Every once in a while some tech blogger or journalist argues that their is no market for small smartphones, mostly when another small smartphone is about to hit the market (like the recent Veer 4G from HP), but is this the real case? Well, it certainly may look like this from the start since the majority of top-class smartphones on the market are rather big, but the truth is: a) that this is not really a valid point; b) it isn’t absolutely true.
Most of you are probably surprised to hear something like that, but think just for a moment of a few things:
- Today’s most popular and successful smartphone, namely the Apple iPhone, could be considered small by modern standards;
- The smartphone market continues to grow rapidly (almost 80% up in last quarter), with most of the growth obviously coming from people, who used feature phones in the past;
- Previously there weren’t any small smartphones, that were good enough to be successful on the market;
While the iPhone isn’t very small, it is certainly a lot smaller than most of the top-class Android smartphones, mostly because of the screen size: when the iPhone has 3.5” screen, most top-class Android smartphones are equipped with displays ranging from 3.7” to 4.3”, which makes them considerably larger. So you can’t really tell that smaller phones don’t sell — they sell alright, making Apple the second largest smartphone manufacturer after Nokia.
Now the advantages of a big screen are rather obvious (more content displayed, easier navigation, etc), but that doesn’t necessary mean that that’s the only way to fly. There are plenty of people who would buy a smaller phone since the size differentiation has worked, works and probably will work in many different markets: cars, laptops, TVs, etc. Even in the days of feature phones size was a good differentiator.
So why exactly are smaller Android smartphones selling worse, than their larger counterparts? Mostly because they don’t exist. Ok, so tell me what small Android smartphones are currently available on the market? There’s almost none of them, what’s worse most of them are rather bad: slow, uncomfortable to use, cheaply made, etc. So maybe they’re not selling because they’re crap and not because people don’t want small smartphones? That’s certainly what it looks like, when you look the market close enough.
Is a good small smartphone even possible to manufacture? Sure is, and HP’s Veer 4G was a step in the right direction — a portrait slider with a qwerty keyboard is definitely a right form factor for a small smartphone, but the device it self has other downsides (software bugs, the need to use adaptors for casual stuff like plugging in headphones or charging, etc), which can and probably will turn away many potential customers. But a product fail or an ecosystem fail never meant a form factor fail.