There’s been a lot of hype surrounding the latest mobile device releases these days. One maker boasts their newest smartphone has a 5.4” screen, a second points out they have a 5.5” screen, and yet another touts their chart-topping 6.4” screen. So which one is best? Is bigger really better when it comes to smartphones?
If you’re like me, comfort is high on your list of must-haves with a new device. While I am truly tempted by the monstrous screens on the iPhone 6 Plus and Samsung Note 4, I would feel a bit conspicuous pulling it out in public just to send a text. However, if you ask my wife the same question, she would tell you the larger screen is a great way to catch up on her reading at the beach, for watching a video while waiting to pick up my son after school, or easily answering all of her email while on the go. I guess that means the decision is a bit like buying a pair of shoes. Make your decision based on how you will use the device, how well it suits your user style, and how well it fits you.
Personal preferences aside, there are some real-world physical limitations to keep in mind. As you can see in the graphic below, not everyone’s hand is large enough to use – let alone hold some of the larger phones currently available.
I recommend two simple tests to try before making your purchase: First, grasp each phone firmly in the space between your thumb and index finger. How much grip do you have with the larger phone? The larger phones also tend to weigh more, which can negatively impact comfort.
Second, hold the phone in one hand and swoop your thumb across the screen in an arc; much like a windshield wiper. What percentage of the screen does your thumb comfortably reach? Is it enough to cover your typical day’s app usage?
For iPhone users, Apple built in some help for those with limited reach: Tap the home button lightly twice, and everything at the top of the screen jumps to the middle, making it much easier to access – regardless of phone size. Additionally, some apps like iMessage have controls that live in the lower right corner, near your thumb.
Most users with large phones end up learning how to operate them with two hands, or developing “unusual” ways to hold them. I feel that if you start looking like a contortionist, you might want to consider moving to a smaller phone.
Another often overlooked part of the purchase decision comes from answering the question: “How will I carry this”? Does the phone fit into your typical pants or shirt pocket? How about a small “evening out” purse or your everyday “mom bag”? There’s nothing in my wardrobe that a large phone wouldn’t fit comfortably into, and my wife could hide a full-size PC in the day-to-day bag that she lugs around.
After all that, what’s the best advice I can give? It’s actually quite simple: Try the new device on for size before making a purchase; and don’t just try one – test drive a couple of alternatives. Your wireless retailer genuinely wants you to leave happy and satisfied with your shiny new purchase, so take the time to choose wisely.