March 2014: The New York Times reports this week that at this year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the giant smartphone trend is not only continuing, but accelerating. I was just in a meeting the other day with one of those monsters, and I could barely take my eyes off it it. Some kind of a Samsung with a screen well over 5 inches diagonally. By the time you add the heft of its aftermarket silicon rubber case, the thing was about the size and thickness of a 350 page paperback book .(But not the same weight as a book – that Samsung brick is going to really pull down one side of your coat – and forget about your jeans pocket.) Screen was pretty flashy-looking, though.
However, the press continues to miss the point on these things. As I pointed out a year ago, they are not taking off because they are better than phones or tablets, they are taking off because they are cheaper and easier than having to buy both. If you compare them to a tablet, the tablet is better for content consumption and productivity. If you compare them to a smaller phone, the phone is better for portability and, well, being a phone. So if you are willing to pay for and carry both, you’d be better served from a functionality standpoint. But most people are not willing or able to buy, carry and maintain both. So they are looking for a single device compromise – as I pointed out below a year ago, this is especially clear when you look at the demographics of initial phablet growth. And now the trend is continuing with a new demographic – the non-techy early mainstream. I called it just over a year ago, and I stand by my original thesis:
Jan 15, 2013: Until a very recent epiphany, I had been observing this trend of growing smartphone screen size with puzzlement. Android smartphones grew to 4 inches. 4.5 inches. 4.8 inches. Then Samsung releases the Galaxy Note at 5.3 inches. And now the Note 2 at 5.5 inches. And now Huawei has just released a a phone with a 6.1 inch screen (the Ascend Mate, pictured above).
Yet Apple was not wrong that good one-handed operation maxed out at a screen size of about 3.5 inches diagonal. And you definitely look a bit odd holding a tablet to your head. And these things are giant in your pocket, if they even fit. So what is driving this? [Read more…]