Smartphones: Why Size Matters, But Why Bigger Isn't Necessarily Better

The noticeable trend of massive display smartphones just might be the tech equivalent of oversized SUVs. Yesterday it was Zack Morris with his brick sized phone, today might be Justin Bieber with a huge smartphone strapped to his face. The dead Dell Streak's 5" screen pushed the limits and most Android phone makers have throttled back to the 4.x" range, although Apple seems content on sitting 3.5" per Mr. Jobs' wishes. So how far can we go? And do we all agree that this might be getting ridiculous?

Walking, talking robots (androids, you could say) with our heads down buried in our devices, unaware of everything going on around us save the new virtual environment that is smartphones and tablets.

"Bigger is better", so the motto goes. And while in Texas that might be true of pickup trucks, guns, ranches, and steaks, it's not necessarily so with smartphones. Here's our take on why bigger isn't necessarily better.

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Battery Life
The number one drain on your cell phone's battery is its screen, which is why no matter how brilliant our screens are marketed at we've always got them at half brightness - to preserve previous battery life. Sure, batteries are always improving, but we keep throwing new things into our phones to drag battery life back down - bigger screens, GPS, accelerometers, extra antennas, etc., etc.

Notice the new iPhone 4S didn't really improve on battery life? So while a bigger screen might be nice and pretty, consider that your battery life is going to take a hit for it, and that's just plain ugly when you're battery is flashing for a recharge mid-day.

Is That A Phone In Your Pocket Or Are You Just Happy To See Me?

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Sure, phones are getting thinner and thinner as technological advances allow us to shrink microchips further and further. But if you're going to have a big screen, you're going to have a big phone. Tight jeans and pockets are one of the top reasons cellphones break (along with drops and water damage), but is that really the phone's fault? It's a computer with a monitor that we're shoving into our pockets, which weren't exactly made to fit. We all know how everyone feels about belt clip cell phone holsters, so we won't go there. Additionally consider the weight, with our phone, keys, wallet, change, and other doodads stuffed into our pockets - its no surprise our belts are struggling to keep our pants up. Those hoodlums you see with their pants around their butts might just be geeks with big smartphones.

Big Phone In Small Hand
According to the ever-reliable Wikipedia, the average length of an adult male's hand is 189mm while that of a female hand is 172mm. Approximately average the two and you've got a 7" hand span. If your fingers are roughly half this average (we're going ultra-scientific with this one), consider your fingers will barely be able to wrap themselves around the iPhone, even at with its modest 3.5" screen size. Although the Galaxy Nexus was a lot of fun to play with, one of the biggest reasons we never went to an Android phone was that our hands couldn't fit around it.

Fragmentation
Consider Apple with their iPhone's 3.5" screen size: by staying with the same form factor over five generations, iOS application developers have been able to design apps referencing a consistent layout and user experience for almost half a decade. Although the iPhone 4 and 4s have a resolution of 640x960, the older models were 320x480, which scale perfectly (in terms of proportions, if not quality). Android phones have been flaunting huge screen sizes, but developers are forced to deal with multiple screen sizes and resolutions across many different models. Fragmentation has been a big problem for Android, and the screen size is a small, yet notable contributor to the issue for developers and user alike.

MORE SMARTPHONES AND COMMENTARY ON APARTMENT THERAPY:
Stupid Smartphones: Awesome or Soul Draining?
What To Do With Your Old iPhone? (Or Other Smartphone)
I'm Sorry Dave, I Can't Do That: Siri, The Next Auto Correct

(Images: Jason Yang, Ladyann/Shutterstock, RTimages/Shutterstock)

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