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Approaching Extinction: Android Smartphones Smaller than 4-inches

Almost four years ago, GSMArena wrote this about their impressions of the 4.3-inch HTC HD2.

But with touch smartphones getting screens that large sooner or later ergonomics had to be sacrificed. We somehow thought that the original Touch HD had almost crossed the line, but the HD2 has definitely crossed over. Reaching your thumb to the opposite angle of the screen is quite a task and it’s not really comfortable to use the phone single-handedly. But we guess many of you would find the compromise with ergonomics quite worth it.

The Samsung Galaxy S II. 2011's massive is 2013's mini.
The Samsung Galaxy S II. 2011’s massive is 2013’s mini.

Well into 2011, 4.3-inch Android smartphones were still considered massive. Just think back to the HTC Sensation and Samsung Galaxy S II, which both had 4.3-inch displays. In late 2011, Google made the 4.65-inch screen a standard with their Samsung Galaxy Nexus, and nothing has ever been the same again. Today, a lot of 4.3-inch phones carry the moniker “mini”, and a phone with a 4.65-inch display would be considered mid-sized. This to the chagrin of folks like PCMag’s Sasha Segan who left the Android world because of the growing size of Android phones, and the absence of good smaller alternatives. In sum, a lot of reputable people are thinking that all this got too big.

I did not write this article to revive that long standing debate. Suffice it to say that some people prefer to use phones with one hand, and others have long used two hands with their smartphones even prior to the touch screen days (i.e. BlackBerry QWERTY phone users). In the same vein, the ideal size depends on the person. I wrote this article to provide some useful advice as what you should buy next.

We should look at this issue in terms of app development and fragmentation. With the majority of the wealthiest Android users probably buying 4.7 to 5.5 inch handsets, I am inclined to think that Android app developers will be developing app user interfaces relevant to larger displays. Android apps scale up and down to different resolutions and screen sizes, so getting an even larger or smaller phone should not affect or compromise the experience too much to a point. Basically, an app designed for a 5-inch phone should be fine even on a smaller 4.3 or 4-inch phone. But what about even smaller 3.5 to 3-inch devices?

If you are buying a new Android, I would recommend one with at least a 4-inch display, or better yet a 4.3-inch display. A line has indeed been crossed on what the ideal Android phone should be like, and there is no going back. Getting a “mini” is still fine, but do avoid the “micro” Android phones.