The original iPhone launched in 2007 with just a 3.5-inch display. Since then, phones have grown dramatically and Samsung’s new Note9 features its largest screen yet, at 6.4 inches. There are limits to how large phones can get, but some vendors are going to push the envelope further, according to GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.
“Human factors have not changed, so for most consumers there is such a thing as a phone that’s simply too big,” says Research director Avi Greengart. “However, the move to narrower aspect ratios and minimal bezels is allowing screen sizes to grow beyond six inches. Samsung’s Galaxy Note9 has a 6.4-inch 18:9 ratio display and is essentially the same width as the 5.7-inch Galaxy Note 5 from 2015.”
Phones as large as 7 inches have been launched in Asia by Asus, Lenovo, and Huawei. Outside the US, consumers in emerging markets prefer larger phones because the phone is their primary computer. In some countries, the phone substitutes as a TV. However, US consumers who buy the largest phones fit into one of two categories: those who want the best, and those looking for the biggest screen on a strict budget.
A 7-inch phone targeting Western consumers is inevitable, but mainstream sales are not assured,” says Greengart. He adds that vendors willing to take the risk should target the same market segments as today’s “phablets.” The budget category is an opportunity for ZTE, TCL, Lenovo, and LG. Samsung already targets the super-premium space with the Note.
“Apple has seemingly left the smaller iPad to die of neglect; an extremely large iPhone would make a strong replacement,” Greengart says. “LG needs a high-margin hit, and a top-of-the-line 7” phablet would certainly be a huge risk. However, if Apple and Samsung do not build phones in this size and it turns out that consumers want them, LG could have a lucrative market niche to itself.”