Why do phones keep getting bigger? And where does it end?

Robert Bičovský

Anybody who has bought at least two phones in the last decade will agree that our mobile de-vices are becoming less and less mobile. That some people may prefer it this way and some may not is another discussion, but the fact of the matter remains that phones are getting bigger. Should any reader require further persuasion, look back at 2007 and Steve Jobs’s “baby”, the first iPhone. It was 115mm high, 61mm wide and weighed a modest 135g. Fast forward to the present day, and we have the iPhone 13 Pro Max at a whopping 160x78mm, and weighing an ungodly 240g. Incidentally, these are the three measurements I will be providing as display size varies from older phones with bezels (the black bars top and bottom which did not count to-wards the display size) and today’s almost bezel-less evolution branch.

Remember the clunky and awkward word ‘phablet’? No, I’m not surprised you don’t. Phablets were a huge trend around six years ago, when supposedly the borders between phones and tablets were being minimised. How silly it now seems that we called the Galaxy Note 5 (153x76mm and 171g) one of the largest phones money could buy. Today, one of the most fre-quently bought phones is around 160x75mm and as near as makes no difference 200g. Now that is ridiculous. When phone manufacturers introduced back panels made from glass instead of plastic (God knows why, it has only made the phone more fragile and easier to break. And then you have to get it repaired… oh, I get it now) we collectively said, “Okay, fair enough, it looks nicer,” and that has added extra weight. Then they started to get rid of the bezels, to which we said, “Hooray, more screen on the same size phone.” Phone manufacturers (with the possi-ble exception of Apple; more on that later) must have misheard us when they started making their phones absolutely gigantic. Although the top dogs in the industry have somewhat slowed down when it comes to making their phones bigger, 6.7 inch screens and weights of 200g are now quite normal even in the middle-class category of phones.

When I said “with the possible exception of Apple”, what I meant was that they took a four-year-old iPhone 8, replaced the processor and offered it as the SE 2020. It does feature those ugly black bars we’ve grown out of, but I know people who don’t mind them and even like them. Then there is the smallest Android phone that is not a steaming pile of garbage – the Google Pixel 4a. It is a direct competitor of the SE 2020, and while it is a tiny bit larger, it is also a tiny bit lighter. For reference, both these phones are about 2cm shorter and 1cm narrower than the 13 Pro Max, our proverbial Goliath. And get this – about 100g lighter. Your hand is most definitely going to feel that.

Speaking of hands – phones are getting bigger and bigger, but have you noticed any size difference in human hands over the last decade? No, of course you haven’t, because that would be silly. So why on earth are we bombarded with phones so large we would have laughed at them six years ago? It isn’t just the issue of the average size of the phones. That would be fine. The glaring problem is that the manufacturers have simply stopped making small phones. Again, Apple is an exception to this, with the SE, 12 and 13 mini versions.

Would you like a smaller phone than you have now? If so, why don’t you have one? Is it because it doesn’t exist? Or is it because it simply doesn’t have all the cool features of the larger ones? Apple have really nailed this, haven’t they? The 13 mini will do 95% of what the Pro Max will, and it’s even smaller than the SE. But was it well-received, and has it sold in mil-lions? No. Why? Apparently, people do not want smaller phones that have most of the capabili-ties of the humongous ones.
So what do we do about phones getting bigger? No clue whatsoever…