Mini, Ultra, oh my! Does (phone) size matter?

July 19, 2013
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    The-Friday-Debate aa

    We are all mobile geeks, here at Android Authority. We love everything with a power button. We like to comment the latest news and endlessly argue over which phone is better. On the Friday Debate, we pick a hot issue and proceed to discuss it. Join us!

    Evan Forester

    On this edition of the Friday Debate, we’re talking phone size! This past week we saw the review of the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini and are eagerly anticipating the release of the teeny HTC One. Personally, I found the Mini very refreshing with its easy form factor and liked how it reminded me of the days of smartphone past. So, we ponder on these miniaturized phones and also wonder if our phones are getting too big – like the Sony Xperia Z Ultra.

    Join us in the discussion, vote in our poll, and sound off in the comments!

    Robert Triggs

    I’m definitely in favour of the more the merrier argument, products like the Galaxy S4 and HTC One Minis cater to a significant demand in the smartphone market. Likewise, larger handsets like the Samsung Note and Xperia Z Ultra are perfect for those looking for a larger screen size.

    But rather than rehash that old argument, there’s another aspect of this emerging trend that I particularly like, and that’s much more sensible naming policies.

    I remember browsing my local phone store several years ago, trying to figure out the subtle differences between various HTC and Sony handsets, each with names that had no discernible link to the spec of the product. It wasn’t the easiest of shopping experiences.

    But, with tagging systems like Mini and Ultra, you know that you’re buying a slimmed down or beefed up version of the same product. It makes products instantly comparable, and that’s a big win for the less informed consumer. Samsung, for one, is notorious for having copious ranges, and although generational naming is quite obvious, even I’m not quite sure why the Ace exists when there’s the Galaxy Mini.

    But Samsung isn’t the worst culprit, there’s certainly still plenty of room left to slim down the naming process across the wider smartphone market. Especially at companies like Sony, where name selection, or should I call that letter selection, seems almost random at times.

    Nate Swanner

    We’d have to look at Samsung, and their myriad of screen size offerings, to get a strong base for this argument. They offer something at just about any screen size, and clearly do well from a sales standpoint. So, different screen sizes are definitely profitable for the manufacturer, and even if they’re a loss-leader, it strengthens the overall lineup.

    I feel that manufacturers produce mini or smaller versions of phones as a way of revitalizing the brand. It also seems like they’re cycling out of the device, and gearing up for another.

    As for larger devices, I do feel it’s a bit out of control. I like Sony’s effort to release the Xperia Z Ultra with that bluetooth device, because it shows a bit of humility on their part. They know we don’t want to hold a gigantic device up to our face to chat.

    I’m much more concerned with software at this point. The Moto X is interesting from a contextual perspective, not a hardware one. If that device were 5.5-inches, I’d still be as interested as I am at 4.7-inches, or whatever it will end up at.

    Kristofer Wouk

    Part of me wants to say there really isn’t anything to debate here. I mean is anyone really in favor of less choice?

    That said, the problem at this point is people are beginning to just assume that there are going to be a few versions of a phone. That’s fine, but if this is so commonplace, why stagger the release of the phones? Why not release, for example, the Galaxy S4, S4 Mini and S4 active all at the same time.

    The most likely culprit here is that companies are dividing their customer base into two sections: those who want the latest and greatest just so they can have the latest and greatest, and those who know exactly what they want and are willing to wait for it.

    Personally, I still say push them all out at once and let consumers decide from day one. After all, there is always Android Authority to help you make your decision.

    Joseph Hindy

    In my mind’s eye, the release of phones like the Note 2, the S4 Mini, and the HTC One Mini aren’t causing phone sizes to get out of hand. In fact, I’d go so far as to say they’re rectifying this problem. Phone sizes were already out of hand and the release of a “family” of phones, as it were, is actually putting a stop to all this.

    Here’s what I mean. Look at HTC last year. They released their flagship phone, the HTC One X. Unfortunately, the phone never showed up anywhere in the US except AT&T. To compensate, they released the smaller One S to T-Mobile, the EVO 4G LTE to Sprint, and the DNA to Verizon. All three out of the four devices had different screens sizes. I’m pretty sure the One X and the EVO LTE were the only two with similar specs.

    That was when the screen size problem was in full swing. Everyone was doing it that way. This year, though, it seems HTC and Samsung (and even Motorola to an extent, with the new Droid line up) have decided to release a family of phones to everyone instead of just tossing darts at a dartboard to see who gets what.

    Now everyone has the options to choose from the regular size, which is around 5 inches give or take, the smaller size which is around 4 to 4.3 inches, and a large, which is usually larger than 5.5″. This has taken the chaos and brought it to order. Instead of releasing a myriad of devices to a myriad of carriers, everyone is doing three (or fewer) devices and releasing it everywhere.

    So I don’t think they’re getting out of hand, but rather coming closer to being under control. In the next few years we’ll see people getting used to having a 5 inch, a 4 inch, and a 5.5 or bigger inch device to choose from.

    The exception, of course, is the Xperia Z Ultra. That is the Andre the Giant of phones. The Zdeno Chara of phones. The Yao Ming of phones. It is the exception, not the rule and it is definitely out of control huge.

    Darcy LaCouvée

    While I personally watched the phone size wars of 2011 and 2012 with fanfare, I knew there were others on the sidelines hoping for high performance in a small package.

    The fact remains that everyone has their ideal size. For some, the sweet spot is sub four inches. For others, it’s 4.3 inches.

    Today, all the flagship devices we have from major companies (excluding Apple, of course) hover anywhere from 4.7 – 5.2 inches.

    Manufacturers have learned that consumers love choice, and love continuity of design. Samsung pioneered and perhaps overstretched themselves a little bit here, but it’s arguably been a great approach for them.

    Ultimately, choice is what consumers want. Choice is what we all crave. And manufacturers have to listen and produce smaller phones with higher end specs. Good luck finding a Snapdragon 800 in a sub 5 inch device.

    Either way, I’m lusting like a retired vampire for the Galaxy Note 3, and that’s that. Big phones for this guy, all the way.

    Adam Koueider

    What I really dislike about the smaller form factor race is that the manufacturers label their phones “Mini”. It’s like an OEM telling everyone “Hey, we took out all of the stuff you liked in the real Galaxy S4 and created an S4 Mini. Which still has the same name, but is worse.”

    I think it’s arrogant from manufacturers to assume that people who prefer the smaller form factor don’t want high-end specs either. The fact is that none of these OEMs (besides Apple) are catering to this market. How much production costs are you really saving by dropping the RAM from 2GB to 1GB. RAM costs peanuts, but hey wherever we can cut corners we will, right? That mentality is the problem, and if you are taking your flagship name then you should be creating a flagship device with a smaller size.

    With an OEM as big as Samsung it can probably afford to carry two lines of smaller form factor devices like it does with the larger-smartphone size. The Galaxy Mega line is the budget line, and the Galaxy Note line is for people who want the latest and greatest specs. Samsung could implement the same strategy for the smaller form factor. While everyone is running off pushing the boundaries of bezel and screen sizes, a few of us are being left behind on the battlefields of the Size-wars (not to be confused with Star Wars). What ever happened to never leave a man behind? Not cool man, not cool.

    Are phones getting too big?

    Join us in the comments and vote in our poll.

    Are phones getting too big?

    View Results

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    Comments

    • Goldstar

      LG G2 is the perfect size 5.2″ Screen ,but smaller phone than other 5′ inch phone .
      sexy slim and compact phone.

      • http://www.AndroidAuthority.com/ Darcy Alexander LaCouvee

        With a bezel that thin, and even thinner bezels on the horizon, I think they’ll be able to squeeze out a touch more. But we’ll see :) I want ALL display.

        • jjordan

          Im with ya darcy…I think the xperia z ultra may be pushing the boundaries a bit but only because they put no concern on bezel size on that device…if your gonna make a 6+ inch device thats great but try to keep itas small as possible. Screen ratio! That Iis what is important

      • Bjajjull

        When I bought my Nexus 4 I said to myself (and a couple of friends too) that I thought 5.2″ was perfect. A hair smaller than the original Galaxy Note. If the Nexus 5 is based on LG G2 I will feel like I have to buy the phone, sorry wallet.

    • jisampedro

      The 4.3″ of my One S feels perfect but if needed to change device, in case I don’t go for the One mini, 4.7″ would be my top. Bigger than that, no way. I already have my Nexus 7 and is for media purpose.

      • SeraZR™

        +1 to that

        i have a one s and gnex and both are perfect screen sizes for me

    • ovidiu dumitru

      Why do you all say Sony broke the rule or w/e with the z ultra? What about Samsung with their galaxy mega?

      The fact is that the market is strange with apparently a wide range of possibilities. Only that’s not really true. You either choose a big phone with highend specs or a small one with mid/low specs. Probably this is where Motorola and Google will change the game.

      Myself, i have a 4.7″ and now I’m honestly interested in bigger displays and even in the z ultra tbh. I imagine that the writing and video experience is on a totally higher level.

      • APai

        exactly. the premise of android has been about open possibilities, manufacturers are pushing the envelope to see what sells, z ultra is a good example what note 2 did. although z ultra might be an ultra niche!

        samsung started the trend, but others caught on quickly. 4 to 5 inch phones seem most pocket friendly to guys anyway.

      • valentino

        Well I agree. With you but sometimes people always make a standard of everything . Judging everything. Well I am animator student. And I have regret that I buying phones only for fames. I like the xperia z ultra. But some people told the to buy note. And what I don’t like is the stylus not comfortable for sketching and 5.5 is very small. I own xperia z at first it’s good very feel premium and I change to s4 because it’s too hot. After having s4 I lost the premium feel so sad. But it definitely cooler than xperia z. So watching the new xperia z ultra with free everything stylus. Catch me up! I can sketch using charcoal pencil which is the same i use. But I only afraid of scratch my screen using pencils. Sigh.

    • APai

      the cure to large 5 inch phones is really a trimmer bezel. I’m looking at the sony xperia ZL

    • najiy91

      i think the perfect phone size is 5″ to 5.5″..those sizes are average hand grip for people worlwide.

    • inkflow

      Personally I’m for bigger is better… However, most of the super sized phones of most brands are usually not their top of the line. Many of them are not FHD phones, their processor is not the fastest one, or they lack something (like a flash on the z ultra).

    • anonymous-x

      OK at my age & for others, we’re getting old that means our young sharp eyes need something bigger to see. Yes I’ve outgrown the smaller screens up to the 4.7″ size & yes I’m curious about the Sony 6.44″ size.
      It comes down to this, ATT has some benefits but only if your credit is good (deposit?) Which puts Verizon one up (equally Red’s worse plan comparison). Now the screen size is second to one thing- I & you all need phones that can make a call & be able to go online at the same time.
      Sure ATT can do this but Verizon must be able to do you this as well. This is a corner stone
      I don’t know think carrier pricing would matter if this detail was enacted – for everyone.
      Carrier strategy & marketing seem to be the same’ which seems to destroy the phone makers logic making the phone we need & want.

      • Grman Rodriguez

        What are you 80 years old?

    • abazigal

      To me, a larger screen doesn’t automatically make a phone better or worse. It’s wholly a matter of preference.

      That said, I suspect the reason we don’t see smaller Android phones sporting better specs is mainly because there isn’t enough room inside to cram in all that stuff. It took Apple years and millions in R&D to miniaturise the iphone’s innards and fit all that stuff inside such a small form factor. IOS is all about prioritising energy savings, and so they can get away with a smaller battery.

      That’s why larger screens are getting more popular. Gives companies one more thing to boast over Apple, and allows for a larger form factor, which in turns give them more room in fit in all their stuff without needing to spend extra in that regard.

    • Charles Chambers

      I had the Note and Note 2. I didn’t think I would ever go smaller. Now I own the HTC One and love it. Screen size is just right. I can’t wait to see an almost zero bezel phone. The s4 is the closest I’ve seen.

    • gx3k

      Here’s why Ilike big phones (as long a it fits my pockets)

      • Bjajjull

        Now think about that on a 3.5″ screen.

    • Luka Mlinar

      4,7″ and I’m done. At some point it crosses a line and my line is 5 inches. I’m an avid cyclist and i want to know that i can hop on a bike at any time without having a feeling like my phone is gonna snap in two. I know it’s easier said than done but still being in a position where i start thinking that is just wrong. 7″ tablets are really not that large. I say give us a proper phone and keep a tablet in the bag. You can always do a bit of work on your tablet and still not look like an arse by talking on a dinner plate.

      • Luka Mlinar

        5,2″ 5,5″ 5,7″… is trying to get the best of both worlds. Would it be piratical for my car to make me coffee on the way to work? yes. Do i want it to? no

    • Vyrlokar

      Personally, I find that current sizes are about right. I have an original Note and I love it. I would buy a Padfone to replace it if it packed slightly better specs.

      There are two things wrong with the current phones though:

      First is the race to the slimmest. Being slim is fine and dandy, but I need battery duration. Sacrificing 30%+ battery capacity for 2mm less thickness (on phones that are already ridiculously thin for their size) is a big run off.

      Second, the “mini” versions are a lie. They are cashing in the name of the bigger device, while providing very bad specs. I can understand that if they make the screen smaller, it should have less pixels, but it should at least have similar DPI. For example, the S4 has a 1080×1920 5″ screen (441ppi), while the S4 mini has a 540×960 4.3″ screen (256 ppi). For comparison, my HTC Desire had a 480×800 3.7″ (252ppi). It’s not last year’s tech in screens, it’s way older than that (3+ years older). For it to be a true S4 mini, it should have at least a 720p screen.

    • lil

      Resolution matters more than size. For example, upgrading from Note 2 to Xperia Z gave me more space for content, 5.5 is simply too big and pixelated with HD resolution when dealing with text. When resolutions reach 2560×1440 I could consider 6 inch and above.

      The sweet spot for full HD is around 5 inch for my eyes, I’m sure 5.2 will look great also but any bigger I don’t think has any benefit. For me.

    • FLandroid

      The mini concept isn’t exactly new… Motorola introduced it to Verizon last year with its Droid Razr M — a smaller (and less spectacular) version of the Droid Razr. For a gal like me who doesn’t like to carry a bag when I go out, a pocket-size phone is ideal. So I appreciate that more manufacturers are giving us size choices this year. I would appreciate it even more, of course, if the smaller phones could have the fantastic specs of the larger phones. Personally, I would pay just as much for the smaller version if it had all the specs of its larger siblings. But wishing doesn’t make it so, and I am still looking forward to getting my hands on the HTC One Mini, the Galaxy S4 Mini, and the Droid Ultra Mini soon. Unless they are all significantly inferior, one of those will probably be my next device.

    • kascollet

      I totally agree with Adam. Manufacturers must give full choice and offer sub 4,5″ true high-end phones.
      I basically had to switch to the iPhone to have that, and being happy with this device, I would very much like to be able to pick an Android or even WP8 phone of this level.

    • carlisimo

      I like Adam’s response. Making the smaller phones worse means we don’t have a full range of choices. It’s a problem that’s been around for years, and it’s a dangerous game to play because Apple DOES offer a small phone with high end performance and camera.

      It’s entirely possible that a lot of people bought an iPhone because it was a small phone that didn’t appear to be holding back – all those people could be won over if Android manufacturers would just try.

    • maxx1987

      Flagships are definitely getting too big, but only because up until now there haven’t been equally feature-rich “mini” alternatives. The One mini seems like the beginning of phone companies acknowledging that there is a demographic interested in investing in high-end experience Android phones that have smaller screens. I’m fine with flagships continuing to be large, as long as there is an equally good alternative in a smaller form factor.

    • shopping863

      tinyurl.com/nc6x6hg

    • Ruz

      I guess phone size should not be bigger then aprox 5″ and should not be lower than 4″ for some segment of ppl

    • Disasterpiece

      I think it totally depends on what you use the device for. I had a GNote 2 and now I am using a GMega 6.3. I spend 90% of my time on the phablet reading or watching videos, with 10% is talking or texting. If I used it as a phone, there would be a problem, but since I don’t… it doesn’t bother me.
      As far as specs go, I was very skeptical… BUT in real world usage, the 1.7 dual core is up to task. Any issues I have noticed, I had on the 1.6 quad core GNote 2 as well, so I’m thinking it is more android related than anything else. Bottom line, specs don’t really tell a full story (especially since very few apps take full advantage of quad- or octo-core design). I speedy dual core can hang just as well.

    • valentino

      It’s about the customer they targeting I think. Big or small doesn’t matter. I use s4 and always use it with 2 hand when swiping text message. If I use one hand my Palm always touch the back button. Before s4 I use xperia z it is good but it’s only too thick. And I think about bigger screen is okay as long as it can use the bigger screen features to the full why not? Smaller screen may fit in hand but the display is not good its too small and you use smartphone only for call texting and etc? Theur R&D department doing a massive research before making a phone. But samsung is a bit different since they can produce all the hardware they can have mini version for phones which is for mid low economic people. Actually they can target all customer segment. Unlike sony , htc or others.

    • LadyHazy

      I would LOVE to get my little hands on a 4-inch version of the Nexus 4, or a similarly spec’d phone. As it stands I have a budget / bargain 4-inch Huawei Ascend G300, which unfortunately, just doesn’t cut it sometimes.

      I don’t want to go for something bigger and have to use two hands to operate my phone :-/

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