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When is big just too big?

Posted: , by John V.

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When is big just too big?

Remember when yesterday’s 3.2” resistive touchscreens were considered to be really pushing the envelope in terms of screen size on phones? Sure our perception might have conformed over time, much like with most things in general, but at what size do touchscreens need to be in order to be classified as too big? Having been playing with the Samsung Infuse 4G for quite some time now, we were initially fascinated by its gargantuan 4.5” Super AMOLED Plus display, and rightfully so, one can overlook its sheer size because of its illustrious color production and vivid clarity. However, that one undeniable thought comes circling around once again as we continue to use the handset – as we hold onto it tightly in our hands as the tips of our finger begin to caress its display.

Samsung Infuse 4G
Dell Streak

Samsung Infuse 4G

Dell Streak

Thinking back to the past again, we remember checking out the original Dell Streak last summer with its 5” display – despite it being categorized as a mini tablet. Without a doubt, we can imagine that if smartphone manufacturers continue the trend to utilize bigger and bigger screens, we'll eventually end up with something like the Dell Streak. While undoubtedly attractive to have such great screen real estate, its drawbacks are quickly evident after some usage - we found it mandatory to wield it with two hands in order to operate it normally; not to mention the fact that it gets increasingly more difficult to find a comfortable place to keep such a device.

Difficulties with screen sizes too large

Still, there are compromises to make when manufacturing handsets with screen sizes so large. Specifically, we find it extremely difficult to even operate handsets with a single hand – thus complicating simple functions like making selections.  Furthermore, we’re somewhat limited in capacity with things like scrolling, since your thumb is needed to encompass such a huge amount of space. Yet, that very same problem arises when you’re basically grasping the phone from the bottom portion of the handset – meaning, you’ll need to stretch your thumb out to hit or press something towards the top portion of the display. In all honesty, that’s exactly why it’s almost imperative to operate these handsets with two hands as opposed to one.

Generally, we still find WVGA (480 x 800) resolution in use by most high-end handsets, with a scattered few deciding to size up with qHD and above resolutions, but with the Samsung Infuse 4G, it’s evident that text starts getting on the fuzzy side with 4”+ sizes. Obviously, pinch zooming (where available) will quickly remedy that problem, but it’s still noticeable that text isn’t as sharp looking versus other handsets with displays less than 4 inches in size. Since it’s relatively cheaper to utilize WVGA displays more than anything, that’s probably why we continue to see few devices deciding to step it up in terms of resolution. Normally, the notion of having to pay more with higher quality displays will undoubtedly detract people from picking it up, but then again, it’s only a matter of time before we witness plummeting prices in terms of the cost associated to producing higher resolution displays.

Then again, they still have their benefits

Despite those disadvantages, there are of course some others that characteristically stand out to enhance the overall experience. First and foremost, we absolutely adore the extra space when it comes down to things like watching high-definition videos or playing games. With the former, there’s nothing like giving your eyes enough display real estate to adequately enjoy all the action on screen. C’mon, it’s seriously easier on the eyes kicking back while watching something on a 4.5” display, well, at least it won’t cause too much strain on your vision. Moreover, when it comes to gaming, there are some titles out there that operate with on-screen virtual controls. Of course, the extra space allows your thumbs to press those on-screen controls more accurately, and, makes the experience a bit more entertaining on the whole.

Apple iPhone 4

Apple iPhone 4

Below the 4” category

On the other end of the spectrum, we find high caliber handsets employing displays below 4-inches in size – like 3.5”, 3.7”, and 3.9” displays. And when you factor in the WVGA resolution that we’re accustomed to seeing most of the time, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out the high pixel density count they’re able to dish up – enabling them to display some crisp and defined looking details. At the same time, one-handed operation is tastefully acceptable since handsets are more compact and easier to grasp.  However, the benefits we find with larger displays end up being the total opposite with ones under the 4” category. In fact, the smaller size does make it more difficult to play games, which is something we come across with the iPhone 4. Its 3.5” IPS display is indeed sharp looking, but when we attempt to play fighting games like Street Fighter, relying on the virtual controls, it’s rather difficult to make out the action.

Finally, maybe a sweet spot?

Explaining the pros and cons of the two sides, that begs us to visit the inevitable size of 4-inches on the dot, which appears to be possibly the sweet spot for just about any hand size. Using devices like the Motorola ATRIX 4G, HTC DROID Incredible 2, and original Samsung Galaxy S, sheer size and usability aren’t things that come to be distractions with those handsets. Instead, it does the total opposite as it presents us with the perfect balance in functionality, without barely coming off as being unwieldy.

Then again, we find handsets like the HTC EVO 4G and Motorola DROID X2 that are slightly higher in screen size at 4.3-inches. As much as it might seem insignificant, we still come across some of the issues we find with those handsets with larger displays.

Motorola ATRIX 4G
HTC DROID Incredible 2
Samsung Galaxy S

Motorola ATRIX 4G

HTC DROID Incredible 2

Samsung Galaxy S

We’re not saying that we don’t like the Samsung Infuse 4G’s larger than average 4.5” Super AMOLED Plus display, but rather, it’s just simply too much screen to accommodate the average persons’ hands. In the end, we still prefer smartphones donning 4” displays more than anything – even more when we find them relatively easier to handle in general.  As we’ve seen though, anything larger than 5-inches would definitely qualify as intruding on the tablet space – where it would better fit in with the crowd.

Want to voice your opinion? Come vote in our poll and let the world know what is the perfect smartphone display size for you!

  • Options

posted on 26 May 2011, 09:16 9

1. JeffdaBeat (unregistered)

The perfect size screen for a phone in my opinion is 4". I remember using the Samsung Galaxy S for the first time and it was just the perfect fit in my hand. Putting it in side my pocket was also nice. I could still feel it, but it wasn't like carrying around a brick. I think the upper limit of what is comfortable would be the HTC Inspire at 4.3". That's when I felt like I was kind of stretching to keep the phone in my hand. But because it was so thin, it wasn't too bad in the pocket. Anything larger, I wouldn't be down for. I still want my smartphone to be mobile and I remember how much of a pain it was carrying around the HTC Mogul and HTC Touch Pro.

posted on 26 May 2011, 09:27 1

3. protozeloz (Posts: 5396; Member since: 16 Sep 2010)

agreed the perfect screen size to me is between 4'' and 4.3'' depending on how think the phone is

posted on 26 May 2011, 09:28

4. protozeloz (Posts: 5396; Member since: 16 Sep 2010)


edit: edit button now appears on some post :D now editing the main post please

posted on 26 May 2011, 17:55 6

39. AndroidTroll (Posts: 359; Member since: 05 Mar 2011)

5" is perfect for me because I have big hands (and a big dick btw). Unfortunately, there aren't many good devices at this size so I go with HTC ftw at 4.3"

posted on 27 May 2011, 17:20 1

55. Lucas777 (Posts: 2137; Member since: 06 Jan 2011)

ohh ur cool

posted on 26 May 2011, 18:46

40. obnoxious9162775 (Posts: 32; Member since: 25 Apr 2011)

I agree as well. I own the Atrix 4g and the 4 in screen size is perfect. Movies look amazing, browsing the web works great and plenty of space on the screen for gaming. I held the Infuse at the ATT store, it is an amazing piece of equipment, but for a guy that is only 5 foot 7, my hands are not that large so i could probably stretch 4.3 but that is still pushing it. So the big picture that i see the manufacturers are trying to create is that there is a phone out there for everyone. Big hands, little hands, midget hands or whatever. Either way, I can still appreciate the variety.

posted on 26 May 2011, 09:24

2. aries.phills (Posts: 140; Member since: 17 May 2011)

I like 'galaxy s II', even with its huge screen. Ocos, some peeps will definitely hate 4'' plus phones. It all boils down to choice and purpose.

posted on 26 May 2011, 16:52

37. cheetah2k (Posts: 1582; Member since: 16 Jan 2011)

4" is the sweet spot - especially in the form factor of my Moto Atrix. I also have the SGSII and while I'm magnetically attracted to that brilliant 4.3" SAMOLED+, its just not the size phone I take out drinking beers with the boys.

posted on 26 May 2011, 09:41

5. Deep Pockets (unregistered)

I still think 3.7 does the trick. A super high end phone with a 3.7 will give all you 4" and 4+" phone owners pocket envy!

If I am at home or in the office I have a PC or Tablet. If I am on the road I like to travel light and only need to be able to "check" things like email and wikipedia or imdb etc...

3.7 with a great camera and great screen IS the answer.

posted on 26 May 2011, 18:49 2

41. obnoxious9162775 (Posts: 32; Member since: 25 Apr 2011)

I disagree, i dress baggy straight up gangsta style, so my pockets could hold a tablet if i wanted to. Might be a tight fit, but i would get that fucker in there and walk around with a wierd bulge looking like I am happy to see ya....... LOL

posted on 26 May 2011, 09:43 2

6. bubba78 (Posts: 57; Member since: 23 May 2011)

Perfect size phone screen for me is 4" - 4.3". I have a thunderbolt now and I love the screen size, but wish it had better resolution and daytime visibility. If it is sunny out you can forget it. I tried using an iPhone after having my TB and even though I didn't have trouble seeing it outside on a sunny day and the resolution was better on the iPhone, the screen was way to small. I missed my TB, so I went back to using the TB.

posted on 26 May 2011, 09:52

7. hey oh :) (unregistered)

I have a desire hd. I gotta say that right now I'm at both hands. I hate it. But it makes up whenever I see how awesome its screen is, though SLCD. I prefer one that has 4".

posted on 26 May 2011, 09:55 1

8. Kartiel (unregistered)

Thats What She SAid...

posted on 26 May 2011, 10:29 1

10. seeds (Posts: 48; Member since: 13 Apr 2011)

3.7'' - 4.0'' is the best size for me i think
i have Desire, Desire S, Galaxy S (Sold) and Incre S
wonderfull size & nice color with sharpnes
below 3.7" is too small, maybe just for call only
3.5" is to economic,

posted on 26 May 2011, 10:40

11. ALI (unregistered)

although im not a big fan of htc, i think the thunderbolt is the perfect size phone. the thing is, big screen's is always a plus the problem is the extra trimming surrounding it.

posted on 26 May 2011, 10:54 1

12. devonblue4u (Posts: 68; Member since: 12 Apr 2011)

If they can figure a way of trimming the wasted real estate (Dell Streak), 5" displays would be viable in a smaller form factor. We have 2 I9000M SGS's (4"), and constantly zooming and re-orienting the web pages is quite annoying. I don't consider the Galaxy's size a problem, as I can one hand the phone easily and I can't palm a basketball. I really woulf like to see what Asus has up it's sleeve with it's new phone solution. The came up aces with the Transformer Tablet, let's see if this is the same game changer in the phone market.

posted on 26 May 2011, 10:57

13. forsaken77 (unregistered)

Remember back in the day when phone manufacturers were making phones as small as possible? I remember a motorola phone that was about 3.5" total... the whole phone!!! You had to dial with your nail cause the buttons were sooo small. Now they have the mentality that bigger is better, which isn't true. I think the overall concensus would be that 4" is the perfect size. Right now I have the Galaxy S Captivate on 2.2 and it's great. The only way to influence these companies would be to not buy the bigger phones, then they won't make them. Shame the Galaxy 2 is 4.3" :(

posted on 26 May 2011, 10:59

14. vette21man (Posts: 351; Member since: 06 Apr 2011)

Have to take aspect ratio into consideration, too. It was interesting viewing an iPhone 4 and Atrix 4G side by side. The 16:9 Atrix 4" display was the same width as the 3:2 iPhone 3.5" display, obviously the Atrix being a bit taller. I think a 4.2" 16:9 would be the sweet spot, which would take the Atrix edge to edge.

posted on 26 May 2011, 11:03 3

15. vette21man (Posts: 351; Member since: 06 Apr 2011)

I don't think the on-screen controls argument is valid. On-screen controls in a real-time game are atrocious on any touch-screen phone. Genres like Fighting games need a real controller with tactile buttons and just don't belong on touch-screen phones.

posted on 26 May 2011, 11:11

16. dara (unregistered)

What about 4.2 screen of SE Arc?
And 4.3 incher of sgs II?
They are both praised for their ease of use due to aspect ratio and slim/lightweight phone frames they are incorporated with.

posted on 26 May 2011, 11:12 1

17. PimpStrong (unregistered)

I've been dying for a 4.3 but for me 4.5 is perfect. I use my phone for apps, web browsing mainly, email, youtube/vevo, picture viewing, and text so that much real estate will amazing. I can't imaging ANY of those features being better on a 3.7 or 4" screen.

I barely even make phone calls on my phone so for me its more like having a mini entertainment tablet with me at all times. The Infuse 4G may have a big screen but it is by no means a "big phone".

posted on 26 May 2011, 23:49 1

45. america123jeff (Posts: 36; Member since: 14 Apr 2011)

what do you mean its not a big phone? Its one of the biggest phones out there! It is a big phone which is what makes it so awesome. I cant wait to get the SGS II. I wish it had a 4.5 inch screen with qHD resolution but 4.3 super amoled+ is great too

posted on 26 May 2011, 11:20 2

18. steelman (unregistered)

I just got an HP Veer. It runs webOS. its H+ speeds are awesome and its battery life lasts me 2 days. all these new bricks die in about 4 hours.

Small is the new big!

posted on 26 May 2011, 11:21 1

19. steelman (unregistered)

btw the veer size is 2.5 inches.

posted on 26 May 2011, 11:44

20. bossmt_2 (Posts: 449; Member since: 13 Oct 2009)

I think they should keep making phones in all screen sizes myself. I'm a big guy 6'4 with hands to match, and for my Droid X fits perfectly into my hand. The perfect reason why they make phones in varying sizes, cause for someone like me a bigger screen is really nice, things like clicking and typing are easier on a bigger screen. Now for me I wouldn't get a streak 5, I got one as part of the Dell promo and sold it, but it was one of those things were the phone was too big for me to use with one hand comfortably. For me 4.3 is about the most perfect size.

posted on 26 May 2011, 12:03 2

21. p0rkguy (Posts: 685; Member since: 23 Nov 2010)

After having my EVO for over 10 months and holding an iPhone 4 again, I'm really dissapointed in 3.7". Whenever I use an iPhone I am constantly going "wtf?". It's just too weird to go back to a smaller screen once you've experienced a bigger screen.

posted on 26 May 2011, 14:56

30. 530gemini (Posts: 2198; Member since: 09 Sep 2010)

That's exactly why your ex girlfriend does not want to go back to you :)

I guess size does matter after all :)

posted on 27 May 2011, 07:18

52. protozeloz (Posts: 5396; Member since: 16 Sep 2010)

well she decided his 10" where too much much for her and decided to go after your 3.7"

dont worry she will be back where she belongs :)

posted on 26 May 2011, 23:52

46. america123jeff (Posts: 36; Member since: 14 Apr 2011)

wait, i thought the iPhone 4 had a 3.5" screen... I may be wrong though

posted on 26 May 2011, 13:07 1

25. LXH (unregistered)

perfect phone screen for me is 3.2'' . I always love 3.2''. I tried 3.5'' (Iphone 2 from my brother and Iphone 4 from my friend) and 4.0 (Samsung Galaxy S from my friend) a lot but . . . I think they're too big for me. :D

I'm going to buy a tablet :D 8.9 is my choice :D

cheer and peace !

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