According to Engadget, 21% of all smartphones that shipped in Q3 of 2013 (Q313) had screens that measured 5 inches or larger, up dramatically from the 3% of large-screen devices sold the year before. Of the roughly 261 million devices sold in Q313, 54.81 million had large screens. What has prompted the move toward larger screens? This article looks at why phones have gotten larger and explores whether the trend can be expected to continue.
Why Are Large Devices So Popular?
There are a couple of reasons why large-screen devices have gained in popularity. The first, and most important, is price. The price of large-screen devices has dropped by almost 23% in the last year, making the much more affordable. Cost alone could account for most of the surge in large-screen device purchases, but the situation is actually more complicated.
Also pushing large screens to the forefront is diversity in the mobile phone arena. Whereas Apple has traditionally offered only a small selection of screen sizes, Android has made it possible for people to chose from a very large variety of devices. With 81% of the smartphone market share, Android is by far the most popular mobile OS, a fact often attributed to the wide range of devices that run it. Basically, people now have more options and those who favor large screens are able to get them for a reasonable price. It may be bad news for Apple, but it is great news for companies that help users recycle unwanted electronic devices like phones, like Music Magpie .
As another point, large devices are probably more popular simply because people now see smartphones as computers with a phone rather than phones with some extra useful features. Buyers are willing to trade a little bit of portability in order to get more functionality. Smaller screen sizes may be favored for phones, but larger screen sizes are better for interacting with the myriad apps on the market. Larger screens provide better views, better picture sharing, better video, and easier use of on-screen keyboards. The only things holding back screen size are weight and the ability of large devices to fit in a pocket or the palm of a hand.
What Will the Smartphone of the Future Look Like?
This year will probably be the most active in terms of growth for large-screen devices. This prediction about smartphones is based on the fact that demand for large screens has largely been met this year as the price point and availability of devices generally suits the needs of people who would be interested. The prediction is that while sales volume of displays over 5 inches will increase, they will not exceed sales volumes of medium-sized devices. In other words, sales of large-screen devices will continue to grow, but not at the same outstanding pace as in 2013.
For developers, the move toward large screen sizes can only be seen as beneficial. More screen real estate allows for more complex user interfaces and that means more complex, more capable apps. The growth in screen size also means changes in the way devices are used. People are now more willing to share photos, type long messages, and otherwise use phones as though they were full-sized computers. This bodes well for developers because with increased mobile device use comes a greater reliance on cloud data storage. New apps and ways of accessing that data are needed, opening up a host of opportunities for developers.
In the end, the medium-sized device is likely to remain the favorite for most mobile users. However, it is also likely that those users will purchase large devices in addition to those they already own. As prices drop and availability increases, more and more people are becoming multi-device users. Most people now carry out their computing across multiple devices, a trend that is expected to continue well into the future.
Mason Williamson tracks mobile tech trends. He frequently writes about innovations and crazes on tech blogs.