Why Android phone screens are so big: Inferior off-the-shelf components with an inferior OS

By SteveJack

The real reason why Samsung, HTC and the other Android phone assemblers have “decided” to offer ergonomically inferior large screen devices is simply because they need more room in the device’s shell to fit all of their off-shelf parts and enough battery to run that inferior hardware and the Android OS. Often Android handsets fail to make it through the day, even with all of that extra battery volume packed into oversized devices.

Unlike Apple’s iOS, which is created expressly for Apple’s custom hardware – A6, batteries, Retina display, etc. – Android’s UI rendering happens in the main thread of an app and Android’s UI rendering has normal priority, rather than given higher processing priority as in iOS. This is likely because Android began life at Google as a BlackBerry knockoff and quickly had a touch UI bolted on right after they saw Steve Jobs pull the iPhone out of his jeans’ pocket.

The Android handset assemblers and those who settle for inferior wares routinely tout giant screens as a “feature / advantage” over iPhones, but it is in fact nothing more than a cover to provide greater volume inside the shell due to their inability to custom micro-engineer anything close to what Apple can achieve. Note that even with their oversized screens, Android phones cannot seem to deliver all-day battery life. Note also that while making Android phones not just tall, but also pocket-bustingly wide, the Android handset assemblers strive to keep them as thin as they can manage, obviously because they believe there is some merit in the ability to provide a “thin” device. If bigger is better, why isn’t thicker better, too? Because neither too big nor too thick is best for a smartphone. Big enough to see, use, and carry in a pocket comfortably is what is the right smartphone size. In other words: Apple’s iPhone 5.

Apple’s A6 SoC is custom silicon, not an off-the-shelf part slapped into umpteen “Buy One get X Free” Android handsets. Apple’s iOS 6 is a custom OS X-based operating system, not an off-the-shelf handset OS slapped into umpteen phones and skinned in myriad, inconsistent, developer-vexing ways. Apple’s iPhone 5 is the world’s thinnest smartphone yet still outperforms every Android phone on the market in terms of speed, responsiveness, weight, screen quality, and battery life – not to mention ecosystem, including third-party support, vehicle integration, app quality, app library, and app developers.

The next time you hear an Android handset assembler touting a big screen on TV, the Net, or wherever, remember that they are forced by their business model to have that giant screen and, if they could, they’d rather produce a phone that can fit in your pocket, be operated with one hand, be remarkable thin and light, with a crystal-clear, razor-sharp Retina display, and run all day on a single charge, but they can’t.

Only Apple can.

SteveJack is a long-time Macintosh user, web designer, multimedia producer and a regular contributor to the MacDailyNews Opinion section.

84 Comments

    1. The comment about off the shelf was about the internal components of the iPhone. However, Apple merely licenses data from Tom Tom, they created the interface for that data (and the data from about a half dozen other source) from scratch. They didn’t use Tom Tom’s off the shelf interface.

    2. TOM TOM is data! It is NOT the sort of thing that need to be tightly coupled as does the OS and HW. If the OS and hardware is done right the apps and data such as TOM TOM will take care of itself.

  1. Maybe I’m growing up, is SteveJack always this obsequious?
    No wonder the fandroids accuse us of ‘drinking the Kool-aid’.

    He’s partly right, but in normal reality a bigger screen is a good thing. Apple just admitted as much by enlarging the iPhone to the aspect ratio it should have been in the first place.

    It’s the ‘android’ interface, cheap components and lack of attention to detail that suck. To call out their one big advantage as a detriment is absurd to say the least.

      1. I can’t wait for the Galaxy S19 with the 19″ Screen and the built in Ballistic Nylon shoulder straps which add very little weight to the phone and make it so much easier to carry !

          1. So out of date and out of step with the times.

            Me, I’m waiting for the Galaxy C5 Starlifter equipped with four 43k lbf GE processors running typically at 7.7 centimach.
            🙂

    1. Having an enormous screen with a very low resolution doesn’t make a good feature. It makes the phone hard to use and stow in a pocket.

      Apple did two things. They kept the width of the phone the same (to make sure people could still get it into a pocket) and they gave it a very good resolution for it’s size. That makes for a good feature, the other, not so much.

        1. Yes, for a screen that size it’s not great. The bigger your screen the higher you need your resolution to be. The iPhone 5 is only 4″ so it has a 1136-by-640 but at that size it gives it 326 pii.
          In non phone devices this isn’t as much of an issue because you hold them farther away. Having a big screen close to you with a low resolution is not great.

    2. I don’t think “obsequious” means what you think it means, Pedant. How embarrassing for a pedant…

      Now regarding your point: A bigger screen means a bigger package; current Android phones are already impractically and unergonomically large. Those are definitely not “good things,” Pedant.

  2. While this may be true, the Android manufacturers keep increasing the screen size as a “keep up with the Jonses” type of feature parity. They think this is one of the few areas they can convince people that they have an advantage over Apple.

  3. why is it that even after all apples success that macs only make up 23% of all pcs? Never heard so many im here running around like their shi& dont stink. What components do apple actually invent, make, or design? gpu? cpu? ram? screen? wireless tech? circuit board? glass? buttons? ill tell ya, not a dam thing. All they do is use whats already been invented from companys like samsung and tell the world “look at me look at me” Same as ford and gmh did to the guy who invented wind screen wipers. took him 30 years to get the credit. Apple just theive and say its their invention. Not everyone is as stupid as apple customers u know

    1. “why is it that even after all apples success that macs only make up 23% of all pcs?”

      It was 2% not too long ago. Thanks for reminding me how quickly Apple is tearing down the Windows monopoly. =D

      As for the claim they don’t invent anything, they design their own motherboards and did extensive custom work on the A6, for starters. Oh yeah, they also invented the modern smartphone. But Little stuff like that probably doesn’t count.

    2. Who else is over 20% of computer market?

      23% is damn good, what are Dell or HP, or Lenovo, or whoever.

      BTW, For all their Olympic sponsorship spending, Samsun isn’t even in the running in computers. Except maybe in Korruptea.

  4. Several idiots on CNUT wants the Samdung phones to be even bigger. I think I know why. Most of these Freetards/Android and iHaters are out of shape buffoons! They are usually slobs and wear oversized pants and shirts that they never tuck in. Thus the extra material goes over the pants pocket hiding their stupidity of stuffing an oversized phone in their pocket. 🙂

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