As they tend to do in every market they enter, Apple changed the way consumers think about smartphones. Before the iPhone, size wasn’t a big issue for smartphones. Whether it was the bulky BlackBerry or the hefty Palm Treo, people seemingly didn’t care they were carrying around a large device. Both were smaller than the Palm Pilot, while performing more functions, so it didn’t seem like a big deal. But then Apple came along and showed consumers the advantages of carrying around a smaller phone.
It seems Apple peaked with this strategy in 2010 when it released the iPhone 4. They advertised it as the world’s thinnest smartphone, a title that held up for at least a year. As tends to happen, competitors raced to create phones as thin as, or thinner than, the iPhone 4. But along the way they changed something else. They made the screen bigger.
Evolution of the large screen
In many ways Samsung has taken the lead when shooting for larger screen sizes. Around the same time Apple released the iPhone 4, with its standard 3.5-inch screen, Samsung released the original Galaxy S, which featured a 4-inch screen. It was the first Android device to stretch the screen to this size, besting the Nexus One’s 3.7-inch screen. It was only the start for Samsung.
Each year thereafter Samsung has increased the screen size of its flagship model. In 2011 it released the Galaxy S II with a 4.3-inch screen. A number of other models came out with that kind of oversized screen. The Galaxy Nexus, another Samsung model, went even bigger with a 4.65-inch screen. Samsung outdid itself again with the original Galaxy Note, measuring a full 5.3 inches. Then came its flagship model, the Galaxy S III, at 4.8 inches, and the Galaxy Note 2, at 5.5 inches.
While Apple has been content with smaller screens, as evidenced by the iPhone 5’s mere 4-inch screen, Samsung has continued to push the envelope. In doing so, they have hit on something that consumers desire.
Samsung selling big screens
The sales numbers for the original Galaxy Note and the Galaxy S III speak volumes about the market’s desire for larger handsets. The Galaxy S III has sold over 30 million units, while the original Galaxy Note sold more than 10 million units. The Note II, which has been out barely a month, has cross the 3 million unit milestone. This is to say that larger screen sizes have done quite well with consumers worldwide.
True, Apple has fared well itself with the iPhone 5 and its smaller 4-inch screen. Reports indicated that Apple sold 5 million units over the first weekend alone. Of course, there are many factors to consider when looking at Apple’s numbers. Many consumers still buy iPhones because of the name alone; few consumers have this habit with Samsung phones. The holiday sales forecasts for the iPhone have also been slashed, while no such adjustments have been made for the Samsung pack.
This seems to indicate that the sector of the market not predisposed to buy whatever Apple produces do prefer larger screened cell phones.
Advantages of the larger screen
Why are people choosing smartphones with larger screens? There are many advantages of doing so.
- Large screened phones can also be thin. The Galaxy S3 is barely thicker than the iPhone 5. It’s size comes from width, which is less bothersome.
- More screen real estate makes watching videos and viewing images more enjoyable.
- Larger screens provide larger keys for touchscreen keyboards, allowing for a greater level of typing accuracy.
- It is easier to read, both articles and ebooks, with a larger screen.
- Larger screened phones, Android in particular, allow more home screen options. Widgets provide more function when they are larger in size.
- There is more ability to manipulate text size, making reading easier for the sight impaired.
To be sure, a larger screen phone is not for every consumer. The wonderful thing about Android smartphones is that consumers have a choice in the matter. But in terms of the mass market, it appears the trend is moving towards larger screens. There is plenty of sense in this. The advantages are pretty stark.