Why Do Phones Keep Getting Bigger?

Why Do Phones Keep Getting Bigger?

There was a time when cell phones were huge, almost like a “Brick” and so big that people had to carry them in their own tote bags. Over the years, phones got smaller, with little flip phones that would easily fit in the palm of your hand. Now, it seems like they’re going back in the other direction, with the newest versions looking more like tablets than cell phones. 

Phones keep getting bigger because of changes in mobile device technology and consumer use. People use their phones for more tasks than ever before. Most of these tasks require wider screens, bigger batteries, and higher-quality components. This combination has led to bigger phones over the years. 

This article will explain all these reasons in detail. We will also discuss some of the changes in technology and use that drive the evolution of mobile devices. 

Better Technology Takes Up More Space

Better Technology Takes Up More Space
iPhone 13 Pro Max Available on Amazon

One of the main reasons phones have gotten bigger over the years is the accelerating technology available for mobile devices. Back when your cell phone didn’t do anything except make calls, send texts, and maybe play Tetris, it didn’t need much room for a large processor, AI Chip, or a big HD screen.

Now, however, cell phones are literally tiny computers, and people expect them to do whatever they need, whenever they need it. Smartphones continue to add more features and capabilities, which requires more space inside for the various components needed. 

As phone carriers shift from 4G LTE to 5G, smartphones need to use various technologies as network carriers use both network types at different times and places.

We have some interesting articles discussing the metamorphosis of the Cell Phone in our articles “Your Cell Phone Was Born in the U.S. Military” and “Is Mobile-Powered Smartphone Desktop Computing Good or Bad?”

Larger 5G Modems

Larger 5G Modems
iPhone 13 Pro Max 5g Mobile Gaming Available on Amazon

If you really want to fly around in Mobile Gaming with a 1 TB iPhone 13 Pro Max 5g playing internet-connected games on the go, away from Wi-Fi you need a good 5G modem and connection.

Most phone carriers use Multi-Spectrum 5G technology, which utilizes three classifications of 5G Radio bands. Low-band waves spectrum under 1 GHz, Mid-band spectrum between 1 GHz and 6 GHz, and High-band, or millimeter wave (mmWave), spectrum above 24 GHz radio frequencies.

5G components are new, take more power, and affect phone design, making their modems less streamlined than earlier models. For the time being, that means they’re larger and take up more space inside the phone, and because they use more power, they then require larger batteries with the current technology. 

To keep smartphones thin and sleek, the extra space has to go somewhere else. The result is a phone that is taller and wider than its predecessors. But this is not always a bad thing because many consumers like the larger phones and prefer the benefit of larger screens and keyboards.

Changes in Consumer Demands

Cameras and Batteries

Cameras and Batteries
iPhone 13 Pro Max Video Camera Available on Amazon

A 2019 survey found that the top priorities for smartphone users are improved battery life and camera quality. Unfortunately, those two things run counter to resource allocation, as do many other added features that come standard in today’s phones. 

Demands for higher quality photos from a smartphone, additional lens options, and endless zoom capabilities create challenges for supporting the camera and other phone features with a battery small enough to fit inside the phone and powerful enough to last throughout the day. 

Although smartphone battery technology continues to improve each year with new scientific discoveries and the use of newly discovered materials. As a result, new phones keep getting bigger to support larger batteries. There is still much progress to be made in battery technology.

Higher-Quality Screens

Smartphone with stylus pen writing a grocery list on the large white screen of a Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 5G Smartphone available on Amazon.

Another changing demand is for larger and higher-quality screens. Phones are used for multimedia purposes more than ever before. A 2018 eMarketer report stated that over two-thirds of video viewing is on mobile devices. 

As streaming services like Netflix and Hulu continue to reign, niche streaming services like Disney+ and Peacock are only growing in market share. The need for on-demand entertainment seems higher than ever, and smartphones are a huge medium for viewing. 

The result of all this growth has been for businesses to invest heavily in their online presence. More than ever, businesses and organizations seek to interact with the public via their mobile device and multi-media formats. 

Bigger Screens

For all the tapping, scrolling, zooming, and clicking people do with their phones, a larger screen is more convenient and offers a better experience. This ability is in addition to the multi-media experiences of the camera or video interaction while speaking to someone, watching a movie, or playing a game.

The first generation iPhone had a 90mm (3.5″) screen display that fits comfortably in even the most petite hands. Fast forward to the iPhone 13 Pro Max, which has a 6.7” (17 cm) display, which is over twice the size of the original and you can see how much the design has changed since 2007.

Smartphones are touchscreens, so the ability to multitask and flip through various apps with the touch of a finger requires a screen that’s large enough to accommodate even the biggest hands. 

Video Chat Features

Video Chat Features
Statista Worldwide Mobile Video Call Usage by Age and Gender in 2021.

This change in consumer demand is the rise in video chat features like Apple’s Facetime. The ability to connect remotely has become the norm, and people use features like Facetime to make a quick call. 

According to Statista, “during the second quarter of 2021, almost 46 percent of female internet users aged between 16 and 24 were using their mobile devices or smartphones to make video calls. Only 40 percent of men in the same age group were doing the same.”

Statisitia Worldwide Mobile Video Call Usage by Age and Gender in 2021.

A larger screen makes it easier to see one another and still see your own camera view. Even in today’s world where working from home has caused a huge increase in video conferencing with programs like:

  • Zoom
  • Microsoft Teams 
  • Skype
  • Google Duo
  • FB Messenger
  • WhatsApp Messenger

Similarly, the rise of apps like Snapchat and Instagram has increased the importance of these kinds of features. 

Bigger Smartphones Are More Expensive

Bigger Smartphones Are More Expensive
Galaxy Z Fold3 5G Available on Amazon

In addition to the fact that today’s phones come jam-packed with features and capabilities that most of us couldn’t even imagine in 2007, the price of a new smartphone has also grown exponentially. In the past five years, the top three manufacturers saw price increases by over 52%. For instance, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 5G folding phone starts at $1,500 to $1,800.

In 2021 Samsung actually lowered the price of some of its top phones compared to 2020. The Galaxy S20 series was $999, and the Galaxy S21 was $799. The Apple iPhone 13 Pro starts at $999 from Apple. You can also get a Google Pixel 6 for $599 and is thought by some to be the best Android phone you can get for the money.

With the current worldwide semiconductor chip shortage because of manufacturers, in addition to shipping and infrastructure problems affecting many global industries and businesses in the United States and the world. For the foreseeable future, there could be a rise in prices in 2022 and even into 2023.

The Future of Smartphone Prices

Over time, the demand to upgrade to the newest Smartphone release has dwindled as people hold on to their devices longer. As a result, companies are selling fewer phones. The only way to grow shareholder value while selling less of a product is to sell it at a higher price. 

That’s what happened with the smartphone industry. Part of how manufacturers can justify such a drastic price increase is by offering new and upgraded features and capabilities, including larger and better-looking displays every year. 

There is also a competitive element between manufacturers, as each rushes to launch their “bigger and better” product attempting to outdo the others. The outcome is an ever-growing series of phones with more capabilities, battery power, and a larger, higher-quality display.

With inflation, engaging new concepts like the Galaxy Z Fold continued demand, and new flagships smartphone releases every year, the prices are likely to keep increasing.

Big Folding Phones

Big Folding Phones
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 5G Available on Amazon

Another possibility is the rise of folding phones, like the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 5G. While this model is not the norm yet, the technology could be a game-changer as manufacturers try to pack more and more into a small package. The Z’s screen size is 7.6″ in the full rectangle compared with the iPhone 13 Pro Max’s screen at 6.7,” and the Samsung Z also has a cover screen that is 6.2”.

However, while these foldable phones are shorter and narrower, they’re also thicker. The design runs counter to the thin, sleek appeal of the traditional smartphone design. As mentioned above, they are also expensive, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 with 256 GB starts at around $1,500 depending on accessories and storage size and goes up from there.

Still, as the demand for a more powerful device builds, the foldable phone may be an option that will keep the overall size small enough to fit in a pocket or palm. This phone has so many features that bring it closer to a tablet in form factor and is very attractive to people for that reason.

Are There Any Small Phones Still Available?

Small phones are still available for people who don’t like the shift to larger screens. Most major phone manufacturers have smaller devices for users in this demographic. PCMag recently ranked the best small phone on the market for anyone who doesn’t like the feel of a “phablet.” 

Alternatively, for those people who have trouble holding extra-large phones with one hand but still enjoy the features, there are options on the market for cases and other items to help make the grip more comfortable. 

There are many types of phone cases, as we discuss in our articles “What Are The Best Cell Phone Case Types?” and “Finding The Best Phone Grip Style For You,” with different attributes and grips and devices like the PopSockets PopGrip. Many people like the PopGrip, because not only is it convenient and comfortable in your hand, but you can switch out the PopTop for whatever design you like, making them customizable for whatever mood you may have. 

Final Thoughts

Final Thoughts
Final Thoughts

Anyone who’s owned multiple smartphones over the last decade can tell you that they’ve gotten steadily bigger over time, and there’s no sign of that pattern changing anytime soon. Consumers demand better performance and more features from their phones as they rely on their devices more than ever before. 

Better battery life, higher quality cameras, improved technology, and changes in consumer habits are all factors that explain cell phone’s larger growth patterns. However, some smaller phones are still available for those who prefer them. The small phone form factor has many benefits and is almost indistinguishable from the large phone models when it comes to features. 

If your main focus is a large screen and workability, then a “Bigger” Smartphone may be just what you have been contemplating. 

References:

John Mortensen

I am a project manager, tech writer, and science enthusiast who loves to study the latest technology, such as AI, comedy, quantum computers, smartphones, headphones, and software.

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