How Big Can Screen Sizes Really Get?
By Kia Dargahi
Whether you buy a smartphone for its design, camera, software, or popularity, the screen will always find itself at the center of each handset. Display technology has advanced from what it was just six years ago; as I sit behind my desk comparing the T-Mobile G1 to the HTC one, I can truly say that manufacturers have come a long way. Screens have gotten bigger and bigger in mobile tech, the biggest surge coming in the form of tablets. Just as Apple has seemingly made 17-inch screens obsolete by removing them from the Apple Store, one must surely think that we’ve plateaued right? Well, not exactly.
With the release of the Xperia Z Ultra, Sony showed us the whopping 6.4 diagonal inches that smartphone screens can achieve. While this may sound more like a tablet than a phone, there’s still reason to place this monster of a screen in phablet territory; you can hold it in one hand. But then again, you can hold something like the iPad mini (7.9 diagonal inches) in one hand as well, but Apple clearly hasn’t made a phablet out of that. I’m not entirely convinced that smartphones will ever cross the 7-inch border; the market for such a device seems to be lacking. This doesn’t mean, however, that if such a phone came into existence, it would not have a role to fulfill in the tech world.
Year after year, studies show that mobile media becomes more popular and more widely used. Those who don’t keep up with the times (I’m looking at you, Blockbuster) will definitely fail to be profitable. This, then, must be a part of the reason why there’s such a demand for larger and larger screen sizes on smartphones; we like to keep ourselves busy looking at music videos, movies, TV shows, sports, the list goes on and on. Not only this, but also the fact that more productivity can be done on larger screens. The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 embodies this thought. With its multi-window feature, one can watch videos, surf the web or text while looking at the weather. And one feature the Note line brings to light: styluses.
Styluses usually come with larger-screen devices (5 inches seems to be the minimum). As the Galaxy Note line slowly but surely increases in size, one can’t help but think that it must stop somewhere. Some of the major handsets have clearly drawn the limit with stylus and screen sizes: Apple adamantly stuck at 4 inches (although reports claim the company might change its mind for the next iteration of the iPhone), Samsung stopped at 5.7, HTC at 5.9, and Nokia at 6.0. Interestingly enough, styluses don’t seem to come hand in hand with some of these devices; in fact, only Samsung and Lenovo manufacture smartphones with styluses. And let’s be real here, who owns a Lenovo smartphone?
It seems to me that styluses embody a thing of the past, a pen-like utensil that we used to use on our PDAs and some computers. This being said, without styluses, screens bigger than the dreaded 6-inch line just become too hard to use. This is partly why screen sizes won’t see the jump that they did from 2010 until now (4.3 inches was considered enormous back then!). It is quite possible that the Sony Xperia Z Ultra will remain the largest phablet handset that will ever release to the international market, and even then, how many people do you know that own one? (I only know of one person, and that already seems like one too many.) If I were a smartphone manufacturer, rather than competing in the screen-size race, I would take a step in Motorola’s direction by focusing on placing a screen in as small a chassis as possible (our pockets are only so wide and our hands only so large).
The plateau has become evident, and I think that it’s a turn for the better; R&D will be directed toward making displays sharper and in other features rather than just focusing on the size. iPhone users complain about the large screens of Android phones and, while some scoff at this accusation, others will concede that the iPhone is great to hold. I am more on the conceding side, but I believe that there is hope for the Google-coated manufacturers, and the Moto X symbolizes the first step. With a 4.7-inch screen, Motorola has made its flagship only marginally wider and taller than the iPhone 5S (onscreen buttons help to a great extent) and for that, we tip our hats to you, Motorola.