Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

‘Small’ Phones Aren’t

Dan Seifert, the Verge:

It’s been a bad year for small phone lovers. It’s no secret that the average size of new smartphones has increased dramatically over the past few years. But this year it feels like the idea of a small phone you’d actually want to use as a primary device (read: not whatever that Palm phone was trying to be a couple years back) is truly dead and gone.

It’s hilarious in hindsight to go back to reviews of the first Samsung Galaxy Note, which came with a “humungous” 5.3-inch display. Because of its chunky bezels, the phone was bigger than its display size would suggest, but it’s similar in length, depth, and weight to an iPhone 11, and only a little wider. This was a time when people used the word “phablet”, and when reviewers questioned if there was any reason to buy an iPad because these phones were just so gosh darn big. How quaint.

But, after reading this piece, I’m not sure why Seifert picks this as the year the truly small smartphone became extinct. He points out that Apple stopped selling its last four-inch iPhone in 2018, and new Android phones have been even larger for years.

TC Sottek:

[The] refusal of smartphone makers to acknowledge a huge part of the population who prefer smaller phones is just wild. [We] make pants in 80,000 sizes but no you can only have the XL phone or the XXL phone.

Even after carrying it every day for the last two and a half years, I still find that my iPhone X feels uncomfortable in my pocket. I could use one hand to solidly grip both sides of the iPhone 5S I used to have, and I almost never dropped that phone. I have dropped the similarly-sized 6S and X more times than I can count. I can’t imagine using either of the bigger iPhone 11 models.

Seifert:

It’s easy to see why Apple went with the larger design for the new model: the company claims this size is the most popular iPhone ever released, and on a technical level, it’s easier to fit components into a larger frame than a smaller one.

Plus, Apple has years of experience with this basic form factor, going all the way back to the iPhone 6. In fact, if you cast your memory back to that time, you might recall that the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus were worldwide blockbusters because Apple was finally meeting demand for big phones. What was big in 2014 is now small in 2020.

This form factor has never been my favourite, but its longevity is a testament to the skill and taste of Apple’s industrial designers.