In the 80s and 90s futuristic movies people were all about the tiny do-all pocket devices that some day we will all have. In the early 2000s that vision was coming closer and closer to reality as mobile phones started getting very small. Then the smartphone came along and changed everything.
Back in the days the mobile phone was a phone first and then a device for the occasional SMS, listening to music and even taking photos. So, there was no real reason to have a big tile in your pocket. During that time smartphones were a rare thing. They were basically just a device for corporate types to do corporate stuff with them. These phones were chunky and looked and felt boring. Why would you even want such a thing, when you can have a snazzy flip phone with great design?
New tricks for the old dog
Then in 2007 Apple came along with the first iPhone. It completely reimagined the smartphone. It basically took all of the business features and threw them in the corner. Then it focused the device for consumers, entertainment and most importantly – browsing the internet.
That caught everyone off-guard. Microsoft’s CEO at the time – Steve Ballmer famously said the iPhone is just not going to work out, as it’s not a proper device for working and the lack of a physical keyboard will be its downfall. Other companies also seemed to laugh the idea of such a device off, especially as it was the height of the BlackBerry-style phones.
But Apple didn’t sell a phone with an internet connection. The company positioned its device as something magical which enriches the lives of people and makes dreams come true. All this, coupled with the continued bashing from competitors that the iPhone is not a true work device, made it really appealing to regular consumers. They could finally get a smartphone catered to their needs. Who knew that people would want a smartphone for entertainment, not just for work?
Things moved along quickly
The initial frenzy around the iPhone took everyone by surprise. People were waiting in long lines days before the start of the sales. The iPhone kicked off a worldwide craze. Everyone wanted such a device. It introduced the concept of apps for everything and everyone. It showed that you can use a smartphone for a lot more than working, writing emails or listening to music on the go. Plus, it also looked good and not at all boring.
As you can expect, other companies quickly followed suit. The age of the smartphone was born. People started using them all the time. According to comScore, the US adult spent about 2.5 hours using their smartphone per day in 2017. We use the same device for everything. We get some work done on it while listening to music while also chatting with friends. And we take an occasional photo as we do all of that, too.
Mobile web browsing became the norm, too. Statista reports that in 2018 a total of 52.2% of all website traffic worldwide is generated through mobile phones. This is a figure which has been on a steady rise over the past decade. Again, thanks mostly to the smartphone.
As smartphones became more and more popular, people wanted to use them more and more. Web browsing is a must, but it’s really better done on a bigger screen. When Samsung introduced the original Galaxy Note, it was again ridiculed. Who would want such a big phone, right? Well, it was a big success. People loved using a bigger smartphone so much that a vast majority of them demanded such devices.
The popularity of bigger phones rose so much that even Apple had to oblige. The company was a firm believer in Steve Job’s original vision that there always should be only one size of the iPhone. Users and the market, though, thought otherwise. IDC data shows that in 2015, the most popular screen size for a phone was between 4 and 5 inches.
In 2017 the most popular size was between 5 and 5.5 inches with 5.5-6-inch phones getting the second place. IDC also forecasts that by 2021 these two segments will be nearly equal with the bigger size gaining a small lead. Both will control more than 2/3 of the market. All of this means that not only did smartphones reverse the trend of small devices getting big again, but they are also going to get even bigger in screen size. This doesn’t mean they would necessarily become bigger overall, as we can expect a big rise in foldable smartphones, too. This would bring the best of both worlds together.