Everything in the smartphone industry seems to be about size. Does it matter? To most consumers, size of the screen does seem to matter. It is a case of want vs. need. Do we need to upgrade just because we can? We don't, but we still upgrade as soon as the next “big” thing appears.
So what is driving the plus-size cellular screen craze? It is a bit of everything. So when does a cellphone become a tablet?
Usage and Functionality With Smart Devices
Screen size is all about usage and function. The iPhone 4s has the perfect sized screen for texting and watching videos. The new Samsung Galaxy Note 4 has a huge screen in comparison to the iPhone 4s. It is ideal for streaming media.
It works better with apps like those home security apps that allow you access to the video feed from the security cameras in your home. Those don't work so well on the smaller smartphone screens. Bigger is better for visual apps.
What about screen-sizing? On the smaller smartphones, the scrolling takes forever to find the button to move to the next page. Functionality of websites or reading email work much better on a larger screen. Part of the science behind the move to bigger smartphone screens has to do with the functionality of apps. As mobile marketing becomes even more important, the blending of technology does as well. How do you blend website, mobile tech, and mobile shoppers? You increase the screen size.
Competition and Market Share
The screen size cannot just be larger; otherwise we would just use a tablet. Some of the lesser models of smartphones have huge screens, and the mega screens haven't helped them erode market share from Apple or Samsung. Samsung and Apple (the big brands) are still the leaders, but periodically, a company from the lower or medium ranks produces something amazing. However, consumers are still talking about Apple and Samsung. That is because the market is stratified by pricing, and that goes back to want vs. need.
If you cannot afford the new iPhone 6 Plus, do you opt for the iPhone 4s, Samsung Galaxy S5, or a sub-brand with a larger screen? That is a tough call, but it comes down to preference. By 2015, the estimate is that the smartphone market will crest $165 billion dollars annually. That is part of the science that is driving smartphone screen size. Consumer wants and needs now dictate a lot more than just new phone development. Along with a new phone release comes the release of supporting apps.
Companies trying to gain market share offer consumers the best overall package. Larger screens play right into that role. Take the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 as an example. It has a screen that is larger than the iPhone 6 Plus, and it offers higher resolution too. Videos display in a larger, crisper format. That might be enough of a difference to shake up brand loyalty.
Science and Sales
Science is the idea behind the technology that supports the product. There is a trickle-down movement with the technology. It is easier to make on a larger scale and then scale it down where the application supports consumer trends. The screen size on smartphones is a perfect example of how that process works. The need is not specifically driven to outshine the competition. Instead, it is about satisfying consumers, and that impacts competition.
There are plenty of off-brand smartphones with larger screens than the iPhone or the Samsung Galaxy Note 4. Those phones are not competing directly with the Galaxy or the iPhone because the technology that supports the iPhone and the Galaxy is superior. Those cheaper phones are cheaper for a reason. As the science improves and advances, the trend should even out the market. It will not happen that way. Instead, something new will focus consumer and market attention.
We saw a bit of that earlier with Google Glass. In the end, science is king, but science is a slave to consumer trends. Right now consumer trends demand larger screens with apps to match.