posted by Thom Holwerda on Thu 29th Mar 2012 10:42 UTC
IconOver the years, one thing has been very hard to grasp for some people: the fact that people want smartphones with 4.0"+ screens. These 'some people' seem to believe that because Apple chose a 3.5" display, any display size that isn't 3.5" is wrong. Keep that in mind when you read Samsung's latest little communiqué: the Korean giant has sold (not shipped, sold) more than 5 million Galaxy Notes. Which has a 5.3" screen.

Display size is one of those lovely polarising topics because the two competing smartphone platforms of today, iOS and Android, take a completely different approach. iOS sticks to its 3.5" display, whereas with Android, the focus has definitely been on larger displays. With two such clearly different approaches, the race is on to argue that one approach is right, and the other is wrong.

So, you'll see people twist and turn to come up with reasons as to why Android phones go for the larger screen. It must be LTE. It must be peasant specification checklists. It must be a secret conspiracy to get around Android's supposed lousy battery life (you couldn't make this stuff up if you tried).

Of course, it can't be because people want devices with larger displays. No, that's impossible - Apple hath stated that 3.5" is the optimal display size, and any other size is therefore wrong and deserving of ridicule. Until Apple releases an iPhone with a 4.0" display, naturally, at which point the very fabric of space-time will change, and all the reasons as to why 3.5" was optimal will magically become null and void. Apple was merely "trying to protect its customers from unproven technology". We've all been here before.

It's all incredibly condescending. It implies people really do want 3.5" displays, but they are being tricked into larger displays against their own will. People are the victims of evil marketing schemes by Google, the Android OEMs, and carriers. Because Apple's word is the undeniable truth and the right answer for everyone, anyone choosing not to believe it must, therefore, be influenced by some external factor beyond their own free will.

The fact of the matter is, of course, that the popularity of devices with displays larger than 4.0" cannot be attributed to any of these contrived reasons. These devices are popular because people want them. I can forgive American writes like Gruber and Arment for not taking anything beyond US borders into account, but even here in Europe, where carriers' influence is far more limited than in the US, people choose larger displays en masse.

The fact of the matter is that there is no right displays size. Some people prefer smaller displays, some people prefer larger displays, and some people don't want smartphones at all. Forget these silly contrived reasons, forget this idea of there being an "optimal" display size.

And you need not look further than the massive success of the Galaxy Note to confirm this. The device, with its massive 5.3" display, was laughed away when it was released. Jonathan S. Geller called the Galaxy Note "the most useless phone":

The phone is too big. You will look stupid talking on it, people will laugh at you, and you'll be unhappy if you buy it. I really can't get around this, unfortunately, because Samsung pushed things way too far this time.

John Gruber couldn't "believe how much promotional effort Samsung and AT&T are putting behind this thing". Sascha Segan said that "the Galaxy Note works well; I just don't think the world needs the Galaxy Note". Zach Epstein called it an answer without a question. And, even when announcing the 5 million figure, Epstein continued to bang on the 'it's clearly too big!'-drum.

And yet, despite all these tech writers making fun of the device, it has now sold a staggering 5 million devices - pretty damn good for "the most useless phone", isn't it? The problem here is that many tech writers don't get it. I've been at the helm here at OSNews for seven years, and if there's one thing I've learnt is that there is no one size fits all. There's no clearly defined right and wrong when it comes to products. People have different wants and needs, and therefore, all else being equal, choice always wins.

The ridiculed Galaxy Note proves it - once again. When will these tech writers understand this? Quite possibly, whenever there's a 4.0" phone with an Apple logo on it. Until that moment - which may never arrive - we'll have to contend with ever more contrived reasons as to why Android devices have larger screens.

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