Dear Ms. Smartphone: I have always liked the small slim phones I can put in my back pocket but my co-workers insist it’s time to think bigger! They say that I could do more things with it, and it will be easier to read the screen. We have a logistics company. When I read maps it could be helpful, but most of the time I am just using it to text. Does phone size matter? Randall, Tiburon
Dear Randall: Your question is reminiscent of the search process consumers go through when they acquire a new vehicle. They look at their budget and they sort through both needs and fantasies. Do you prefer a hulky Jeep or a sporty Mazda? And significantly, what will their co-workers and family think? It’s a difficult call and in a perfect world we would have one of each.
You mentioned maps, and perhaps you track vehicle locations. One option, between big and small is to think about a folding phone, like the recent Samsung Z models. Recently, I have noticed that my ridehail drivers favor them. They tell me that the screen clarity is excellent, and they appreciate the bigger screen. But then it folds on its hinges. Still it’s a really big phone and this fold does not come cheap.
At the opposite end of the scale, there’s the 5.4″ iPhone mini screen, which Apple reworked in 2020. Aficionados call it a testimony to the company’s hyper-focus on form and design. If you plan to stick to phone calls and a few texts, it’s a nice size for your pocket or bag. In fact, if you use their Apple Wallet you can slim down further and not need to carry a wallet.
It surprised me, when I Googled “does phone size matter” to find there was a robust academic literature! Not surprisingly, as screen size increases so does the perceived usefulness of the phone and positive attitudes towards using it. The bigger phones have cameras with more lenses, multi-screens, and often, faster processor chips. But, are the people pushing these jumbo-sizing our phones the same people that brought us 70” TV screens? Does this mean we all be carrying around television sized phones (LOL)?
In poorer households, phones often take the place of the computer. They have much of the functionality and are more affordable. Kids will even do their homework on them. During the Covid lockdown educators got concerned, and organized to get free tablets and computers to these kids. In developing countries like India people often skip over getting computers altogether.
But, back to your dilemma. There is generally an inverse relationship between screen size and battery life. And, if you want to control your screen time you may want to stay with smaller phones. They make scrolling an intentional effort. So, the smaller phone screen might keep you more engaged with the people and activities outside your phone….or those co-workers, assuming they are not on social media!
That said, one final concern. The box your new phone comes in will have a small slip of paper in the box that details the EMF (electronic magnetic field) from this device. EMF varies by your distance from a WiFi signal and whether you are using data-hungry features like the GPS. Smaller phones are likely to be carried on our body so it’s a consideration if the device will be held close to your ear or pressed deep in your thigh.