My thoughts on larger screens
I got my first smartphone in 2011. Since then, I've owned three different phones. The first was the original Motorola Atrix 4G, a 4" Android phone and the first dual-core phone running on the Tegra 2 platform. It was a relatively fast phone, but the battery life was absolutely terrible. After owning the phone for just 2 weeks, I swapped it in for the iPhone 4. And the iPhone was where I stayed. While I missed the larger screen on the Atrix, I loved the performance and the battery life of the iPhone 4.
Three weeks ago, I decided to finally upgrade from my venerable iPhone 4 to something new, and the iPhone 5 wasn't my first choice. During the two years that I owned my 4, I played with many phones between 4" and 5" in size. The two sizes I spent the most time with were 4.3" and 4.5". My sister had gone from her Blackberry to an HTC Inspire, which rocked decent specs and a 4.3" screen, and my mom had gone from her Blackberry to a Samsung Infuse with a 4.5" screen. I played with both of these phones when I helped set them up, as well as anytime they had issues with apps or the Android software.
After playing with these phones, I came to appreciate the larger screen size, especially the 4.3" on the Inspire. So, when it came time to upgrade, I decided to consider five separate phones: Galaxy Note 2, HTC One, HTC First, Galaxy S4 and the iPhone 5. The iPhone 5 matched the screen size and aspect ration of my original Atrix, but also rocked more powerful internals, better battery life, a better camera and a higher resolution screen. It was my go to option, should the other contenders not live up to my expectations. Now, I posted earlier about how I cracked my iPhone 5 screen, so my ultimate choice is clear. But, I'd like to discuss my thoughts on the size (and build quality) of each device I ultimately turned down.
Galaxy Note 2: The first phone I played with was the Galaxy Note 2. The build quality of the phone was solid, despite the cheap, plastic-y feel. I loved the size of the screen when I was looking at it, but quickly fell out of love with the display once I picked up the phone. While the display was excellent, the size of the phone was just too large for my tastes. Not my hands, just my tastes. I ultimately passed this phone on because the screen, while lovely, was just too big, and I knew I would loose that stylus (even with the in-case slot) within a week.
HTC One: Out of all the non-iPhone smartphones I played with, this was the one I spent the most time with. I was pleasantly surprised by the build quality, as the phone felt solid in my hand. It also wasn't too large. I thought, at least at first, that this phone was the perfect size, and I really liked it. I did a lot of software customization while I played with the phone, but ultimately didn't go with the One. After only 5 or 10 minutes of basic scrolling around the interface and browsing a couple of websites, the phone got noticeably hot. Not enough to burn my hands, but certainly enough to make using the phone for extended periods of time uncomfortable. I also noted that during my thirty minutes of playing with this phone, the battery had dropped considerably (from about 80% to 60%). I passed on this phone for many reasons, despite my love for the beautiful 1080p display, and the overall size of the device wasn't humongous.
Galaxy S 4: I didn't get a chance to play with this phone until after I picked up my iPhone 5, but I was able to play with it within my 14-day return period (something I made a point of doing, so that if I liked it, I could return my iPhone). The phone didn't feel that much larger than the HTC One, despite rocking a slightly larger screen. However, despite how gorgeous the display was, the phone just felt dirt cheap, even cheaper than the nearby Note 2 and GS3. I just didn't like using the phone. The phone was plenty fast, the screen plenty beautiful, but the phone itself just didn't mesh well with me. The size in my hand wasn't overbearing, but I just couldn't bring myself to use it for long because of how terrible it felt in my hand.
HTC First: Now, this phone shocked me. As I said earlier, I always appreciated the 4.3" screen size on my sister's HTC Inspire. After using the HTC One, however, I felt that using the 4.3" display on the First would feel too small. Not at all, it turns out. I absolutely LOVED the screen size on the HTC First. The screen was plenty good enough (despite only being 720p) and the build quality of the phone was certainly better than the Note or the GS4. Ultimately, the slightly disappointing specs, the absolutely terrible camera and the somewhat outdated version of Android swayed me away from the phone.
iPhone 5: So, the phone I went with. I love the 4" size a lot more than the larger phones available, but still prefer the 4.3" size of the HTC First, and I still prefer iOS to Android. The build quality of the phone is outstanding, the performance is stellar, and the 4" screen is a welcome bump up from the minuscule 3.5" screen on my iPhone 4. The camera is fantastic, the screen is great and the software, while in need of an update, is still very functional.
So, I went with the iPhone 5 for two reasons: iOS and size. I find the 4" to 4.3" size to be the most comfortable sizes for smartphones, and I prefer iOS to Android. But, what is my dream device?
Simple: a 4.3" iPhone with a higher res display (perhaps 2272x1280), although a 4.3" high-end Android handset could sway me away from iOS (Android would need to make a few changes, but that's for another day).
So, I titled this post "My thoughts on larger screens," and I really haven't addressed that point, so I'll address that point in full now.
Phones come in an array of sizes, and each smartphone owner has a preference. I have a preference for 4" to 4.3" phones, hence why I chose the iPhone 5 over the high-end Android phones available today, and seriously considered the HTC First over its high-end counterparts, even though it had some glaring technical faults. If Apple were to make a 4.3" iPhone with a higher-res display, I would upgrade from my iPhone 5 in a heartbeat, and I would even consider jumping ship to Android if a high-end phone was developed with a 4.3" screen (preferably running stock Android).
Ultimately, I think that phone size is a very subjective trait, which is why I'm constantly shocked by how there is really no choice in the matter. If you want an iPhone, you get a 4" screen. If you want a larger screen, you're out of luck. If you want a Windows Phone, you get a 4.3" to 4.5" screen. If you want a smaller or larger display, you're out of luck. If you want a high-end Android phone, you get a 4.7"+ screen. If you want a smaller display, you're out of luck (unless you get a mid-range to low-end Android phone, a la the HTC First). I think that while Apple may benefit little from making a larger iPhone (people who want an iPhone are going to get an iPhone), Android manufacturers like HTC, LG and Sony could give Samsung a run for its money if they exploited the desire for high-end phones in 4" to 4.5" sizes.
So, what are your preferences for screen size? Do you want more high-end phones with smaller screens (4" to 4.5")? Do you want more large phones?
And fellow iPhone users: do you want Apple to make a larger iPhone? How big should it be?