With the reveal of the BlackBerry Passport and another rumour surfacing that an iPhone phablet is coming, it’s time for a reality check

A lot of digital ink has been spread reacting to the size of BlackBerry’s upcoming Passport handset, with its 4.5-in. square screen. Judging by photos, that could make for an awkward-looking device.

Certainly it isn’t graceful, and these days a graceful handset has rounded corners. It will be interesting to see if what CEO John Chen is holding is the production version.

I would guess most BlackBerry users want a functional device more than one that belongs on the wall of a museum. And if the device stays the same that’s what they’ll get with a larger screen device that still has a physical keyboard.

Screen size is important, with handset makers trying to make them bigger with every model. A lot of that has to do with trying to find what users want (answer: there are many users, with many demands). So Samsung Electronics, for example, offers the Galaxy S5 with a 5.1-in. screen as well as the Galaxy Mega — a so-called phablet –with a 6.3-incher (Bell, Rogers, Telus). Huawei has the 6.1-in. Ascend Mate (Wind Mobile).

It appears that handsets are getting bigger, which poses problems for people with small pockets. Where it once seemed that cell phones couldn’t get any smaller, now it seems we’re doomed to walking around with voice-enabled tablets.

Not necessarily, says the Yankee Group in a recent blog. Over two-thirds of smartphone owners surveyed said their device has a screen less than 5 inches across. One third owned a screen between 4 and 4.9 inches in diameter, and another quarter own one with a screen of between 3 and 3.9 inches.

The firm notes the replies may be somewhat skewed because of the popularity of iPhones, whose screens max out at 4-inches. There are the perennial rumours that the next iPhone will be a phablet — feed your craving for gossip here — because Apple can’t afford to be left behind.

Remember, the analyst firm points out, the bigger the screen the less battery life and portability.  “It’s easy to slap a big screen on a smartphone and call it new,” the firm writes, “but our data shows the big screen isn’t necessarily going to draw as many buyers as creating a better consumer experience. For now, that means focusing on display sizes between 3 and 5 inches.”

 

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