For those dreaming of a small but premium smartphone in 2023, the current portfolio of larger handsets at all price points suggests the dream will remain just that. There are those who still champion the idea of a small smartphone.
Eric Migicovskyformerly of the Pebble Smartwatch, and his team at SmallAndroidPhone.com laid out the state of play in a nutshell.
“It’s becoming increasingly clear that a small premium phone is not on any OEM’s roadmap. So I decided to take matters into my own hands. My goal here is to bring together other fans of small phone and put pressure on Google/Samsung/whoever to consider making a small phone.”
But is a complete miniaturization the way for 2023?
I’ve long been a fan of smaller form factors. Having spent a lot of time in the early days of smartphones like the 2.1 inch screen Nokia 7650, the massive 2.6 inch screen Nokia N95, and much of Sony’s Xperia Compact range; at first glance, the idea of an Android-powered competitor to the iPhone Mini should appeal to me.
Nowadays, my eyes can’t take it anymore, and they welcome larger smartphone screens beyond 6.5 inches. If you look at the wider smartphone market, there appears to be more demand for larger screen smartphones.
This leaves room for a niche product to fill, but niche products in the smartphone space cannot achieve the economies of scale that a major manufacturer can rely on to keep costs down. Fortunately, there is a better solution, and it’s a solution that will become more affordable in the next few years.
Power users who demand a small smartphone tend to have a large list of needs; performance should be the same, the same great battery life, and a premium experience. All this, but also has a smaller screen and, therefore a smaller footprint. This is a difficult engineering question with no guarantee of significant sales on the other side.
Even Apple, with its massive velvet-lined garden and closed ecosystem, struggled, with the iPhone 13 Mini making up just three percent of iPhone sales in the US, with Apple quietly killing the ‘mini’ project . Where are sales headed? On larger and higher specced iPhone Pro models.
And this is where flip phones come in. The compromise of a smaller screen is no longer necessary, with a full-sized display inside the casing. Once folded the flip phone becomes a fairly standard candybar phone – albeit one with the anatomy of a flexible screen in the middle and with less internal volume due to the hinge mechanism… but a standard phone nonetheless.
Once you fold the phone, you have a smaller and pocketable form factor. You have different implementations of cover screens to test your messages and notifications, as well as a larger main screen for normal smartphone work. You can also have high-end specifications and premium components, such as the camera, in the same package.
Samsung’s Z Flip series leads the charge in form factor while providing premium specs, eg, the current Z Flip 4 ships with the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 system on chip. Oppo’s recent global release of the Find N2 Flip uses the Mediatek Dimensity 9000+, which offers broadly similar performance. These manufacturers are early on the table, but they won’t be the first.
As more manufacturers introduce flip-styled phones, prices for displays drop, more technology investments for screens and hinges are made, consumers will see more choice in brands, and the more price points manufacturers offer, the more devices mean more addressable markets for developers…
Well, we have a small smartphone revolution. Unlike the small smartphones of the past, they will now have a full-sized display with just a flip.
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