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October 20th 2011 2:44 pm

Extrapolating the screen size of Android mobile phones over time.

Abstract: The latest Android mobile phone under Google's flagship phone line, the Nexus family, currently has a diagonal screen size of 4.65 inches (118.1mm). This follows a trend that Google started with the HTC Dream / T-Mobile G1 -- their first Android flagship phone. Released in 2008, it had a diagonal screen size of only 3.2 inches (81.3mm). Since then, screen sizes in Google's Nexus line have grown at an average rate of 0.48 inches (12.2mm) per year.

I. Introduction
In 2008, HTC released the first Android phone, the HTC Dream on T-Mobile[1]. Known as the G1, this phone kicked off the Android revolution. At the time, it featured a screen size of only 3.2 inches (81.3mm) -- which is rather paltry by today's standards. Since then, subsequent releases of Android phones by Google and its partners have featured larger and larger screen sizes, culminating with the Samsung Galaxy Nexus[2], announced earlier this week in Hong Kong.

II. Methods
For this experiment, we only used specifications data provided by Google and its partners to determine the screen size. We listed each of Google's flagship phone ordered by release date. Then we divided the total change is screen size by the total number of years.

From there, we're able to extrapolate the potential screen size of future Android phones.

III. Results
Here is data from all of Google's stock Android phones.
  • T-Mobile G1 (2008) - 3.2 inch
  • Nexus One[3] (2010) - 3.7 inch
  • Nexus S[4] (2010) - 4.0 inch
  • Galaxy Nexus (2011) - 4.65 inch
We see that over the course of 3 years, Google's phones have gained a total of 1.45 inches (36.8mm). This factors out to an average growth rate of 0.48 inches (12.2mm) per year. With this result, we can now predict the screen size of Android devices over time.
  • 2012 - 5.13 inches (130mm)
  • 2013 - 5.61 inches (142.5mm)
  • 2014 - 6.09 inches (154.7mm)
  • 2015 - 6.57 inches (166.9mm)
  • 2020 - 8.97 inches (227.8mm)
IV. Conclusion
Over the last few years, it's clear to see that the market has spoken with regard to its preferences over the size of mobile devices. Google has recognized consumer's preference for larger devices and has moved toward a "bigger-is-better" strategy for mobile phones. At the current rate of growth for Android phones, by 2022, they will eclipse the 9.7 inch screen (246.4mm) size of Apple's tablet, the iPad[5].

V. Footnotes
  1. HTC Dream / T-Mobile G1: gdgt.com­/htc­/dream/
  2. Samsung Galaxy Nexus: gdgt.com­/samsung­/galaxy­/nexus/
  3. Nexus One: gdgt.com­/htc­/google­/nexus­-one/
  4. Samsung Nexus S: gdgt.com­/samsung­/nexus­-s/
  5. Apple iPad: gdgt.com­/apple­/ipad/
Seeing this image on Gizmodo earlier today made realize something (gizmodo.com­/5851674­/iphone­-vs­-android­-who­-aged­-bet...). Android phones are getting bigger and bigger. So, I decided to write this tongue in cheek "research paper" to highlight the increasing "screen bloat" of Android devices. Bring on the 9.7 inch phones, baby! 2022 can't come soon enough.

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26 replies

The Dell Streak was ahead of its time!
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When I saw it in the T-Mobile store after it released, I thought it was pretty cool. :D
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Excellent thesis, Dave. However, your assumption that we'll see the 5.61 Google experience phone assumes 2012 won't be the last year that anyone's around to use a phone. That's a big oversight, IMO.

But seriously, I think the manufacturers have overreacted slightly in these screen sizes. I think they started at 3.5 for the iPhone and 3.2 for the G1 (I'd forgotten how small my screen was! *shudder*), noticed people wanted larger screens, and have overshot the average a bit, I think. I'd say that 4" is just about right for the largest demographic. Personally I can't wait for my 4.65" screen (I'll definitely be getting the Galaxy Nexus), but I know that's too big for some people.

Even then, while the screen sizes are getting larger, the phones are also changing shape. When the bezels shrink, the thickness lessens, and the weight drops, these things really help when the screens increase in size. My friend's Sprint Galaxy S II seemed even more manageable than my Nexus One, mostly due to the weight.
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Excellent thesis, Dave. However, your assumption that we'll see the 5.61 Google experience phone assumes 2012 won't be the last year that anyone's around to use a phone. That's a big oversight, IMO.

Hah! You're correct. I'll admit, I'm taking a slightly more optimistic view on whether or not the world will exist after December 21st, 2012. Maybe when I publish the second edition, I'll acount for this!
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I'm not a fan of this trend. I thought Google/Samsung hit the sweet spot with the Nexus S. Design wise, the S still might be my favorite Android phone. I'd be interested to see if any manufacturers adopt the tablet philosophy of releasing the same phone with different screen sizes. The Nexus line might be the easiest Android phone to try this as they only release a new Nexus every year or so.
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This is the shame of the thing. Most phones that come out with 3.7 inch screens are given substandard parts. It's as if people think that real power users aren't going to want anything but the absolute largest screen available.
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The sad part is, the manufacturers are going to tout how big the batteries will be for the larger phones...but they HAVE to be to support those giant screens!
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I have a Nexus S and an Atrix. Nexus S' screen size is fine, needs more pixels tho.
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It's following the SUV model of growth. The Hummer of Android phones is coming.
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9.7" makes for a heck of a lot of Google integration, right?
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This paper assumes that the screen growth is linear, however other growth patterns may be closer to the truth. For example, advances in glass and LED/LCD technology could result in a Moore's Law type growth, with screen sizes increasing exponentially. On the other hand, the fairly stagnant growth in pocket size could result in a more logarithmic growth.
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Hah! You're correct in my assumption of linear growth. I didn't even take exponential / Moore's Law type growth into account.

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Brilliant! Though I think you forgot one of the original stock devices: The Motorola Droid. If I'm not mistaken, that was a Google experience phone as well.

You're also not taking into account that by 2015, we will have our phones implanted into our brains. Thus, we humans will become Androids ourselves.
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So, what you're saying is that these screen sizes eventually turn into waist sizes?
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So I guess in the future our phone will become our tablets? when is big too big for phone? I think the galaxy s II is the perfect size. it's a massive screen, I don't think i could handle anything bigger.
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Yeah, in all honesty, I think 4" - 4.3" is the sweet spot.
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I thionk Samsung is already trying to blur the lines between a tablet and a phone with their galaxy note www.samsung.com­/global­/microsite­/galaxynote­/note­/i...

With a 5.3 inch screen it is going to be beast!

I definitively have to agree with Dave my sweet spot is 4"-4.3"
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I wouldn't purchase a phone whose screen size approaches 5"
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Update: July 6th, 2012

This theory is still strong! News today that Samsung will release a 5.5 inch phone (a new Galaxy Note) in August. This correlates well with the expected 5.6 inch phones in 2013. ;)

Via: techcrunch.com­/2012­/07­/06­/how­-big­-is­-too­-big­-samsu...
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Nice little hee hee analysis, "studying the market" or whatever else you want to call it. A 9" phone is not the future, get real.

My "crystal ball" shows me a device that will fit in your pocket being used everyday. That device may be able to be used in conjunction with a watch device and/or a bluetooth headset sort of device, but they would be more connected than they are now. This is for the car and generally being mobile.

For sitting, working, traveling on buses/train/planes the device in your pocket will have a tablet size "dock" with a higher resolution screen so you can make use of the bigger form factor. Most likely you would carry this in a backpack or briefcase of some sort. This "shell" will not just be a bigger screen, it will have a bigger battery and the option for an external keyboard of some sort so typing/playing a game doesn't take up valuable real estate on the tablet shell. Education will really benefit from this form factor getting cheaper and cheaper.

For being at home and wanting more horsepower, the pocket device will dock into a desktop/laptop, similar to the Motorola Atrix and Sony Vaio Z. Maybe it will be wireless, maybe you will just be able to take out a SIM card (or equivalent micro sd card) to transfer your data, The tablet shell could dock into the desktop, but that seems a bit unnecessary and repetitive.

People like systems. Splitting work from personal life is only going to get tougher and tougher so people with more money may have a desktop shell at work with saved settings and a separate one at home the way that people have work laptops and personal laptops. Regardless, I really see being able to easily shift your data from one device to another and being able to create a system in the next decade.

Some people won't like this idea. They'll say that if they break their pocket device then everything will be gone. That's the beauty of the cloud. With the cloud it is possible to separate all three devices so they don't have to work together, but using the same OS is likely and I think most people would like to the same software they buy on every platform that makes sense. I enjoy seeing and editing my Gmail tasks on my phone and laptop, for example.

With something like this, a mobile id can be created and unfortunately everything you do can be tracked in some form or the other. People can delete browser history, but purchases and downloads will likely be more difficult to wipe. Similar to how people can look through phone bills and see every single call, but rarely do unless something as serious as death, robbery or marital infidelity is the concern. With a mobile id, no longer will people be able to impersonate others online. No longer will the famous cartoon of a dog typing on a computer saying "No one knows I'm a dog" be true and I think that will be a good thing. People commenting on youtube saying they want to violate children sexually will be visible as well as people who start those goddamn chain letters.

The end of anonymity is coming and with the 24 hour news cycle, status updates on facebook and twitter I think it's only makes sense.
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Hah, coincidentally, I just stumbled across this:A 6.1-inch display! I "predicted" that Android phones will have a 6.09-inch display by 2014. Show me the money! ;)
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Looks more like the exponential growth *I* predicted! ;)
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lol, this is awesome!
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I'm sure Android will team with fashion designers to introduce "Google Pants" with 12x8 inch pockets.
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I have a 4 inch Samsung Fascinate which I am happy with. My next device will be the Galaxy Nexus which has a huge screen at 4.65"! Can't wait though. I think any bigger than that might be getting into the tablet territory though and too big for my skinny jeans.
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I've gone back and forth with straying from the Galaxy S line to the Note line... every time the Note just doesn't feel right TO ME.... The S4 feels just about perfect at 5 inches... I think as the bezels shrink and the screen/finger placement management tech improves we'll continue towards what you see on the Iron Man movies - a super powerful glass panel thats near unbreakable and ultrapowerful... :)

I don't hate on Apple's iPhone line but the screen has never been big enough for me.... the iPhone 6 could be 4K and, if it's less than 5 inches, they can keep it...
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