Arrested development: have phone screens stopped growing?

Samsung Galaxy S III

Samsung Galaxy S III

Dimensions

5.38 x 2.78 x 0.34 inches

136.6 x 70.6 x 8.6 mm

Weight

4.69 oz (133 g)

Samsung Galaxy S4

Samsung Galaxy S4

Dimensions

5.38 x 2.75 x 0.31 inches

136.6 x 69.8 x 7.9 mm

Weight

4.59 oz (130 g)

Samsung Galaxy S5

Samsung Galaxy S5

Dimensions

5.59 x 2.85 x 0.32 inches

142 x 72.5 x 8.1 mm

Weight

5.11 oz (145 g)

Samsung Galaxy S6

Samsung Galaxy S6

Dimensions

5.65 x 2.78 x 0.27 inches

143.4 x 70.5 x 6.8 mm

Weight

4.87 oz (138 g)

Samsung Galaxy S III

Samsung Galaxy S III

Dimensions

5.38 x 2.78 x 0.34 inches

136.6 x 70.6 x 8.6 mm

Weight

4.69 oz (133 g)

Samsung Galaxy S4

Samsung Galaxy S4

Dimensions

5.38 x 2.75 x 0.31 inches

136.6 x 69.8 x 7.9 mm

Weight

4.59 oz (130 g)

Samsung Galaxy S5

Samsung Galaxy S5

Dimensions

5.59 x 2.85 x 0.32 inches

142 x 72.5 x 8.1 mm

Weight

5.11 oz (145 g)

Samsung Galaxy S6

Samsung Galaxy S6

Dimensions

5.65 x 2.78 x 0.27 inches

143.4 x 70.5 x 6.8 mm

Weight

4.87 oz (138 g)

To see the phones in real size or compare them with other models, visit our Visual Phone Size Comparison page


It used to be the law of the land - every year since the original iPhone's inception, smartphone displays grew bigger and bigger. Even Apple's ultraorthodox way with screen diagonals saw the iPhone grow from a paltry 3.5" display to the 4.7-incher we have now, and even the 5.5" 6 Plus phablet. The ever-expanding phone display trend undoubtedly had its origins in emerging markets, where the phone is often the primary window to the digital world. 

Users in Asia, for instance, are often hooked on massive online games and media consumption that requires bigger and bigger displays, and, given that there's a ton of smartphone manufacturers from that part of the globe, they happily delivered. The research firm Jana asked users in nine such markets last year about their screen size preferences, and the results were overwhelmingly tilted towards the 5"+ category.

Arrested development: have phone screens stopped growing?

We recently made an infographic which visualizes the sea change in screen size preferences of our readers over the last few years, based on our own poll results. In 2011, when we first polled you on the topic, our most daring readers were pushing the envelope at the giant for its time 4.3" panel of the Galaxy S II, for instance. By 2014, those preferences grew towards the 5" stretch, while back in the spring of this year you stated that screens 5"-5.5" are the perfect tradeoff between portability and viewing experience, while the 4-4.5" category that was all the rage in 2011, got only 6% of the votes in 2015. Here's where we stand now in terms of screen size preferences:

Arrested development: have phone screens stopped growing?

Arrested Development


We've grown accustomed to the ever-growing screens of our smartphones, but here's the most interesting part - phone screens just stopped growing this year. Yep, it is not only HTC, Samsung, Sony or LG from the brand-name boys that released flagships with the same screen sizes as last year for the first time, but also the Chinese warriors stopped pursuing larger screen size relentlessly, seemingly stopping at about the 5.5" mark. 

Looking at the chart below that maps the change in flagship screen sizes each consecutive year, starting with 2011, we can see that (with the exception of Apple, which is catching up with a big leap and, to some extent, Asus) the relentless diagonal growth has reached a plateau. When we think about it, the Galaxy S5 and S6 both have 5.1" displays, the One M8 and One M9 go with 5-inchers, LG G3 and G4 with 5.5" screens, and Xperia Z2 and Z3/Z4 all come with 5.2" screens. Even the ever-expanding Huawei went from 5" on the P7 to only 5.2" on the P8. Hardly a coincidence, but an emerging trend, it seems. 

Arrested development: have phone screens stopped growing?

Conclusion


Have phone screens finally stopped growing? It certainly looks like screen size stretching has reached a plateau this year for the first time, with all major manufacturers leaving their flagship phone sizes where they are, while competing on screen resolution and other specs instead. There is a physical limit to what your palm, pocket, or purse can bear, and it seems that with the proliferation of 5.5-inchers in both the midrange and flagship categories, we have hit that mark, for better or worse. 

What do you think, are you happy that phone displays aren't growing anymore, or do you think we can squeeze a bit more by working on the screen-to-body ratios, and only then call it a day?

reference: Jana (1), Mobiltelefon.ru (2)

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51 Comments

1. sgodsell

Posts: 6881; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

Size is one thing, resolution is another. This is where some OEMS could up there game on the screen resolution. One OEM stands out from everyone else is Apple. Considering they still offer a mid to low resolution display at a high price.

7. bodzio1809

Posts: 407; Member since: Aug 28, 2013

I preffer good enough resolution. Why you want to loose battery life and performance for a little difference in screen sharpness? I gave my old S3 with pentile matrix 720p to my father and get S5 year ago. Even now when i look at S3 screen from normal viewing distance is perfectly sharp. Only when I am "looking for pixels" I can see not perfect edges. Of course there is difference between S3 and S5 screens, but until you won't look for it you won't notce it. Also look at Z3C battery life. OP. That's why in my opinion 720p is good enough up to 5', 1080p up to ~7' and later QHD is not so bad. And for that I like Sony and Apple. You can tell that bigger res is better for VR. Don't you think that VR should use separate screens with even higher resolution?

9. Commentator

Posts: 3722; Member since: Aug 16, 2011

I know everyone has different eyesight. My eyesight isn't perfect, but not terrible either, and I definitely notice a difference between the 4.7 inch iPhone 6 resolution and a 5 inch 1080p one. It is especially clear to me in the small text in the system bar at the top. The display quality is great, but I hope Apple bumps their resolution up to 1080p on their mid-sized devices in the future, starting with the 7.

21. bodzio1809

Posts: 407; Member since: Aug 28, 2013

I can too notice difference in text from normal viewing distance, but you need to decide whether difference in sharpness is worth loosing some performance and battery life. For me it's not.

15. iushnt

Posts: 3061; Member since: Feb 06, 2013

What's opposite with Apple is that they have worse battery life with lower resolution screen and so called optimized software for lower hardware..

22. bodzio1809

Posts: 407; Member since: Aug 28, 2013

iPhone battery life is low because of small battery. Also you need to consider that Amoled screens are more power efficent even on higher resolutions. And iPhone 6+ with not so bad battery capacity is procesing higher resolution that it's displaying. So small battery means low battery life even with small resolution.

31. jalebi2000

Posts: 181; Member since: Mar 01, 2015

IPhone 6 plus battery size is 2915 mah. It is big sized battery. You still have to admit that it's silly how a note 5's 3000mah battery lasts around 3 hours more than a iPhone 6 plus

37. bodzio1809

Posts: 407; Member since: Aug 28, 2013

I agree, but like I wrote before the reason could be also procesing higher resolution. In addition you should comparing iPhone 6 plus battery life with other devices with IPS displays. Now you just can't beat Amoled displays :-)

17. Wiencon

Posts: 2278; Member since: Aug 06, 2014

Funniest thing is: nobody uses VR and yet every resolution fanatic brings this argument to discussion. You've got perfect point, I have never looked at iPhone and thought that its screen is not sharp. My 4S has 326ppi, it's perfect, remember how HTC M7 had 468ppi? Everyone thought it was crazy, but the truth is even 720p would do perfect job on 4.7 screen. That were I again agree with You, Apple doesn't go for highest resolutions because it doesn't make sense. They could work on their battery life though... Pozdro :D

23. bodzio1809

Posts: 407; Member since: Aug 28, 2013

And even S6 resolution is too small for perfectly sharp VR. So why most people have to suffer because of some people using VR? :D Yeah battery life (mostly capacity) should be improved in smaller iPhone. For me even fullHD on S5 was too much. I told myself that I won't buy device with so high resolution because OEMs will notice that people like big numbers and make even higher resolutions and as we can see people indeed love numbers and are getting better vision every year :D Również pozdrawiam :D

50. Taters

Posts: 6474; Member since: Jan 28, 2013

Ah the itard apologists. FHD and QHD is definitely not overkill and performance is plenty enough to run them smoothly with great battery life. Would you tards honestly rather manufacturers charge you the same price or more every year without improving the resolution? You would be paying the same price for 720p display every year and it would cost them less and less every year until the point where 720p displays are free for Apple and they charge you 20k prices for it. I'd rather have the 20k display and actually have something for the shiny new powerhouse SOC to do. Because as technology advances, the newer SOC's and batteries won't even break a sweat pushin 720p displays. Might as well have them working instead of lounging around playing with a 720p display like a cat plays with a mouse. Also might as well have the manufactures earn their money by advancing these displays rather than them ripping us off by charging us 2016 prices for a 2011 resolution.

52. bodzio1809

Posts: 407; Member since: Aug 28, 2013

And Samsung fanboy again. Before you call me itard again look at history of my devices. In my opinion your thinking is stupid. You want to loose performance and battery life just for numbers. You are example of number lover. Even if soc is powerfull enough to run QHD res it will give much better battery life and performance with full HD res. So why you want to loose this for a little difference in sharpness and bigger number? Because manufacturer will pay more for component? Lol

2. jellmoo

Posts: 2533; Member since: Oct 31, 2011

I think that device size at this point is a more interesting item to note than simply screen size. Compare the Moto X Play, the OnePlus 2 and the iPhone 6 Plus. All have the same screen size, but there's a massive difference in device size. Or compare the Note 5 to the Lumia 640XL. Same size screen, pretty stark difference in device size. More than screen size, I think that screen to body ratio is going to be the more important benchmark.

11. dorianb

Posts: 617; Member since: Oct 24, 2012

THIS RIGHT HERE!!! I have an Xperia T2 Ultra with a 6inch screen and its smaller than my wife's iPhone 6 Plus with a 5.5inch screen. That's 0.5inch of viewable screen in a smaller chassis! Now on the resolution end I came down to 720p from my Droid DNA which was 1080p. After a week I didn't notice the difference in resolution, but once I fire up the old DNA every now & again (use it as an MP3 player for jogs) I shake my head at the beauty of it. Then I remember the horrible battery life. I think it's all about balance at this point. With advancements in battery technology, build quality, & OS optimization having a 5inch or more phone isn't the headache it once was. Still I don't see conventional phones reaching 7inches. I know they make them, but I don't see Samsung, LG, Sony, or Apple investing in those sizes. I think 6.25 to 6.3inches might be the absolute limit they will try to commercially push.

35. TyrionLannister unregistered

Due to the on-screen buttons, the real difference is close to 0.2 inches of extra screen size.

3. phonehome

Posts: 812; Member since: Dec 19, 2014

My Galaxy S5 is somewhat unusable with one hand (though I will admit mine are rather small). How big do phones really have to go? Now please get back to us when there is a phone that can be folded into the size of a credit card, but is 10 inches in expanded form.

40. UglyFrank

Posts: 2191; Member since: Jan 23, 2014

The funny is that is something Samsung has been working on for years

41. UglyFrank

Posts: 2191; Member since: Jan 23, 2014

*the funny thing is

4. bodzio1809

Posts: 407; Member since: Aug 28, 2013

Now is time for resolution to stop growing :-)

47. coldspring22

Posts: 349; Member since: Feb 28, 2015

I can't believe people can actually see above 500 ppi. Maybe some people can, but benefit is fast diminishing.

48. bodzio1809

Posts: 407; Member since: Aug 28, 2013

Maybe some people can notice a little difference in sharpness, but it's definetly not worth loosing battery life and performance.

5. electrophage

Posts: 73; Member since: Jun 17, 2011

Unfortunately, due to the endless whining of 30 something reviewers who wear nothing but jeans and tee shirts that wont accommodate anything much over five inches in their skinny pockets, the manufacturers have seemingly frozen screen size at 5.5-5.7 inches. Its a great shame

8. itsjustJOH

Posts: 232; Member since: Oct 18, 2012

It's okay to make the screen larger, just don't change the category of a "mini" phone but put a 5" screen on it. Looking your way, LG.

6. carlemillward unregistered

Sharp

10. almostdone

Posts: 425; Member since: Sep 25, 2012

I think once you go 6"and over the phone dimensions becomes a little too big regardless what the body to screen ratio is and we go into the niche market. We still want phones to at least fit in our pockets comfortably. I'm not surprised there are less choice for 6"+ as manufacturers realise the sales are not great so focus more of their efforts between 4.5"-5.99". We could reach a screen size of about 5.99" if the body to screen ratio gets even better.

12. Cheezwiz

Posts: 500; Member since: Dec 29, 2014

phones haven't stopped growing, but human hands, for the most part, have.

13. BobbyBustєr

Posts: 11; Member since: Aug 27, 2015

5.5" is the sweet spot!

14. ericnichols1999

Posts: 53; Member since: Apr 21, 2014

I'm not shocked you think the iPhone has the perfect screen size. If Apple released a 7 incher you would say it was the sweet spot

29. mixedfish

Posts: 1544; Member since: Nov 17, 2013

That's how cheap his personality is, it's dictated by a company.

16. lallolu

Posts: 731; Member since: Sep 18, 2012

5.0 - 5.2" is the sweet spot.

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