Do you want a small but premium smartphone that offers all the benefits of today’s generation of larger screen devices in a much smaller footprint?
Eric Migicovsky Is. The founder of smartwatch company Pebble in 2012 showed off his dream smartphone on a new website (www.smallandroidphone.com) and hopes 50,000 like-minded supporters will sign a petition to get the attention of smartphone makers. ‘Android:
“It’s becoming increasingly clear that a premium small phone isn’t on any OEM roadmap, so I’ve decided to take matters into my own hands. My goal here is to rally other fans of small phones and pressure Google/Samsung/anyone considering making a small phone.”
There’s a long list of dreamy specs, but key wishlist items are a screen that’s under six inches and matches the iPhone 13 Mini, a dual-lens camera system that matches that of the Pixel 5 , runs stock Android OS with an unlocked bootloader and is powered by SnapDragon 8 series.
Currently, there is no phone on the market that meets these attractive specs for power users. Surely it just needs a manufacturer to recognize small and powerful to work with? The problem is that when consumers were presented with small phones that had the specs of a high-end phone in the past…they didn’t buy enough of them.
The best example here is Apple. The iPhone 12 Mini was advertised as a small iPhone with the same features and capabilities as the regular iPhone 12. Aside from being an iOS device and serving a very locked-in market, the sheer number of iPhone fans suggests that there should be enough of them who want a small smartphone for this to be an easy win for Apple.
Reader, this was not an easy victory for Apple.
Time and time again, order books for smaller iPhones have shrunk, while larger iPhones have taken a bigger market share. Although Apple has the iPhone SE, it’s definitely a mid-range handset when you look at the rest of the specs beyond the size…
…yet the iPhone SE is still far more popular than the iPhone Mini. Apple fans who wanted a smaller size chose the iPhone SE knowing not only that the specs (such as screen size) were lower than the main line of iPhones, but that an iPhone Mini would be launched a few months later.
With modern components, the specs of a smaller smartphone that sits in the mid-range price bracket don’t have to be exceptional, they just have to be good enough to get the job done.
And that’s where the argument about small phones always comes back. If you push hard for a physically smaller size, the market has shown time and time again that pushing flagship specs into the small space doesn’t sell. If you want to sell a phone with flagship specs, you’ll need to step up in size.
Over the years of iteration, the smartphone market has stratified into well-defined market spaces. You have your very large, very high-end phones at the top (and above the foldable). You have your high-end and reasonable-sized phones, your mid-sized and reasonable-sized phones, a few mid-sized and smaller phones, before you hit the mid-to-low-budget handsets on the lower end of the price spectrum.
Will there be demand for phones outside of these bands? For sure. As of this writing, there are 24,000 signatures on the site. Which is, I suspect, two orders of magnitude less than what would be needed to interest any major Android maker to start investigating the potential of the project.
You can’t always get what you want. Any hardware project must have trade-offs. And the trade-off in a small, high-spec smartphone is simple…there’s very little commercial value. This has already been tried and there is no reason to go back on these conclusions.
Now read the latest smartphone headlines in Forbes’ Android Circuit Weekly Digest…