The Z1 Compact: An interesting market experiment

Periodically, on Android forums such as this one, you see complaints from people about the size of flagship Android phones, and the fact that you can't buy an Android phone that has both top-tier specs and a roughly iPhone-sized screen.

To be honest, I've always dismissed this as the sentiment of a small but vocal minority. Samsung, HTC, LG etc. are big companies with lots of money to spend on market research; I'm sure if they had concluded that there was a large unserved market for small-screened phones with flagship specs, they would have made one already.

The counter-argument to this is "but what about the iPhone?". But of course, there are lots of reasons (brand cachet, industrial design, app selection, etc.) why people choose iPhones. I suspect most iPhone buyers choose the iPhone in spite of its smaller screen, not because of it. In fact, if Apple chooses to release a larger-screened iPhone (which seems increasingly likely), I think it might end up cannibalising sales of the smaller-screen iPhone to such an extent that Apple may well end up killing the smaller model.

To be clear, I'm not trying to diss lovers of smaller-screened phones, or to say that their preferences are stupid or anything. It's a completely legitimate preference. However, I just think that the preference for small flagships (much like the preference for flagships with hardware QWERTY keyboards) is one held by a sufficiently small group of people that it isn't profitable for manufacturers to actually cater to it. Smartphone manufacturing depends on economies of scale to be profitable.

But now, thanks to Sony, we'll finally get some hard evidence about this question. If there really is an untapped market for small Android flagships, then the Z1 Compact should do really well, since it is literally the only phone on the market that meets this description. If it succeeds, it will probably act as a signal to other manufacturers to enter the market with small flagships of their own.

For what it's worth, I sincerely hope that that it does succeed and that my own skepticism turns out to be wrong, if only because more variety and consumer choice is a good thing. In any case, the results will be interesting.

PS: I hope they bring out a GPE of the Z1 Compact. That would be awesome.