Photo: Steve Kovach, Business Insider
Steve Wozniak said it pretty well in his recent interview with TechCentral: When you walk into a store to look at smartphones, the iPhone screen looks puny compared to all those giant Android devices. You can’t deny the appeal.It’s nice having that extra space for web browsing, watching videos, and playing games, after all. You can even argue the larger Android phones are what prompted Apple to finally up the size of the iPhone 5 screen this year.
But let’s take a look back. It was just over a year ago that Android phone displays started getting bigger. Samsung, the top smartphone maker in the world, led the charge with a string of new phones, each with a larger screen than the last. First came modest 4-inch displays, which were just a tad larger than the 3.5-inch screen on every iPhone model before the iPhone 5. Reasonable.
Today, it’s so absurd that when Samsung introduced the 4-inch version of the Galaxy S III in Europe, no one even flinched that it’s called the Galaxy S III Mini.
That “mini” phone is about the same size as the iPhone 5, by the way.
So here we are, in an era where phones are so big they no longer fit comfortably in your pocket, and Samsung labels a phone that would’ve seemed huge a year ago as a tiny, underpowered budget device.
To be clear, Samsung makes incredible phones. The Galaxy S III is one of the few phones available today that you should consider buying. But it’s worrisome that the key differentiator between Samsung’s phones and the iPhone continues to be screen size. You can only go so big, right? And at what point will Samsung’s devices become so large that they start turning people off?
Unfortunately, Samsung doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. It’s going to release its new phone/tablet hybrid, the Galaxy Note II, at the end of October. The Note II has a massive 5.5-inch screen, which is even bigger than its predecessor. And next year’s Galaxy S IV is rumoured to have a 5-inch screen, which is a bit larger than the Galaxy S III’s 4.8-inch screen.
What would be better?
Instead of focusing on bigger and bigger screens, which Samsung has already nailed by now, it’d be better to differentiate its phones from the iPhone with amazing user-facing features. That doesn’t mean packing in as many tricks and doodads as possible like it did with the Galaxy S III. When you do that, a lot of the best stuff gets buried.
In the Galaxy S III’s case, it’s often hard to figure out how to activate stuff like automatically sharing photos over Wi-Fi and tapping two phones together to swap music. It looks cool in the commercials, but it’s not that seamless in reality.
Samsung’s best bet would be to focus its innovation on a small number of the most important software features and make them more user-friendly and accessible.