Phones, tablets and phablets: where will it end?
About 2 and a half years ago, only a few weeks after I started working at Clove, HTC launched the Desire HD in the UK. The original Desire was arguably one of HTC’s best ever devices and at the time seemed to have the perfect mix of price, usability and style. So the Desire HD did it all again, only bigger, and the office was a hive of activity with boxes everywhere and phone calls coming in every other minute.
This was despite many reviews of the Desire HD mentioning its monstrous size, or saying that it would have been the best around if it weren’t so unwieldy. In this case, bigger was clearly better and people were voting with their wallets. About the same time, Dell released the Streak, a behemoth of a phone that disappeared into almost complete obscurity, due in part to the popular opinion that it was just far too big (a complete lack of updates and support didn’t help matters either…). The Desire HD had a 4.3 inch screen. The Streak weighed in with 5 inches.
Looking back at these events with today’s flagship devices in mind, 4.3 inches seems a decent size for a screen, but perhaps a touch too small to be considered up there with the best. HTC’s One range features a 4.7 inch screen on the X and X+. Sony’s newest Xperia Z hits 5 inches and the Xperia T before it sports a 4.5 inch display. Who can forget Samsung either, the Galaxy S3 rocking a 4.8 inch HD Super AMOLED over the previous generation’s 4.3, and arguably being the genesis of the current phablet generation spawned by the Note and Note 2 sitting at 5.3 and 5.5 inches respectively.
This appears to only be the start; Huawei’s Ascend Mate has a 6.1 inch screen. Rumours persist that Samsung will announce a Galaxy S4 and Note 3 with 5 and 6.3 inch screens, and that LG’s newest update to their Optimus range will be at 5 inches or more.
Now I’m all for choice and if there’s enough demand then sure, why shouldn’t there be a device at pretty much every increment up to what we consider the ‘standard’ small tablet size of about 7 inches. The only thing I find disappointing about this trend is that while the flagship devices get bigger and more powerful, it seems to be creating a divide with the ‘lesser’ devices from the same manufacturer. Whilst a current mid-range device might still knock seven bells out of even the flagships of years gone by, what annoys me slightly is that just because the device is smaller, it suffers a hit in power and performance.
I understand the need for manufacturers to differentiate the devices in their range to justify price points, and screen size and quality is a great visual cue for this. I don’t agree though that it should always hamper the internals of the device to the degree it does. For instance if I was to decide I want the the most possible power from this year’s range, it looks like I would be forced into a 5 inch screen, something I personally consider too big, with the 4.7” on my Nexus 4 already being a bit of a stretch. Dropping to a 4.3 would be perfectly usable and comfortable, but without even knowing everything that will be released this year, I could confidently predict having to compromise a fair bit on power and performance regardless of the manufacturer.
So on the one side I can see the appeal of ever increasing screen size; more real estate for games, high definition video etc. and the choice is fantastic. What I don’t like though is forcing the best technology only on the devices with the largest screens and compromising the smaller devices which could be more comfortable for many users. What are your thoughts on the subject? Let us know below