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Does size really matter?

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The size of smartphones seems to have gone full circle, and the current trend for super-size screens makes the thought of a dainty Nokia 3310 well and truly a thing of the past. But what are the real impacts of increased aspects, and is bigger really better?

This year the average smartphone size is set to break the 5-inch barrier. What with the iPhone 6 Plus and LG G3 already sporting a whopping 5.5-inches, we’re well on the way to big being the norm. But what is so appealing about those extra inches, and how did we get here?

The thing about smartphones today is that they’re far from just phones. We’ve moved into an age where we’re carrying around powerful little computers in our pockets. Our needs are greater, we have a higher demand to be connected, and our expectations are much higher. We use our phones extensively and this, in turn, requires more power.

Bigger smartphones support this longer, broader usage. There’s less strain on the eye when studying larger screens, content can be better displayed, and provides an all round better browsing experience. Then there are the advantages that bigger phones bring in terms of capability. They have the potential for more memory, more hardware and a bigger battery. Plus, let’s face it, things look damn good on those screens and they’re a joy to use.

Downsides come in the form of usability, especially for those of us with small hands. Some thumbs have trouble reaching areas of larger screens, and not everyone’s pockets are big enough to house the vastness of a device with a 5.5-inch screen. Plus there’s the risk factor. Bigger screens are more likely to scratch or crack, and let’s not forget the dramas involved in the iPhone bend-gate.

As a mobile agency, we’re used to responsive design and build to accommodate the variety in the market, and so larger screen sizes haven’t really changed the goalposts. UX considerations have become slightly more lengthy however, due to the new potential for complex layouts. ‘Thumb zones’ affect button hit areas and controls more so than before, but in terms of web design we are making a move away from complex interfaces, and towards the promotion of clear, intuitive UX alongside simple layouts.

Our aim is always to deliver the right content, at the right time, regardless of screen size. With app design, larger screens allow for more complicated user interfaces for feature heavy app needs. In a way that makes our life easier.

So all in all the positives of larger smartphones seem to outweigh the negatives. What’s a little risk when the rewards are so rich? The consensus appears to indicate that experience is simply and beautifully enhanced on bigger phones, providing your hands are big enough to reach the whole screen.

Where it all ends is another question. Most people seem to think we’re nearing the maximum screen size, and that anything bigger than 6 inches would be too far. That’s not to say manufacturers won’t go one step further with other technology. We’re already witnessing the emergence of wearables and seamlessly connected devices. Perhaps smart projection technology will allow interaction with the world around us, and the smartphone will simply become the processor and connector to facilitate these experiences within the real world. One thing’s for sure, mobile is the future, the shaper of society, of behaviour, and that future holds exciting potential.

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