The Mobile World Congress is starting this Monday on February 27th 2012 and the rumor mill is spiting out new phones every day. Most manufacturers are going to announce quite a few new smartphones that will shape the phone landscape at least for the first half of 2012. And many of the phones probably will have large high resolution screens, following the Galaxy Nexus with it’s 4.65 inch screen. But is this trend really good for the people using the phones?
Looking back just two years to the introduction of the Nexus One with it’s 3.7 inch screen it was the first really great Android phone. Yes there was the G1 (Dream) and the Magic and even HTC Hero and Motorola Droid they all came before but the Nexus One really kicked things off. I still use my Nexus One and feel that it is a great capable phone that does everything that I need in a form factor that fits my hand nicely.
In 2011 Google brought out the 4inch Nexus S, which was the pure Android version of Samsungs wildly successful Galaxy S line. Had I not already owned the Nexus One I think I might have bought the Nexus S even though the build quality of the Nexus S didn’t even come close to the One, it felt plasticy and cheap. Nevertheless the 4inch form factor was great, it offered a slightly larger screen but it was still easy to use with one hand.
Mid 2011 Samsung introduced the Galaxy S II with a 4.3 inch screen and HTC introduced the Sensation also with a 4.3 inch screen. While the screen resolution of the S II remained the same at 480×800 the Sensation stepped up the game with a gorgeous 540×960 offering a real improvement over the previous 4inch generation. Samsungs entry well did not really offer any benefit the larger screen just meant the fonts and individual pixels were bigger. The 4.3 inch size was really starting to get big, and even though the Sensation and the S II are pretty similar to me the Sensation felt better in my hand, the proportions of height to width and thickness also agreed more with me than the ultra thin but wide S II
The end of 2011 Google announced its next Nexus device, the Galaxy Nexus with a stunning 720×1280 pixel screen raising the bar for pixel density to 316 ppi but at what price. The large resolution demanded a large screen a whopping 4.65 inches. As pretty as the phone might be especially with Android 4.0 the screen just doesn’t want to fit into my hand. My thumb can’t reach all corners of the screen anymore I either have to constantly re-position my hand or use the phone with two hands something that feels unnatural and awkward.
So what will 2012 have in store for us? If the Galaxy Note with 5 inches the LG Optimus Vu or the HTC One X with 4.7 inches are any indication it will be another year of big screened phones. And I am not so sure that people will continue to go for such large form factors. Especially if we have eInk E-Reders at 6 inch and tablets at 7 and 10 inches it would feel logical to have phones stay in the 3 to 4.3 inch category to stay portable and compact enough to use with one hand.
My hope for 2012 is that manufacturers realize that phones are already more than powerful enough and that bigger isn’t always better. If I could make a wish I would like to see a 4 or4.3 inch phone that has premium build quality and a 540×960 resolution. When I think back to the year 2007 when the iPhone was just announced I had a Samsung SGH-E590 a tiny 94 x 42 x 13.5 mm 65 g phone, it wasn’t a smartphone but it was the most compact and portable phone I had ever seen. Manufacturers should not forget that mobile phones, as smart as they might get, should be one thing first and that’s mobile. So hopefully we will see more variety in form factors and screen sizes this year, I miss being able to buy a phone for it’s form factor first and second for it’s OS Version or processor speed.