It’s something of a New Years Eve thing; sitting down to appraise the last twelve months, thinking about what’s worked and what hasn’t. In the mobile device world, we’ve seen a couple of trends during 2014 and these are continuations of 2013 trends.
Screen & Device Size
The first of these is the size of devices. The two early 2012 flagships that spring to my mind are the 4.8-inch Samsung Galaxy S III and the 4.7-inch HTC One X. In 2013, we had the 5.0-inch Samsung Galaxy S4 and the 4.7-inch HTC One. In early 2014, we’ve seen the 5.1-inch Galaxy S5, 5.0-inch HTC One (M8): there’s been a slow and steady increase in device screen and chassis size.
I’ve used a number of large-screen devices as my daily driver including the Galaxy S III, Nexus 4 [link] and the current HTC One. I’ve adapted to each device – the One M8 has large bezels at the top and bottom of the display, which makes the handset chassis larger than many similar 5.0-inch devices. It is a big handset but I quickly adapted; now, I find smaller devices rather quaint in use: I keep a HTC Desire S around and whilst it’s still usable, it feels surprisingly small and fiddly.
The advantage of a larger screen is that it makes reading, editing and creating documents, emails and webpages much easier.
Battery uptime is arguably the Achilles heel of the smartphone but things are improving in this respect. There are three reasons for this; firstly, electronic components are getting more efficient with power. Secondly, manufacturers are getting better at the internal packaging of devices and finally, as screens increase in size so the available space for batteries also increases, which means the electronic fuel tank is larger.
To put things into perspective, the 2012 Nexus 4 has a 4.7-inch display and a 2,100 mAh battery. The 2013 Nexus 5 has a 5.0-inch display and a 2,300 mAh battery. The 2014 Nexus 6 has a 6.0-inch display with a 3,220 mAh battery. The Nexus 5 has more efficient internal hardware compared with the Nexus 4 and whilst the Nexus 6 has a larger screen, it has a significantly larger battery.
Battery life is improving in conjunction with the things that our devices can do, which in turn means that our devices are able to do more, for longer between charges.
Looking forward, I’m not sure that we’ll see smartphone sizes continue to increase at the same rate. I suspect the average screen size will continue to go up as lower and mid-range devices are bought up to the current standard, but I suspect that the Nexus 6 will not become a new standard flagship size. I also expect the improvements in battery life to continue. I don’t expect any great revolution in 2015’s smartphones but a continued evolution of what is a rapidly maturing product.