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Flashback: A Decade of Mini Phones

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In the early days, miniaturization was all the rage, but as smartphones took over, the need for a big screen outweighed everything else. That’s how we got tablet-sized hippos. Remember the 2010 Dell Streak? It was marketed as a “tablet” although it had a 5″ screen. Phones with 6.8-inch displays are pretty common these days, just inches from the smallest tablets on the market.

You might think that Sony made amazing mini phones. That’s how it was until a few years ago. These days, Apple is the only company that makes a phone that’s small and powerful at the same time. Samsung flirted with the idea not too long ago, with the Galaxy S10e being its smallest flagship in years.

But performance aside for a moment – what’s the smallest smartphone you can buy? Answer: every year less and less deserve the qualification “small”.

We consider the height and width of a phone to be the most important when it comes to usability and compactness. We selected a few popular brands and selected the smallest phones of each year from among them (considering width * height as a measure of their small size).

Here’s how the front surface area of ​​these little phones has changed over the years – the upward trend is unmistakable.

Flashback: A decade of tiny phones

Manufacturers have some wiggle room as they can increase the size of the display by reducing bezels. That’s not enough yet – the screen size of these smallest phones has been getting bigger and bigger, inevitably making them bigger.

Flashback: A decade of tiny phones

We know what you’re thinking – screen size doesn’t tell us much without knowing the aspect ratio. And it’s true, phones are getting taller and taller. This is because they have reached the limit of their width – about 70mm or so. This ended the 16:9 industry standard, as growth was the only way to grow.

Flashback: A decade of tiny phones

Did they even get thinner? Yes, they were, although it was about 8-9 mm. As with the bezel, there is only what you can shave off. Please note that the chart below does not show the thinnest phones of each manufacturer, but the thickness of the smallest phone.

Flashback: A decade of tiny phones

Another consideration is weight. Of course, it depends on the size, but materials also play a big role. Understandably, small phones have definitely gotten heavier over the years. Again, the chart shows the weight of our selection of the smallest phones. But even if we only looked at the lightest phones (ignoring other sizes), most smartphones wouldn’t go below 140-150g.

Flashback: A decade of tiny phones

Of course, we only looked at big brands. We know there are some tiny smartphones out there, like the recent attempt to resurrect the Palm brand. This phone measures 96.6 x 50.6 x 7.4mm and weighs 62.5g. Now that’s right tiny. Unfortunately, it didn’t sell well and the Palm brand is currently being used to sell TWS buds (oh how the mighty have fallen).

There are other tiny offerings, like Unihertz’s Jelly phones. But if you look at the major brands, “small” isn’t really an option. This is not some kind of conspiracy, it is simply the result of consumer interest, or rather the lack of it. The iPhone 12 mini and 13 mini didn’t sell well either, and at this point, it’s almost certain that Apple is ditching the form factor (perhaps until the next SE generation).


New (and discontinued) Palm phone
Jelly Unihertz 2

New (discontinued) Palm phone • Unihertz Jelly 2

Even if you go against the market trends and get a tiny phone, you will find that the lack of interest in them has a secondary effect – quite a few apps and websites do not work well on tiny screens. Sometimes it’s just a case of the developer not bothering to test such rare devices, and sometimes it’s because some apps and websites have become so complex that they just don’t fit on a 4-inch screen.

At this point, you can also get a smartwatch – it can handle calls and music (it can pair with Bluetooth headsets), it will let you read messages and even send short replies. Of course, there are regular phones as well.

But can you really live with the limited functionality provided by a smartwatch or regular phone? Maybe, but everyone else needs a smartphone. And this smartphone has to work with various applications and sites that we use on a daily basis, which in turn limits their size.

#Flashback #Decade #Mini #Phones

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