It seems more than a decade ago, but that’s all it was when Apple rolled out the original 3.5-inch iPhone to the masses. That’s right. The original iPhone had a 3.5-inch non-Retina display. Product marketing is often as much about differentiation as anything, so members of the technorati elite politburo should have seen the obvious from a mile away. Large screen iPhones.
Apple jumped from 3.5-inch to 4-inch a few models later, but the handwriting was on the wall as Samsung and others pushed the form factor to the so-called phablets; smartphones which were almost tablets. Phablets.
Today’s iPhone line has a 4.7-inch model and a 5.5-inch model, and in a few months Apple is likely to do the impossible. Larger screen, smaller body; a manufacturing trick already displayed by Samsung’s Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus. Hang on, because the Galaxy Note brand is back with an even larger display; the Note 8 may have a massive 6.3-inch OLED display, but in a case not much larger than an iPhone 7 Plus.
As usual, Apple tends to lag behind the technology curve. Some say the company performs a classic slow walk of new features to keep demand artificially high. Nevertheless, the iPhone maker has an issue with manufacturing scale. Name a company that can produce 200-million OLED displays (like the edge-to-edge, nearly bexel-less Galaxy S8)? Even Samsung cannot manufacture that many large displays.
That means Samsung’s line is at least a year ahead of Apple in size comparisons. The smallest of the new trio of flagship smartphones is Galaxy S8 has a 5.8-inch display; larger than the iPhone 7 Plus. The S8 Plus features a 6.2-inch display but with dimensions similar to the 7 Plus, and the Note 8 would be even larger. Yes, Samsung makes smaller smartphone models but the premium Galaxy line competes against Apple’s iPhone, which, as it was with earlier models at 3.5-inches and 4-inches, remains the smaller brand.
Samsung has yet to mention Note 8 pricing, but the S8 model is $675, almost $200 less than a comparable iPhone 7 Plus. iPhone 8 is expected to be even more expensive (already the top end model with 256GB SSD storage is $969).
So, I have two questions.
First, do we needs smartphones with screens so large they barely fit into a pocket?
Second, are smartphones really worth more than $1,000 (a barrier likely to be topped this year)?
Answering the first is easy. The larger iPhone 8 and Galaxy S8 Plus come with edge-to-edge and so-called bezel-less displays. That means larger display but a smaller overall case size.
The second question is easy, too. Yes. Smartphones are worth whatever the market is willing to bear, but Apple spans the spectrum quite well, starting with the iPhone SE with a 4-inch display and most of the goodies iPhone users want, but in a diminutive– and more affordable package at $399– package.
Not every iPhone customer requires a 5.5-inch display, but most research and surveys suggest the 4.7-inch models are the big sellers, but the larger display models are gaining in popularity. That growth curve may also explain why the iPad’s once robust sales have stalled. A larger screen iPhone doubles well as a tablet-esque device for content consumption. Just like an iPad, but rolled into a smaller package.
Convenience is an important element of modern technology. Look around. What do you see? Larger smartphone screens. But this year, for the first time ever, the screens will get larger while the smartphones get smaller.