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January 03, 2017

Comments

Olivier Barthelemy

Indeed, screen size has always been my key criteria in choosing a phone. I go for huge... the article seems to be missing quite a few larger sizes that I've had the pleasure to own:

- the Huawei Mediapad X1, then X2, had a 7" screen. The X3 is overdue so that specific line might have been discontinued. I had a X1.
- several 6.44", mine is a Xiaomi Mi Max, IIRC Lenovo, Sony (Z Ultra), Asus and others have/had models in this size.
- Data-enabled Samsung tablets of all sizes (7", 8", 10", 12") have always had phone functionality. Many other OEMs too, though not all of them.

My journey has been to get the largest possible phone: 4.3" HTC HD2, 5.1" Galaxy Note v1, 6" Huawei Mate v1, 7" Huawei Mediapad X1, 6.44" Xiaomi Mi Max, then back down a bit. I do an awful lot of reading on my phone, so the larger the screen the better. I find reading really is best around 6", above that is mostly helpful for video. The 7" X1 also could help with very short gDocs/Office work sessions; the 6.44" 16:9 Mi Max is as good as the 7" 16:10 X1 for video, but office work in 16:9 isn't as comfortable.
Those sizes take a bit of getting used to, especially you don't grip the phone, you rest its back on your fingertips... now that I'm used to that, I struggle with small phones ;-p . I can handle all those phones single-handed w/ a few contortions, and never dropped one because of that ...non-grip. Also I'm big, so pocket room was barely an issue for the 7" X1. As I, and people around me, get older, we appreciate the larger display, fonts, distance of use, and keyboard.

My take is that, as for laptops, it's down to personal preference. Laptops cover the gamut from 10" to 17" (with a few smaller/larget outliers), there's no reason smartphones can't go from 4.7" to 7" (7/4.7 = 1.5 amplitude, compared to 1.7 for laptops). My 6.44" is to a 4.7" screen what a 24" desktop monitor is to a 17" (about 1.9x bigger area). I wouldn't go back to 17" on my desk either !

I do get the occasional amused stare (and have been called out for using something "too huge" since the 4.3" HD2 ;-p), especially when I take a call w/o my headset; but then again, I also get a lot of inquiries.

Olivier Barthelemy

Also, screen size has a loose relation to device size. Screen / Device ratio varies between 0.66 and 0.84 because bezels. The 6.4" (@84% screen) Xiaomi Mi Mix (not Max, Mix) is the same width as the 5.5" '@67% screen) Apple iPhone 6S+, and only 1cm longer.

Wayne Borean


Wonder if the next big thing will be phones that transmit video calls directly onto your retina...

Winter

Tomi,

I wonder what limits screen sizes more, average hand size or pocket size?

Hand sizes vary between men and women, and if hand size was the important factor, men would use larger phones than women. But I do not have the impression they do.

Pocket sizes are ambiguous. Women wear clothes with smaller pockets than men where phones can easily fall out (I have my suspicions of why waterproof phones are so popular ;-) ). But many women also use purses and handbags which allow large phones.

What do you think is the important factor?

Olivier Barthelemy

@ the one above me, I think situations matter too, as motivators but also as limitators:
- when I'm doing something on my phone, I'm usually not composing a symphony nor battling ninjas with my other hand, so single-handedness is oversold, except in specific cases (carrying stuff, holding on to a train's bars...)
- if you're spending 2hrs/day on the bus/metro/train, you probably value a large screen (for entertainment or to get stuff done) a lot more than if you're driving and can't use your screen that much (hopefully, not at all ^^)

Tester

@Winter:

"What do you think is the important factor?"

I think the key factor here is that you can comfortably hold the device with one hand, not necessarily control it one-handedly. And with > 6'' that will get increasingly more difficult, unless you got huge hands.

So all things considered there is little surprise in how things developed and where growth stopped.

It's really going to be interesting how this will impact the market. Of course there will always be people with a compulsive need to own the latest and greatest, but for the average user there is now very little incentive to buy a new phone every two years. The 5'' Android I got two years ago may not have the best specs anymore, but I don't use it for playing games and for all other purposes it's still fine. I'm going to use it until it breaks because I really don't see any potential feature that may render it obsolete.

Of course this also means that Apple will have a growing problem now keeping their success story of endless magic growth alive. They have basically saturated the market they can get and will ever more depend on replacement business - which of course will also slow down because new phones won't be the major upgrades anymore they were in the past.

I wonder how long it will take that the plateauing of features will bring the prices down. It should be clear that high end devices that only can distinguish themselves with marginal features from the mainstream offerings for half the price will have problems selling in quantity.

Tomi T Ahonen

How perfectly timed is this?

Statista has a fresh analysis of touch-screen device universe per new activations annually, divided by screen size. Mid-sized screen smartphones are most but their share declining. Phablet are second biggest slice, their share increasing. Tablets are flat. Tiny screen smartphone share is diminishing to nearly nothing

http://www.businessinsider.my/phablets-big-smartphones-holiday-chart-2017-1/?r=UK&IR=T#7Xl3WMs5HkmLSl75.97

Tomi Ahonen :-)

Tester

@Tomi:

That statistic is pretty worthless, actually, with a very bad division in size groups.

They should have made the splits at 4.5'' and another one at 5.3'', but as things stand, they lump small screen smartphones (~4'') with the smaller part of ~5'' phones and the larger ~5'' phones with the phablets, all resulting in a statistic that fails to show anything of value at all.

In that statistic the iPhone 3 and the iPhone 6 are in the same group which seems pretty ridiculous if you want to evaluate screen sizes.

John A

I prefeer a size around 5" inch, maybe a maximum of 5,5" inch. I guess with no bezels you can make a device relativly compact.

But I prefeer smaller phones outside thats fit in the pocket.

Abdul Muis

@Tomi,

Perhaps it's not as easy as it might seems.

At first,
Galaxy S vs. iToy, Samsung try to play safe. That's the right things to do. If samsung make galaxy S too large, it will create a whole new product category, and might not be able to steal Apple customer. And samsung also smart by making both the Galaxy S and Galaxy Note. So, they can get both the small screen & big screen customer... But unfortunately, this is NOT an apple to apple comparison at screen size. Please remember (1) that Galaxy Note is ALWAYS priced higher than the Galaxy S. (2) When the Galaxy Note was introduced, and steve Jobs say that it need to be sold with a sand paper in the box to make it small. It create a perception that too large = bad.

But then,
The market moved on, SLOWLY... from 4" (Galaxy S) to 4.3" (Galaxy S2) to 4.8" (Galaxy S3) to 5" (Galaxy S4) to 5.1" (Galaxy S5 & S6 & S7)... Meanwhile on Apple side, Apple introduce the 4.7" & 5.5" starting with iPhone 6, 6s, then iPhone 7. I (think that I) have put the link in your blog, a while ago, when your busy with the American election that say when Apple first introduce the 4.7" & 5.5", the 4.7" beat 5.5" by large margin, but with each generation, the 5.5" increase, and the 4.7" decrease..... Which means that people don't change to bigger screen as fast as it should be / as fast as before...

There might be several reason for this...
one is, the one hand vs. two hand argument seems to haunt U.S. journalist every now and then, perhaps this psychological barrier is the one that make the moves slower... second is, the big phone on the face make you look stupid argument make (most) people afraid to change the phone size beyond what the society use... Third, don't forget that Galaxy Note is more expensive than Galaxy S,... smaller iPhone is also cheaper than bigger iPhone. (so your argument of same price, different size not work here).

Please also note, that the big size phone so far...
1. Sony Xperia Z Ultra... have too much bezel, make it looks too big.
2. Samsung Galaxy Mega 6.3... Not a flagship
3. Google Nexus 6... Only sold in a country where's the journalist always make one hand vs. two hand argument.

.... BUT....
If you look at Asian country such as Philippine, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand where's many use smartphone as their primary device to Internet, the stats will be different. Bigger screen is better, 6"+ is a godsend device!!! Having a 6"+ means they do not need to have phone+tablet, and also means having the optimum screen size on the go. I think many American with height of 170-190cm that always said that they prefer small iphone, or 4.7" iphone will be amaze to see 150cm asian girl using 6"+ phone...

I really puzzled at the one hand vs. two hand. Why anyone need to use their phone one hand? I could only think one reason to use the phone one hand by man. Nothing else.

Tomi T Ahonen

Hi Abdul & Wayne

Good points. I think its very clear from the general sales numbers that there was a big opportunity (possibly now fully capitalized) that amounted to roughly 1/4 of the total market, that we call phablets. Not as big obviously as the middle of the market but very large none the less. And Apple was foolish to avoid this because of the ability to also sell higher-priced phones with the larger screens.

There is also certainly a stage when the screen gets too big (for some buyers) and they won't see any gain from the larger phone. If you have multiple devices (=richer buyer) then its a far greater opportunity of choice, vs if its the only digital gadget (=modest affluence buyer) and then a large screen can double as the private TV screen and obviousy the internet browsing device where another richer buyer might have a separate laptop and tablet and TV. So especially in the 'not flagship' price range, the 'Asian girl' as you described it Abdul, the value of the largest-possible screen is considerable.

Part is a fashion/comfort migration. Wayne you might not be aware of the type of devices Abdul refers to. A 6.5 even 7 inch phablet screen stuck on your face - gosh it would get a lot of attention in many Western countries. In for example Hong Kong its totally normal. I am talking significantly larger devices than the iPhone 7 Plus.

So yeah, in some markets the market has already adjusted where this 'fashion' issue is passe and nobody really minds (ie Asia) but in other parts of the world, many who might like the largest screen possible, may find it just unnerving to then stick that device to your face to use the phone for example. Some will delay their migration to the screen size they might like, and settle for a smaller - but still very large screen like a small phablet screen, typically in the iPhone phablets size range.

I think there is some room to grow at the top for what will be acceptable and desirable. On the device itself, there is still some room to grow to the very edge of the handset (to shrink the bevel). That might gain something close to half an inch. But I doubt we'll get to 7 inch phablets, the upper limit (from major brands, their largest-screen phablet) will likely be in the low or mid 6.x inch sizes. And that will likely not be the most sold screen size.

Now on the BOTTOM end, we have had steady growth and the non-color screen, and non-touch screen phones have seen their tiny postage-stamp size screens grow and then across all phones, the total of touch screens is now more than half ie we are at those 3.2 inch, 3.5 inch very small touch-screens at the very cheapest end of the touch screen world. That seems small for us - rich and heavily mobile-addicted geekish experts - but the ORIGINAL iPhone at 3.5 inches was considered a huge screen. Nokia was at 2.6 inch screne size back then with the Nokia N95 and THAT was Nokia's largest outside their Communicator line.

As the LED screen manufacturing indsustry scale keeps growing (not just smartphones but other screens in various digital devices) it means costs keep coming down and the price differential between a non-touch screen 2.2 inch screen vs 3.2 inch small touch screen will become so slight, soon all phones with a color screen will be touch-screen phones. The bottom end keeps growing and it has quite a way to go.

Tomi Ahonen :-)

chithanh

Last year, we saw experiments by Xiaomi, Lenovo and others to make screens with very slim bezels, in order to increase the screen size without increasing the device dimensions. This may help in making large screen phones more palatable for western customers.

If a 5.7" Galaxy Note 4 at 153.5 x 78.6 x 8.5 mm isn't too big for you, then the 6.4" Xiaomi Mi Mix at 158.8 x 81.9 x 7.9 mm might be ok too.

Interesting

In the world of smaller displays: Samsung smart watches have support for iOS. Someone care to explain why Samsung adds (to its in-house Tizen OS) support for iOS - the competitor-owned OS?

chithanh

@Interesting
Because that product line must be viable on its own, and not made artificially less attractive in order to help other Samsung divisions. This is actually a smart strategy.

Remember how Sony DVD players used to not play DivX/XviD/MPEG4-ASP because Sony Picture Entertainment did not want them to play pirated content. Except that did not stop piracy, and instead hurt sales of Sony DVD players.

Or how Microsoft had a "first and best on Windows" produxt policy for Office in order to make Windows Phone more attractive. Just it didn't help Windows Phone sales, but instead hurt Office, and after 1.5 billion+ personal computing devices without Microsoft Office, they finally caved in.

MikaA

I think the average maximum physical size of the phone is probably the size of your wallet.

With the development of augmented reality glasses, it may be so that the phone display becomes irrelevant at some point. The problem is that price of these displays at the moment are out of reach of the consumer markets.

If that were to happen, then we could observe a development such as Hololens where the computer and mobile phone is principally integrated to a headband. The other path could be that the mobile phones support these systems first providing them the computing power and the display feed. If that were to happen, you'd need more resolution from the phone then, and not that much display size.

Third thing that comes to mind is the combination of the mobile phone and the laptop. Were it easily possible to plug the mobile phone (currently this is still regrettably difficult) into a HDTV, one could get an actual replacement of the laptop.

Per "wertigon" Ekström

@Wayne, 80 is by far too optimistic, expect less than previous year, around 70-72M or so.

Remember Apple themselves expect around 200-210 ish for entire year.

Abdul Muis

@Tomi

Samsung today introduce a 6" phone in India, and say, moving forward, the smallest screen size of Samsung smartphone in India will be 5.5"

http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/tech/hardware/samsung-to-focus-on-large-screen-mobile-phones/articleshow/56645784.cms
Samsung to focus on large screen mobile phones


"......
Samsung will now focus on large screen devices with display sizes of 5.5 inches and upwards. Samsung today has two devices with screen sizes of six inches," Samsung India, VP (Mobile Business) Manu Sharma told reporters today.

Tester

@Wayne:

Since that's only percentages, don't let yourself be fooled. One factor that definitely helped boost Apple's percentage but not necessarily their sales numbers is the problems with the lastest Note. And this had been noted some months ago that it would have a visible effect on the numbers. Don't forget that the Note is also a high end phone and would have been strongest in the same markets.

Abdul Muis

And now we have a rumors that iPhone will raise the screen size....... from 4.7" & 5.5"......... to 5.2" & 5.8".

Samsung is also rumored to release 5.2" (some rumors say 5.7") & 6.2" Galaxy S8

Istvan

BATTERY SIZE!
Most phones still run out of juice in LESS than a day.
My BLU Studio energy lasts for 3 days of normal use or ~1 day of travelling and excessive use with its 5000mAh battery. We need phones with 8000-10k mAh batteries, to last a whole weekend trip (watching dozen movies over LTE in the car or from storage on the overseas flight, map-walk-navigation, browsing for nightclubs on the go...). Only the Oukitel K10000 Pro has that, but it looks stupid and does not support USA LTE bands.

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    Tomi Ahonen is a bestselling author whose twelve books on mobile have already been referenced in over 100 books by his peers. Rated the most influential expert in mobile by Forbes in December 2011, Tomi speaks regularly at conferences doing about 20 public speakerships annually. With over 250 public speaking engagements, Tomi been seen by a cumulative audience of over 100,000 people on all six inhabited continents. The former Nokia executive has run a consulting practise on digital convergence, interactive media, engagement marketing, high tech and next generation mobile. Tomi is currently based out of Hong Kong but supports Fortune 500 sized companies across the globe. His reference client list includes Axiata, Bank of America, BBC, BNP Paribas, China Mobile, Emap, Ericsson, Google, Hewlett-Packard, HSBC, IBM, Intel, LG, MTS, Nokia, NTT DoCoMo, Ogilvy, Orange, RIM, Sanomamedia, Telenor, TeliaSonera, Three, Tigo, Vodafone, etc. To see his full bio and his books, visit www.tomiahonen.com Tomi Ahonen lectures at Oxford University's short courses on next generation mobile and digital convergence. Follow him on Twitter as @tomiahonen. Tomi also has a Facebook and Linked In page under his own name. He is available for consulting, speaking engagements and as expert witness, please write to tomi (at) tomiahonen (dot) com

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