Are Android phones too big?

Today in Open Source: Do we need smaller Android phones? Plus: Companies plan to switch to Linux from Windows XP, and Microsoft whines about UK switch to open source software

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When is a phone too large?

Yesterday I ran into a very interesting Ars Technica article from last August that questioned the virtues of larger phones.

You don’t have to look too hard at the slate of new smartphones to see Android’s “bigger is better” ethos. While iPhones have remained resolutely conservatively sized, Android manufacturers continue to push the limits with phones like the 5.5-inch LG Optimus G Pro or the 6.3-inch Samsung Galaxy Mega.

There are some newer phones that do have sub-5-inch screens, fitting the “mini” trend. But these phones also have diminished internals. If you want the latest and best inside, a large outside is unavoidable.

More at Ars Technica
Android Phones Too Large?
Image credit: Ars Technica

I've got an iPhone 5 right now so I have to admit that I was not aware of the lack of choice for smaller Android phones. But the article raises some very good points about the trend of larger and larger phones. When does a phone just get too darned big?

For me the iPhone 5 is pretty much the perfect width, I can easily hold it in one hand while reading or doing something else. I must admit that the height of it sometimes makes it harder for me to reach into the top or bottom corners though. But overall I can use it pretty well with one hand.

I have considered switching to Android a number of times, particularly given Apple's poor icon design choices in iOS 7. But I don't think I could use some of the larger Android phones very well. I have nothing against them, but I don't think they would work well for my use case.

Let me give you a funny example of using my iPhone one-handed. I have two parrots that often like to join me on the couch when I watch TV. They cannot be allowed near each other as one of them detests the other one and will attack her if she gets too close to him. So I keep one on my arm while laying on my side, and the other one nestles in my hand.

bird-cuddle-while-holding-iphone.jpg

This leaves me with one hand to use my iPhone if I need it for something. There's no way with two birds I can even begin to use two hands. Ha. Now I recognize that this use case is...er...unique and that there probably aren't a lot of people out there trying to balance two parrots and a phone. But it does underscore the importance for some of us of one-handed phone use.

I also like to read ebooks on my phone, and it's quite comfortable to hold the iPhone 5 with one hand while reading. It's very light and I can easily turn the pages with my thumb. I'm not so sure it would work as well if the phone was wider, I might not be able to easily wrap my hand around it.

Don't get me wrong, the iPhone 5 isn't perfect either. The current state of visual design in iOS 7 is pretty bad in some ways, and I can understand why somebody would pick Android instead of iOS for that reason. But the size of the iPhone 5 itself makes it work well for me in a physical sense, and I'd need an Android phone that could do the same.

I know there are some smaller Android phones out there, but they seem to lag behind their larger counterparts in terms of power and functionality sometimes. This is disappointing since a user really shouldn't have to give up hardware specs just to have a smaller screen. Hopefully the Android mini phones will catch up to their larger counterparts eventually, so I may yet make the jump to Android if they do.

I wonder if I'm just part of a tiny minority in liking smaller screens though, it seems like more and more people are getting giant-size phones. So perhaps that's why Android manufacturers are moving in that direction.

Have phones gotten too darn big? Or am I just a tiny screen phone luddite? Tell me in the comments below. I'm very interested in knowing if you prefer a larger or smaller phone.

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