What started as a clandestine operation to make the units big enough to keep battery life just about tolerable for the notoriously power hungry LTE chips, has mutated in to a arms race to pocket oblivion.
That instant in-store impression of a massive screen (next to any tiny display afflicted competitor) means phones are bucking the decades old technological trend of miniaturisation and now are being sold on the very fact they are bigger. Fine, the mobile revolution sort of promised the full web in your hand, but here is where it is going to get very odd.
If you are aiming an app at a mobile app store, you usually need two versions. One for tablets and one for smartphones.
Android is already struggling with any sort of traction in the tablet based app market place, so what happens when a sizeable (but still a minority) of your smartphones are approaching mini-tablet sizes? We are already starting to see problems with mid-range sensibly priced Android sets being deemed to have screens that are “too small”. Too small? Do Android apps now demand a massive screen?
An app for a 5 inch smartphone is going to have to be one of three things:
- Be custom designed for that screen
- Use a impossible to use too-small tablet version
- Use the massive looking 3.5 inch version.
Only one of these options is actually acceptable to the end user, but how many devs can afford to target a single device with the pitiful returns and rampant piracy that blights the Android market?
I would argue that to have any chance of addressing the largest part of an already fragmented market, you are going to have to design your smartphone app to work on a base 3.5 inch screen (and then have a proper tablet version for at least 7 inch tablets). The question is, what happens to apps on those top of the range big arse smartphones? Do they become odd men out? To show them off at their best they are reliant on web browsing, media playback, custom apps from the manufacturer or apps that are screen size agnostic. What an odd state of play for your top of the range products!
From the outside, this fragmentation looks bad (for users and app developers) but think about it. Fragmentation brings power to the individual device manufacturer. The only power they really have on Android. They can stand out with their own apps and features that WON’T work on that very similar but different Android set. And THAT is the problem for long term Android app development for ALL devices. Google kind of wants you, but Samsung probably doesn’t!