Are the competition missing the point?

Are the competition missing the point?I listen to a lot of tech based podcasts, and a participant in a recent podcast mentioned something so profoundly obvious that I hadn’t even considered it. While discussing the new wave of supersize smartphones coming along, further blurring the line between phone and tablet, he mentioned that almost without exception there is no direct competitor for the best selling smartphone – the iPhone. It seems that Android and Windows manufacturers want to compete by making their flagships bigger and bigger, rather than taking the iPhone on at its on game.

So can any of these so called “superphones” really be considered as direct competition for the iPhone? I use all manner of devices in my daily life, so this comes from a fairly unbiased point of view, but is it easier to simply make the devices bigger? Bigger battery, bigger display… is this the easy way out? Are devices like the S3 and the One X+ easy devices to make? Does the engineering and software/hardware harmony of the iPhone get enough recognition?

Opinions are still divided as to what the screen size sweet spot really is, some of us like a phone sized phone while some subscribe to the “bigger is better” philosophy. But has the competition ended up competing with each other?

Whether you love Apple or not, their industrial design and fit and finish is second to none. To date this has always been industry leading. So why isn’t there anything else out there that has cutting edge specification with a sub 4.3″ screen? You could argue that the only other phones to rival the iPhone in build quality came from Nokia. The N8 for example remains a fantastic device. It’s beautifully made with one of the best cameras available. Sure, there were issues with the N8, but size and design were not one of them.

Using the Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini as an example, this was a disappointing device to some. Compared to the bigger brother (the S3) it had lower specs, but it was a “phone sized” phone. If this handset had arrived with all the quad core goodness of its bigger brother it would have been a huge hit, providing the latest specs in a smaller “phone sized” device.

So why did the S3 Mini launch with outdated specs? Obviously this isn’t the only sub 4.3″ device to come to market under-powered, almost all hardware makers reserve their best specs for their largest devices, but why is this? Why don’t they send out the best possible specification in their best hardware with a 4 / 4.3″ screen?

Are Apple the only company out there capable of the engineering brilliance required to make these types of devices? Surely a monolith like Samsung can do it too? Is it easier to just keep on making bigger devices rather than push the boundaries and compete directly with the iPhone?

Samsung also have devices in all shapes and sizes, so they have options to bump these specs, so do they simply choose not to? Do they believe that the average consumer will believe that bigger is better?

Maybe the market is changing. The S3 is continuing to sell in huge numbers but still, the most popular phone – the iPhone – has a 4″ screen.

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  • AngryMonday

    What a load of twaddle – companies generally make things to match demand – the trend is towards bigger screens because that’s what is selling (and that’s what Apple did – they followed rather than lead there). The best selling ‘phone’ is not ‘iphone’ that covers three models – 5, 4S & 4 – by the same token wouldn’t that apply to ‘Samsung Galaxy’ or ‘Android phone’ (which is currently the best selling smartphone OS). This type of article doesn’t really have a place as an ‘article’ on coolsmartphone – it’s not reporting – it’s opinion which is not back up by facts.

  • floriank

    Hmm, could this have something to do with Apple’s lawyers just being so trigger happy?

    By designing phones that are physically SO different from the iPhone, even if just in size it makes it harder for Apple to sue Samsung for copying their designs. Not that this stops them trying completely though…

    If Samsung or anyone else for that matter were to design a sub 4″ phone in the same high quality and finish as the iPhone, the lawyers would be crawling all over them in no time.

  • Actually I think there is one – HTC’s Windows Phone 8X.
    It’s top of HTC’s WP range, and 4.3″, same aspect ratio screen as the iPhone 5 (16:9) and even slightly higher dpi than the iPhone 5. Along with that it has HTC’s top camera and DC-HSDPA. Ok that’s marginally bigger than the iPhone 5, but the closest I think has been made yet.
    But you’re right, there is a complete absence of this level of spec in Android, which is very, very annoying!

  • From what I read of Ians point is, current competition is concentrating on putting their high spec components on the bigger/large screen devices as opposed to the smaller ones – yes manufacturers are going where the demand is i.e. large screen devices BUT the point is why this is the case? I believe there is demand for the smaller screen devices but only with the similar/ or a near as possible spec as the high-end devices. My opinion is that the market has narrowed the choice down because of this and I believe Ian’s point is the same?

  • I agree that there needs to be a very high spec sub 4.5 inch phone from other manufacturers, but the issue of iPhone size is an interesting one.

    When the iPhone 4 came out it was a similar size to the rest of the best selling phones on the market. The revamp to the 4S was never going to grow in size.

    Maybe when they designed the 5 they may have wanted to grow it to 4.7 inches (or more), but would that have been too big a jump for the iPhone fans?

    Maybe there’s a different reason: Seeing as the iPhone will sell by the wheelbarrow full, no matter what size or shape, why would they bother trying to keep up with the extra manufacturing costs of a huge phone?

    Maybe I’m way off and the iPhone 5 is just the perfect “sweet spot” for the majority of the world’s phone buyers.


    • Anonymous

      Well, I have to run a couple of phones for work reasons, and when I got my iPhone 4, I also bought myself an HTC Desire, which was pretty much a direct competitor at the time. If you put the phones on top of eachother, they are almost exactly the same size. Since then, the flagship Android phones have grown.

      I now have an iPhone 5 and an HTC One X, which I got after a Galaxy S2. I like them both for different reasons. If I’m going out, I generally take one phone with me, and that almost without exception is the iPhone 5, just because of its size.

      But would I buy another HTC Desire sized phone? I don’t think I would. I’m in love with the screen of my One X, and it suits a very particular purpose. I think the biggest question would be, which phone would I choose if I just had to run one?

      Pretty sure it’d be the iPhone, if I’m honest with myself, as much as I’d prefer it to be the Android. It’s just a bit more flexible as it’s a bit smaller. Sure, there are some (rooted) Android apps which do stuff you could never dream of doing with an iPhone, but the reality is I don’t use those often enough to care.

      The iPhone offers a great balance between size and power. The quality of the Apps are generally great, and it does what I want it to. I think that’s why it fits into the ‘majority’. Fact is, somebody has sat down and thought long and hard about the form factor as well as what goes on underneath the covers. Well that’s my opinion.

      Sorry for the long rambling post!

  • Martin

    Why does a phone have to be exactly the same size as the iPhone to be direct competition?

    Surely the functionality of the devices proves the competition-worthyness of a device, not the size.

    The iPhone 5 is the flagship iPhone, the Samsung SGS3 , the HTC One X and Windows 8x are thiers. Why should Samsung and HTC (and the others) make an iPhone 5 sized phone, surely all you fanbois will just say they are copying.

    Apple are the ones that need to change, it is obvious that a lot of users want phones with bigger screens (I don’t I like em smaller). Apple cannot just make this change, they have to think of their whole phone App eco system.

    Their phone apps are designed for 960 x 540 (iPhone 4) and 1136 x 640 (iPhone 5) screen sizes. If they just upped and changed the screen size they would have to change the resolution or lose their beloved ‘Retina’ designation. Could you imaging the uproar from the bazzillions of app makers if Apple turned around and said you need to change all of your apps (again)? Thats why the iPhone 5 wasn’t what everyone wanted.