Phone size, Who is Apple’s target audience?
Those very first mobile phones were large brick-sized devices. They might seem a bit silly now but the size was just a reflection of the electronics of the time. However as technology developed they soon shrank down to small brick size then down to large hand held then on to pocket size items. Test messaging did not demand a particularly large screen so minimum phone size ended up very much controlled by keypad size and battery capacity.
There was then the arrival of “the Internet” on phone type devices so screens had to jump up in size to be able to present this data in a viewable format. So phones started to get a bit bigger again with this larger (colour) screen and mini QWERTY keyboards for alpha-numeric input.
In the way that early internet use on computers was dominated by the technologically literate and only later (with the arrival of broadband?) moved across to the more general population, so early phone data use was also dominated by this techno-crowd, and by its very nature, a relatively young crowd. These first internet displaying devices seemed to settle down to a screen size of 3 to 3.5 in (70 – 90 mm), a reasonable balance between physical size, screen quality and cost.
However more recently screen sizes have increased with numerous models covering the 4 inch (100 mm) range and things like the Galaxy Notes going well into the 5 inch (130mm) domain, though Apple has remained down at the smaller end of the scale, just tweaking its new iPhone up from 3.5 to 4 inches.
Is staying this small a wise move by Apple? These new larger size phones are proving quite popular, but then so is their iPhone. However by not providing something in the larger screen range I think Apple is losing out in a fast developing market – and that’s in the slightly older crowd who’s expanding their mobile phone use to include internet data; and what’s more, Apple could start (has started) losing people because of this.
Why? Once you get into middle age your eyes quite naturally lose a degree of their elascicity and it makes it harder to focus on near objects, reading becomes difficult, glasses or contact lenses become a necessity. So a small screen so easily used before becomes a burden where a larger screen makes interaction with your phone so much easier. Also with data speeds (both land line and mobile) increasing more is being expected from whatever device you are using, so trying to squash all that into a small screen is becoming problematic.
I have an iPhone 3GS, a great device. However some time ago I decided to do some upgrading but went the Samsung Galaxy S II route. I still use the 3GS, but that larger S II screen makes reading or looking at web pages a so much nicer experience. If I was to do an upgrade now (this is not long after the iPhone 5 release) top of my shortlist is the Galaxy Note II.
(By chance, while writing this I noticed a Tweet from Austin Evans (@duncan33303), a young highly technology literate guy with some good YT videos… “Just fired up Kindle for Android on the Galaxy Note II. It’s actually big enough to read comfortably.”)
To me this Note II gives a screen large enough to display maps and ‘detailed information’ nice and clearly, just large enough to have two applications running on the screen at the same time, yet is still small enough (just!) to be highly portable.
When Apple developed their iPad Mini they obviously wanted to differentiate it from the popular 7 inch tablet crowd such as the new Kindles or Nexus 7, so they’ve made it a 7.9 inch device. I personally think it’s a great device however it still leaves a big hole in their range of something pocket-size but still ‘big’. I so wish they’d made the new iPad different by going down to say 6 inch, so providing something for those who, like me, was very happy their iPhone but now wants that larger screened item.
Apple might say that they don’t care about this other market, they’re quite happy re-inventing the iPhone every now and again and catching the next group of teenagers wanting phones, but I think this is very ‘short sighted’ approach. I want a set-up where I can seamlessly go from phone to tablet to desk-top computer. If I end up moving away from the iPhones when my 3GS eventually dies a death then I’ll want my next tablet upgrade to match my phone’s system so good-bye old iPad, and of course I’ll want my desk-top to match…
(Austin Evans YouTube channel.)