Looking back at 2016, we’ve seen many smartphone trends either get started or become extended over the past 12 months. They include the usual improvements like faster processors, more RAM and larger displays, but we have also seen a few new things pop up, such as dual lenses on smartphone cameras and the ditching of the 3.5mm headphone jack.
However, there is one smartphone trend that we think should come to a halt, and for a couple of very good reasons. That trend? Thin smartphones.
Companies have been trying for the last few years to make their flagship smartphones as thin as they can. At the moment, the current record holder is the China-made Vivo X5 Max. Even though it was released two years ago, it remains the thinnest smartphone in the world at just 4.75mm. The Samsung Galaxy S7 is 7.9mm thick and the iPhone 7 from Apple is 7.1mm, for comparison. That means there’s just a few millimeters different between the current flagship smartphones and the one that currently holds the record.
Yet, there is this continued rush to make smartphones thinner. The problem is that we may be running into some real reasons why this move is a bad one overall, for both smartphone makers as well as consumers.
Perhaps the biggest problem with the move toward thinner smartphones concerns the amount of space that’s needed inside for batteries. While we have seen advances in faster charging times in the last few years, that has not really extended to overall battery life. Regular use of smartphones means that battery life ends after a day, or even less.
Adding a few millimeters to a smartphone leaves more room for a bigger battery
While smartphone makers are certainly doing research into extending battery life, those efforts might not reach consumers for a few years. In the meantime we will likely be stuck with devices that will be as thin as can be, but will still offer the same amount of charge. If smartphones were slightly thicker, that would mean more space for a larger battery. This could, in theory offer buyers a phone that will last longer on a single charge, at the expense of just a few extra millimeters.
Aside from battery life, there’s another reason why thinner smartphones might be a bad trend. According to a third-party teardown of the recalled Samsung Galaxy Note 7, which had a thickness of 7.9mm, the design might have been too small for its 3,500mAh battery. It might have caused too much pressure on said battery, and it could possibly be one of the reasons why some Note 7 phones caught fire and exploded (Samsung has yet to publicly report its findings on why the Note 7 failed).
Those two factors – battery life and overall safety – should be looked upon by smartphone makers the next time they try to design a phone that’s really, really thin.
Aside from potential battery issues, there are a couple of other smaller reasons why smartphones might want to be a bit thicker. As is the case for Lenovo’s Moto Z and Apple’s iPhone 7, smartphone companies might find it necessary to remove the 3.5mm headphone jack from their smartphones in order to make them thinner. While some smartphone makers may pat themselves on the back because they think getting rid of this feature is needed, many consumers don’t want to fool with buying more expensive Bluetooth or USB Type-C headphones. Or adapters for their wired headphones. Many people just want to use their old-fashioned, and cheap, wired headphones.
Hardware companies should design devices that work well, rather than concentrate just on making them thinner
Another smaller reason for not wanting thinner phone is simple handling. Quite frankly, the thinner a phone is, the harder it sometimes is to hold it in your hand. Unless you’re using your phone as a completely hands-free device, which is not likely for most of you, holding a really thin phone can be a problem for some folks. Perhaps hardware companies should design devices that work well, rather than concentrate just on making them thinner.
There’s no doubt that smartphone hardware designers will keep trying to squeeze as much performance and battery life in their upcoming products. We just hope they think twice about making smartphones so thin that they’re actually less convenient for the end user. Overall, many of us at Android Authority think adding a few millimeters to a smartphone makes little to no difference in looks, but can add a ton of features and functionality that might otherwise not be available.
With that said, we want to hear from you about this issue of smartphones getting thinner and thinner. Is this a trend you want to see continue, and if so why? Or would you gladly add on a few millimeters of thickness in exchange for a bigger battery and headphone jack? Be sure to let us know your thoughts in the comments!