Attention, Android manufacturers: Bigger isn't always better

Android Phone Size

Guys, I've got something big to discuss.

We're reaching an interesting phase in the evolution of smartphones -- one where each new generation of devices really isn't dramatically different from the last.

It had to happen, right? With any type of technology, there's only so long you can produce a transformative new product year after year. To be sure, plenty of companies are still doing interesting things -- but generally speaking, we're seeing far more evolutionary than revolutionary progress with phones these days.

As a result, some Android manufacturers seem to be struggling with how to make each refreshed model feel meaningfully new at a moment's glance. And some of them seem to be stuck in a rut of thinking every new phone needs to be bigger to be better.

It's understandable how they'd get in that mindset: Saying a new phone has a bigger screen is the simplest and most obvious way to shout at shoppers, "HEY, LOOK!! This has more than what you have now! So it must be better! BUY IT!!"

But the truth is, that's a misguided way to get our attention. And it's starting to come at the cost of optimal user experience.

HTC One M8 Size

Take the HTC One (M8), for instance. The new One is more than a third of an inch taller than its predecessor, making it unusually long and just a touch too large for comfort -- largely because HTC decided to bump the phone's screen size from 4.7 inches up to 5.

Don't get me wrong: The new One's screen is fantastic. But size aside, it's actually no better than the one on last year's device -- and I'm just not sure the added pinch of real estate is a worthwhile tradeoff for the bulked-up frame it requires. As I mused in my review, impressive of a product as it is, I can't help but think the phone would have provided a better overall experience if HTC had stuck with the smaller and more manageable dimensions of its previous model.

There's certainly a place for big smartphones -- and that place is in phones that are big for a reason, like Samsung's Galaxy Note line, which is designed for folks who explicitly want a plus-sized device. Within the realm of standard-sized smartphones, though, bigger isn't inherently better -- and manufacturers need to realize that making a flagship-level device ergonomic and comfortable can be a compelling feature in and of itself.

So Android manufacturers, I ask you this: Convince us to buy your new models with design improvements and additions that actually enhance the user experience. (The new HTC One has plenty of those.)

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If you have a real reason to bump up the screen size, by all means do it. If you can increase the screen size without expanding the overall footprint, even better. But don't keep going bigger just for the sake of going bigger.

Sometimes, it's not the size but what you do with it that counts.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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