do they sell like crazy? When the first Note was announced, people assumed it would be a flop. Who would want a 5.3″ device? That’s crazy! But no, it sold really well, to the surprise of many. I think the allure comes from the fact that they are far less limiting.
I came from a 4.3″ Galaxy S II before upgrading to the Note II. If I wanted to Google something, I wouldn’t want to do it on my phone. I loved that phone dearly, but it was not the most convenient web device. Lots of scrolling always ensued, which made reading unpleasant. A computer was often preferable. With the Note II, the times where a computer seems like a better idea are few and far between. With a roomy 5.5″ display, a nice 720p resolution (though 1080p would be nice right now), and the text size set to small in settings, I rarely have to scroll. So much fits on the screen, and that makes web browsing pleasant.
What about games? Social networking? They’re better when you don’t have to squint at a tiny screen. Sure, the Galaxy S III’s 4.8″ display is by no means small, and could be considered the perfect size, but apps (and games especially) are a lot more satisfying on a larger display.
But isn’t that the point of a tablet? Absolutely. But that’s a second device you have to carry around. Tablets are at this awkward middle ground, where they aren’t as portable as phones but don’t do nearly as much as a computer. They’re great devices, and I am a proud owner of a Nexus 7, but they don’t serve a unique purpose. They’re just another device you don’t quite need, while a computer and phone are pretty necessary devices.
Let’s look at the Huawei Ascend Mate, or the Galaxy Note III (which we know nothing about). The Ascend Mate’s display is 6.3″, just like one of the Galaxy Mega devices. The Note III could be any size, but a good range would be 5.9″ to 6.3″. Will they sell? Or are they too large? That’s a tough question to answer, because it’s opinion based. But there are pros and cons to such a large device.
Let’s look at the cons first. What pocket would fit that device? It won’t be easy. The Note II fits in any pocket from my experience, but a 0.8 inch bump could completely ruin that. And using that phone with one hand would be virtually impossible without some clever software features beyond what is currently available. I am a man with big hands, and even the Note II is a stretch.
But in my personal opinion, the positives far outweigh the negatives. More information is displayed at once in an easier to read way. Plus, the uses for large screens are infinite. A 6″ GPS sounds awesome, and watching movies on that display wouldn’t be so bad either. The devices use is enhanced by the large size, at least for me, even if I have to use two hands to use it.
That doesn’t mean manufacturers should continue building bigger and bigger phones! That isn’t enough to keep them easy to use. Focus on the software, as that what brings the experience together. Create some ways to make the device easier to handle with one hand. Samsung started with some modifications to the dialer, calculator, and keyboard on the Note II: they can be made smaller and positioned closer to one edge of the screen. But that wasn’t all that useful on a 5.5″ display, nor is it nearly enough to keep a large device usable for someone with smaller hands.
And, please listen to this manufacturers, this doesn’t mean people don’t want small but high end devices! How hard is it to understand that you have to make phones for many different types of people? You make high and low end phones, you make different color phones, you even make different form factors to give people choice. But where is our choice in size? If I want a 4.3″ device, why do I have to skimp on specs? I don’t want qHD or a dinky dual core, I want to see a high end device in a 4.3-4.5″ body. The Galaxy S 4 Mini could have done this, but they once again missed the mark. That’s one area where the Android ecosystem falters, hardware wise. Despite owning a Note II, I’m still a sucker for a small smartphone.
The key to all this isn’t to stop making big smartphones, or focus on them. Extremes never work out. The key is to balance it, and give people some options. Give us small but powerful smartphones, and supply us with the newest massive device in the Note series. As consumers, we’ll be happy to buy both. But I’d love to hear your thoughts. What do you think of the new trend of giant phones? Do you like where this is going? Do you want more diversity in the high end smartphones spectrum? Leave a comment!