Samsung has just unveiled a formidable Goliath of a smartphone called the Galaxy Mega, which will go on sale in Europe. As its name suggests, the Mega — with a hulking 6.3-inch display that laughs in the face of the 5.5-inch screen on the Galaxy Note II — is bigger than any handset we've seen before.
The Mega, mind you, isn't a bad phone. In fact, Ubergizmo's Hubert Nguyen gave it commendable marks in an early hands-on review. But this is exactly where things get tricky, and obfuscates a larger problem plaguing tech advertising: The whole "bigger is better" thing — which gives marketers an express lane to the gadget-lust regions of your amygdala — is, quite literally, getting out of hand.
Case in point: The other big piece of consumer tech news this morning involved murmurs that Microsoft is building a 7-inch version of the Surface. According to The Wall Street Journal, "Microsoft's product plans said the 7-inch tablets weren't part of the company's strategy last year, but Microsoft executives realized they needed a response to the rapidly growing popularity of smaller tablets." Seven inches. Which, if Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire sales are any indication, is the sweet spot for take-anywhere leisure machines, i.e. tablets.
Having more sizing options isn't a bad thing. Some people, for instance, aren't embarrassed pressing comically big tablets against their faces to take a call. We all have different needs. The issue, in all seriousness, is when gadget-makers focus their efforts on easy specs like screen size to lure in customers. That's when things get truly lopsided.
I'll point you to a great essay by Sascha Segan at PC Mag, who is ditching Android for HTC's 4.3-inch Windows Phone 8X. His main gripe? "High-end Android phones are literally inflating in a spec-sheet race that I like to call 'the game of moar.'" Moar is instinctive, he says. "It's the feeling you get when you eat some bacon, and then want 16 strips of bacon because bacon is delicious."
I miss Android, both for the flexible widgets and for the amazing array of third-party apps. But the Android world has been seized by the tyranny of moar. To switch back, I need a decent one-handed phone. Like about 25 million other Americans and Canadians, I take public transportation to work, and I really like to play games standing up. Using a phone one-handed poses physical limits based on the size of your thumb. [PC Mag]
Ideally, argues Segan, that means a phone would need to be about 2.6 inches wide to accommodate the hands of most women and men — a 4.3-inch screen diagonally at most. The problem, though, is that the premier Androids are all sizing up. Moar, moar, moar, in other words.
Check it out. The badass new HTC One? A stretchy 4.7 inches. The fully loaded Samsung Galaxy S4? A 5-inch display. Guess which exciting new Android coming out is the sole owner of a sensible 4.3-inch screen? That's right: The HTC First, the mid-tier Facebook Phone.
Even Shaq — whose hands are so humongous that as a professional athlete who lives and breathes basketball, he couldn't nail a decent free throw form in a two-decade career — is perfectly fine using a 4-inch iPhone.
So, yes, this trend is getting to be too much. (I'm looking at you, HTC and Samsung.) I'm sure there are people out there who will love the Galaxy Mega. And the Galaxy Note III. And whatever gargantuan "phablet" (barf) is on the horizon. Convergence or whatever. But there's currently a glaring hole in the market for a top-level 4-inch phone that isn't made by Apple. Which is why I really hope that not only is the rumored Galaxy S4 Mini a real thing, but that it's also treated with the same attention to detail as its larger sibling.
Yes, a smaller, top-rate Android will be harder to glam up in ad campaigns without the big attention-grabbing numbers. But alas, the time has come that we restore some sanity in the smartphone arms race. We've reached the tipping point. Bigger isn't better anymore. Bigger just is.