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Enough! I'm so sick of giant smartphones

Enough! I'm so sick of giant smartphones

Working in an editorial office that primarily reports on smartphones has a pleasant side effect: you can always try out new smartphones from time to time. I'm very happy to do that but to be honest, lately, this is getting more and more frustrating, because I don't like very big smartphones - and the devices are only getting bigger and bigger.

In the last months, I had some smartphones in use: The OnePlus 5T, Samsung Galaxy S9+, HTC U12+, Samsung Galaxy Note 9, Sony Xperia XZ2, OPPO Find X ... The Sony smartphone was also only used because of its compact size. After a short detour to the Find X, I finally switched to the Galaxy S9 for a very simple reason, which also became the reason for this article: the smartphone is small!

Of course 'small' is a relative term. If you look at how the size of smartphones has evolved, you're quickly surprised. Just three to four years ago, a Galaxy S9 with a 5.8-inch display would have been considered huge. It's been a long time, at least in the smartphone world.

AndroidPIT Samsung Galaxy S9 0684
The Samsung Galaxy S9 is currently one of the smaller smartphones. / © AndroidPIT by Irina Efremova

Why is it always so big?

With every smartphone launch, my frustration gets bigger and bigger. While following the leaks with great anticipation, I always try to ignore the display size. As you know, it doesn't always tell the whole story these days. What matters is how the smartphone really feels like in the hand.

Then the smartphone comes to our editorial office. Fortunately - or not - together with Sophia I am responsible for our hardware inventory. Accordingly, the new devices first land on my table, perfect for a direct look at them. Unfortunately, the disillusionment is more and more frequent lately. I just don't want to have a smartphone that I can't practically operate with one hand and I don't want to always be afraid it will fly out of my hand upside down. The Galaxy S9 is a dream come true, even if the smartphone has other problems.

Bezel-less displays have done nothing

I was thrilled last year when the bezels around the displays got smaller and smaller. Smaller edges also mean a smaller smartphone in relation to the display size - I hope. Comparisons with the old iPhone design speak volumes. If you pick up an iPhone 8 Plus and compare it to a Galaxy S8, you're shocked at how much space Apple wasted until last year.

AndroidPIT iPhone 8 Plus vs Samsung Galaxy Note 8 3322
Even with a 5.5-inch display, the iPhone 8 Plus isn't exactly handy. / © AndroidPIT

But somehow what I originally expected didn't happen. Of course, there are big smartphones with displays beyond 6 inches, and there are enough customers who want exactly such a smartphone. But not all customers. I worked long enough for a mobile phone provider to be able to speak from my own experience. Yes, manufacturers usually know exactly what their customers want and develop their smartphones accordingly, but to be honest, my understanding has come to an end this year.

The selection of small smartphones is getting smaller and smaller

I'm not so petite myself with my 6'3" body height, so my hands aren't exactly small and dainty. But when I see my mother now with her iPhone 7, I sometimes think that the small Galaxy S4 Mini fitted better somehow. And an iPhone 7 with its 4.7-inch display is not even one of the big smartphones on the market, on the contrary. How can you even operate a smartphone with a 6-inch display?

What I always found great about Android, and what I still find, is the sheer choice of devices. At least that's how it used to be. Nowadays almost all high-end models look more or less the same. Of course, there are differences in the details, but especially in the display size, most manufacturers go a similar way. Only Samsung, Google and Sony offer their smartphones in big and small options, so why don't more manufacturers?

Pixel 3 could be the salvation

Pixel 2 interested me very much on the one hand, but it still had issues that meant it wasn't for me. It's small and handy and has the same hardware as its big brother. But why Google chose this incredibly old-fashioned design last year is still a mystery. The huge bezels at the top and bottom ensured that I practically never wanted to try it out for long. That was the only reason why my colleague Christopher decided to go for the XL version, otherwise he would have gone for the smaller model.

This could now be completely reversed with Pixel 3. As we now know, the Pixel 3 XL comes with a pretty unsightly notch, but the small model will forgo the display cutout. The hardware shouldn't differ again, reason enough for me to go for the small one. The frame is a bit bigger again, but that doesn't bother me with Samsung's models either. I can live with that better than with a smartphone that I can't operate comfortably with one hand.

Are there still lovers of small smartphones out there? Do you think that all the new devices coming out will be too big?

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Readers' favorite comments

  • GrimJimCrowley 11 months ago

    I remember a really funny picture I saw that showed the size evolution of the cell phone. Before smart phones, devices got smaller. Then smart phones came along and once people discovered that certain "adult" material could be viewed on mobile devices then they started getting bigger.


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  • Sarah 7 hours ago Link to comment

    Honestly, I completely agree. And for others who ask, yeah I have damn small hands! I personally think both options would be best. Design a phone that comes in 2 standard sizes, one smaller then the other. I'm actually hunting the web for smaller phones because honestly if I bought a beast phone I'd look stupid. I so many youngster with these big ass phones, it looks ridiculous with their phones bulging out of their pocket. I have nothing against people wanting bigger phones, thats what you prefer but don't ignore the other consumers

  • You must have Trump hands.
    I just got a new 6.74" Samsung A70 My only wish is that it was bigger.
    I'd be just fing with a 7.5" phone.

  • Daige 2 months ago Link to comment

    The Galaxy S4 Mini was perfect for me. 4,3 inches and a slim design. Sadly, it was a really bad phone in lots of other accounts.

    The car industry provides cars of different sizes, why can't the phone industry do the same?

  • I totally agree. I can't fit a phablet in my pocket!! Give me a good, thin bezel, fast stock Android 5 inch phone and I'll be happy.

  • Very well written article.
    I used to own a Samsung Note 4 and I sworn that I'd never buy such a big phone again. Now I have an LG G6 and find it just about big enough. The main reason I won't buy the LG V40 is its physical dimensions.
    I do not like this 18:9+ aspect ratios either, but I can live with that. What I can't stand is the bulkiness of the new flagships and I won't have one.

  • JayD 11 months ago Link to comment

    I have a Samsung A3 2017! My decision was based on it easily being able to fit in my pocket, it suits me just fine. But looking around before purchase I had a real problem trying to buy a 'small' but high spec phone, they just don't exist. A bit like new LCD tv's, you try looking for a top spec 32" t.v.! My phone has many issues, but it was the best compromise I could find at the time, I just use it within it's boundaries... Ps. Also music sounds very good using bluetooth LDAC which both my phone and headphones support😉

  • Rusty H. 11 months ago Link to comment

    My first smartphone, was the Dell Streak 5, with a "massive" (in 2010) 5" screen. I remember people placing their small iPhones on top of it saying my screen was bigger than their entire phone. Then the Galaxy Note1, then 3 Huawei Phones, Mate 2,8,9. Now, I've switched to the "tiny" Essential PH-1. Having spent the last 4 years with "huge" Mate phones, this one seemed tiny. I set both phones up and displayed the same webpage, and it looked the same. The Essential was 1312 x 2560 , Mate 9 was 1080 x 1920. The difference in pixel density apparently is the difference. I fired up my Mate9 today, just to make sure the apps are up to date (it's a backup phone now) and it just seemed huge.
    In the car, on the dash craddle, the smaller phone for me, appears safer since I keep it on the left side of the dash.
    I don't know, maybe the large phones will start to trend downward in a couple years. But, with the 30 something crowd approaching their 40's soon, and that brings with it the idea of bifocal glasses (I made it to 44 before I had to have them), screens might get even larger LOL.

  • I have a Samsung Galaxy Note 9 that is a fantastic device that meets all of my techno needs. It is much more than a "smart" phone. It is a pocket computer that serves as a work platform, entertainment center, news delivery service, emergency weather alert system, navigation device and so on. If I were only using it as a standard phone, a smaller package would be the order of the day such as when a flip phone met my needs. But given the multitude of ways in which I utilize my Note 9 (and the Note 8 and LG V20 before it) that large, awe inspiring device allows me to enjoy its unique combination of fun and functionality without compromise.

  • GrossDad 11 months ago Link to comment

    I've had, in succession, a Galaxy S2, an S4, an S5, and now an S8. I find the S8 about as big a phone as I want. Fits into a pocket, plenty big for video (for me), and easy to handle.

  • wht did u just say this BS article tht phones are to big WHT listen I have no computer no lap top tht went south for ever and now I'm with the most glorious outstanding Note 9 as I text these words do u think I'm looking at a a computer right now hells no this is it my all in all with in the palm of well both of my hands and I'm loving this thing. so as one big phone to another hell's with tht I'm so happy and tickle pink whatever a 8/512 GB man this is heaven !

    • And that's exactly my message.. You want and need a big phone, absolutely fine. I never said that noone needs a big phone, quite the opposite. But look, I have a PC at work and at home that I use a lot, I don't need my phone to do everything for me, therefore I don't want or need a big phone ;)

      • Your message is well-received by quite a few of us who do not require the phone be our "fit everything" device. Home computer is workhorse. Laptop or phone for off-site work is transporter via memory card for editing. Each serves a specific purpose and justifies keeping a small-size phone (but always with a microSD card slot) as a viable option.

    • Jane E 11 months ago Link to comment


  • Sean Keo 11 months ago Link to comment

    I was android from the G1 until the Iphone SE became the smallest new phone. Still holding but hoping for the Next Galaxy line to have a Mini like rumored. Otherwise I will run this SE till it dies like I did with my first car! Only then will I get a big screen. Tried the X right when it came out but the screen is just too big.

    • How about a mostly-pure Android the size and shape of the iPhone SE, with a Good Camera PLUS a MicroSD Card Slot? We'd have it made.

  • Sean Q 11 months ago Link to comment

    Can't agree. I love them. So much real estate on the screen. I get home from work and most of the time I won't bother turning on the laptop. I just got the amazing pocophone F1 which is just a pretty extraordinary phone for what I paid. I looked at an iPhone 8 plus the other day and I didn't like what I was seeing. I could not go back to 5 inch screens.

  • Mark
    • Admin
    11 months ago Link to comment

    I like the 5.7 inch screen size it is, big enough not to strain my aging eyes. Yet small enough to still fit comfortably in my pocket. Anything over 6 inch on a phone is to big for me, even my 2xl glove sized hands have a hard time using them 1 handed.

  • I remember a really funny picture I saw that showed the size evolution of the cell phone. Before smart phones, devices got smaller. Then smart phones came along and once people discovered that certain "adult" material could be viewed on mobile devices then they started getting bigger.

  • I have recently changed my 3rd Galaxy Note 4 for a Huawei P20 Lite,and I love it..

    • Oh, you have my "dream machine." Sadly I was advised by Huawei not to try to buy nor expect carrier service in San Diego.

    • Mark
      • Admin
      11 months ago Link to comment

      3 note 4s? I am still on my 1st would not give it up for anything, 4 years now.

  • Are you kidding me? I love my Note, not because it's a Note, but because it has a BIG screen. Everything is easy to see. Keep in mind that it's also a media device. Nowadays, a smartphone shouldn't have a screen size less than 5 inches, IMO.

    • Well, as I said in this article, opinions are different and there are definitely people like you who want big phones. But not everyone does, I don't need my phone to be my primary computing machine, I am using two PCs daily (at home and at work).

    • Daige 2 months ago Link to comment

      Well, you have the right to have your opinion, but not everyone will agree with you.

      Also, the article doesn't say big phones should be taken away, so I don't see any problem here...or would you be offended if phone manufacturers also provided smaller phones?

  • I much prefer splitting use between a smaller, pocketable handset for out and about, and an 8" tablet around the house (an older tablet upstairs at bedside). Currently an aging 5" ZTE has been my functional size limit, but maybe a little bigger in 18:9 format. At home even a 6" plus phone would be cramped for ereading, browsing or armrest video - the phone waits on a shelf for calls and messages, but the tablet gets all the other work. I've also found the tablet is a bigger better screen for SatNav when needed.

  • Shivansh 11 months ago Link to comment

    I use Honor 8 as my daily device. Everything is perfect. Perfect Size. No performance issues. This device is too good. You guys should check it out.

    • Shivansh: You nailed it. Because of sudden vision loss, medial providers steered me to the AI of Apple's iPhone X. However, loving my Honor 8 as I did, I opted for the Honor View 10 with the goal of achieving the visual assistance needed at a fraction of the iPhone's cost. Result is a mixed bag. While the AI may be fine, I miss the comforts of the Honor 8, all of which stem from size. The 8 is the perfect phone for one-hand texting and camera use; the View 10 requires two hands for everything including use of AI for visual help. How is this achieved by the user of a cane with one hand? I've not found the answer to that one yet but agree with your recommendation of the Honor 8.

  • I agree with you. Small smart phone is the best. 😊 I have used Sony's compact model for many year. My first phone was good old Nokia. I hope Nokia will come back and make phones with top specs and size like 4,7 inch. 😊

  • "smart" has become more important than "phone" in the the name of the device. As peoples usage has changed so has the design of the phones. I completed a usage survey the other week and in answer to a question about what I regularly use my device for on a daily basis - making calls did not feature in my list and receiving calls crept in right at the bottom. The things that topped it were watching videos, reading maps, communicating textually via Whats and and Messenger and playing games. For most of these a larger screen is a definite asset.

    Why is using a phone with one hand still talked about as a criteria - even with smaller phones I have always used two hands when interacting with the device. Most of the people using them with one hand do so because they are trying to do two things at once meaning that they are no longer concentrating on one of them - this why drivers are thankfully not allowed to use phones when they are driving.

    For people not interested in watching movies, reading maps or playing games there are still simple phones out there which provide calling and text functions. If they were what people wanted they would be outselling the smart devices and manufacturers would be responding!

    • Daige 2 months ago Link to comment

      Clive: Why should I be forced to use a phone with both hands? Let me use a high-tech phone with one hand if I want to.

      You have your way, I have mine. Let me do as I wish instead of telling me that my way is wrong.

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