The iPhone 14 isn’t supposed to have a Mini edition upon release. This is weird – because the next smallest size is like 6 inches long.
The Ideal Size
I’ve written about phone sizing before. I do still think phones should be getting thicker and smaller, because the new ones are so big that the average human hand is just barely big enough to reach across with the fingers on one side and the hand on the other. If you need to hit a button at the top of the screen one-handed, you now need to set the phone down to do so, or risking dropping it as you balance it on your fingers to move your palm for maximum thumb range. If you lose balance like that, you may not be able to catch it before it hits the ground. However, I was forced to replace my phone as I dropped my old one and broke something inside it. Now, my phone measures just over 6 inches from top to bottom – a Moto G Power, that cost 180$, a far cry from the iPhone’s 9XX$ and above. The new size is actually less of an encumberment than I was expecting, and it came with a charger, and an aux cord hole.
Enough dunking on Apple – why is 6 inches long the new default?
Aside From Functional Use
A bigger phone is a bigger, more visible phone. If it’s logo’d? The logo is more visible on the back, and the user’s hand probably isn’t covering it as much. It means more surface area for users to put things like stickers and decorative cases. A bigger phone is harder to lose and more capable of stuffing in secondary options such as a point-perfect GPS and a powerful flashlight that can stay lit for 30 minutes at a time while also still allowing the user to use the browser. The bigger the battery, the longer it lasts, too, so that bumps up the size. Phones have replaced alarm clocks, timers, GPS, mp3 players, internet hotspots, PCs, handheld games like Tamagotchis, paper games like Sudoku and crosswords, and a whole host of other small electronics designed for a singular purpose. If you’re willing to buy accessories, you can go even further, and your phone can replace things like meat thermometers and light switches. Even further, apps allow you to do things like lock your house, adjust the temperature, and watch your doorstep from your doorbell as you please, stuff you couldn’t do from a distance before phones. When you put it like that, of course the phone’s gigantic. Look at all the stuff it’s replacing!
All of the computing power and assorted hardware to make this possible does inflate the size of the phone, and while some argue that a thicker phone would be more resistant to bending (or more pleasant to hold and store, like I do), a wider, taller phone provides more functional use via a larger screen. More surface area is arguably the best outcome for a larger phone. Some phone brands go so far as to curve the glass over the side of the device so their buyer has the largest screen out of any phone with the same dimensions.
Besides pure, compact hardware, the screens facilitate quite a few modern apps.
Media – Social
Social Media asks for increasingly more time, effort, and software from its users for the ‘best experience’, or the experience that keeps you scrolling. Prettier pictures with a convenient, easy-to-use camera like the iPhone’s camera get more likes, and are easier to generate more of, creating a self-generating cycle. Now, the phone must act as a viewfinder as well as a high-definition camera, but there’s no view hole like there were on traditional devices, so the view takes up the entire screen instead, a compromise. The bigger the screen, the easier it is to take those high-quality pictures.
On the other side, once the picture’s been posted to social media, a bigger phone means you don’t have to zoom in to see details, and people with poor eyesight or coordination can increase the size of their text and read more without swiping back and forth on the screen every five words. Is it better than a PC, or a dumbphone (aka a flip phone)? That’s down to user preference, but a bigger smartphone allows for the option.
Media – For You!
Besides picture taking and doomscrolling, a lot of people end up watching video on their phones. SmarTVs are annoying to navigate, not everyone has a SmarTV capable of searching the web for videos, and many people deliberately keep TVs out of their bedrooms anyway. The next most viable screen is their phone, which is portable, internet-connected, and has apps for websites like NetFlix, HBOMax, etc so they can watch in proper 16×9 formatting without fussing with the phone browser.
A bigger phone is less of a headache to watch, so it’s only natural that as video became more common, bigger devices would become more common with it. Some apps are also designing for that bigger screen anyway. Popular video-based app TikTok would often cover ¾ of the bottom part of the screen with the caption with my older moto, but now that’s less of a problem – the text size is unchangeable, so it was forced to adapt to the size of my screen.
Overall, larger phones are being driven by Apple, who is by far the largest smartphone brand in the US – apps have an incentive to keep up with Apple over anyone else, meaning that if other phones was the apps to look the same on their screens, they need to keep up with Apple’s sizing. If the consumer wants the giant screen but doesn’t want to pay Apple prices, that’s great! If they don’t want the big screen, they’re about to be pushed back into earlier generations of the Apple phone, or other third party phones.