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Smartphone vendors hope excess will lead to success at IFA

Mikael Ricknäs | Sept. 8, 2015
Bigger screens, higher resolutions and larger batteries are on the way, whether we want them or not.

lenovo and samsung

With smartphone innovation caught in a lull, some smartphone manufacturers are hoping excess will lead to success.

Lacking the marketing budget and brand recognition of Samsung Electronics or Apple, vendors such as Lenovo, Sony and Acer pumped up screen size, pixel count and battery life to previously unheard-of levels at the IFA trade show in Berlin this week in an effort to stand out from the rest of the pack.

These technology areas are important to the smartphone experience, making them natural targets for the engineering and marketing departments -- but they also show that it's possible to have too much of a good thing.

The main selling point of Lenovo's Phab Plus is its 6.8-inch screen. It's a bold move when many of the company's competitors have stopped increasing screen sizes on their phones lest they tip over into tablet territory, although Lenovo isn't alone: Huawei Technologies' recently launched P8max also has a 6.8-inch screen.

However, other smartphones with screens almost that size have not sold well, and their manufacturers have returned to smaller screens for subsequent models. That was the case for Sony with its Xperia Z Ultra, launched in 2013 with a 6.4-inch screen. On subsequent Ultra models, such as this year’s Xperia C5 Ultra, though, the company chose smaller, 6-inch screens.

Google seems to think that even the 6-inch screen on the Nexus 6 proved too big. The company’s next Nexus smartphones are rumored to have 5.2-inch and 5.7-inch screens. They are expected to premier at an event later this month.

The problem is that the screen just makes these devices too big and heavy. For users that want a large screen to watch movies, a small tablet and a regular-sized smartphone could still be a better choice.

Although it turned its back on giant screens, Sony still sees excess as the way to go in another display parameter: pixel count. Smartphones with 4K screens have been expected for some time, but Sony has beaten everyone else to the punch. The Z5 Premium has a 5.5-inch screen with a resolution of 2160 x 3840 pixels. That will, at least in theory, help separate it from competing products with 1440 x 2560 pixel displays.

However, it’s hard to see what those extra pixels add when comparing the Z5 Premium's screen and that of Samsung's Galaxy S6 edge+. The lower weight of the Samsung smartphone (153 grams to the Sony's 180 grams) makes it more pleasant to use.

Sony is actually doing Samsung and other competitors a favor with its 4K display. They can now look at how the Z5 Premium is received and based on that decide if they want to put similar displays on their next flagships.


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