Either my hand is getting smaller, or phones are getting bigger nowadays. It’s a trend that looks set to continue, with the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 rumoured to have a monster 5.5-inch screen, and the follow-up to HTC’s ginormous One X leaking today around the 5-inch mark.
So why is no one making a decent, powerful, but small Android phone?
Is bigger better?
It’s the nature of trends that they come and go, but the one for super-sizing mobiles has lasted a couple of years now. I remember a few years ago at Mobile World Congress, HTC, LG, and (then) Sony Ericsson all announced smaller versions of their mobiles, like shrunken-down ‘Mini Me’s to complement their bigger brothers.
Samsung has kept this up with the Samsung Galaxy Mini 2 – announced February just gone – but it’s far from high-end; a 3.3-inch screen is fine, but it launched with Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) when Honeycomb was over a year old. And a 3-megapixel camera? With a paltry of 4GB internal storage? Not exactly a top-tier handset, we think you’ll agree.
No; minuscule mobiles are aimed at pay as you go deals nowadays. The closest you can come to a decent offering under 4-inches (bar the iPhone, which is about to be beefed up to 4-inches, according to rumours) is the HTC One V. And it’s not even that small, coming in at 3.7-inches. It looks like the original HTC Legend. It comes with Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich). Yet it only has a single-core processor clocked at 1GHz. That’s quite a missed open goal there by HTC.
What’s the point of going large?
Do you really need a 4-inch screen? Or 5-inch, for that matter? I mean what are you doing that needs that much screen space? Surely you’d be better off with a 7-inch tablet if you really want the extra room? I think watching a film on a phone is a bit of a pointless exercise, and I’m in pretty good company on that one.
And games? Well maybe they benefit from a larger screen, but I’d argue not all that much. As long as you’re not playing one of those first-person shooters with the controls on the screen, the iPhone handles pretty much any game just fine, and that screen’s just 3.5-inches. It hasn’t stopped the handset’s runaway success as a casual games device, as iTunes continues to eat into the console market. So the idea that gaming can only be done properly on the big screen is dead in the water.
And as for those first-person shooters with controls on-screen? They’re always going to be bad no matter how big the display. It’s just not intuitive.
Is a small Jelly Bean too much to ask?
What I want is an Android device around 3.5-3.7-inches with a processor that’s at least dual-core. Previously that may have been an issue, but with the slimness of today’s big phones, I’m sure any manufacturer worth its salt could pack flagship workings into a package around that size.
Android Jelly Bean is a perfect time to start, too. There’s no advantage whatsoever in using its two coolest features, Google Now and Google’s new and improved Voice Search, on a huge screen.
Think of the positives: battery life would be vastly improved, as big screens are notorious juice-sappers, so you wouldn’t have to recharge every single night. I’m using a phone with a 4-inch screen at the moment, and after a day out and about with fairly frequent usage, it sometimes won’t last until the evening. Which isn’t much good if you’re trying to meet up with someone.
You could also fit a smaller phone in the same pocket as your iPod Touch and not have to explain any unsightly bulges. I understand that, in big screens, Android manufacturers have spotted an obvious way to differentiate themselves from Apple and the iPhone, but that’s no reason to dumb down their smaller devices.
It seems that Android mobile makers are missing a trick on this one. Today’s high-end handsets look like they’ve been flattened by something heavy. I don’t need a screen over 4-inches, and I shouldn’t have to compensate on battery life and space in my pockets if I want a mobile with top-tier, market-leading specs.
Who’s with me?