Smartphone Makers Think Small (and Big) in Attempt to Stand Out from the Pack
For most of the last year, the bulk of the phones trying to challenge the iPhone have looked a whole lot like the Apple smartphone.
Sure, some have had a physical keyboard and a few have featured a larger screen, but by and large, they have generally tried subtle differences in appearance rather than a radical departure from the sleek slab look popularized by the iPhone.
That’s starting to shift some, especially as smartphone makers now need to stand out not only versus Apple but also as compared to the increasingly crowded field of Android phones.
The result is that the market is starting to see a greater variety of devices–particularly as it comes to size. Two devices announced last week by AT&T highlight this trend–the finger-stretching 4.5-inch Samsung Infuse 4G and the tiny HP Veer 4G.
With a screen that measures just 2.6 inches, the Veer is impossibly cute, but also packs a slide-out keyboard, hotspot capability and other features typically found on larger-size smartphones. At the other end, the Infuse is pushing the size limit of what can be thought of as a phone. The Infuse doesn’t look that different from Android devices with slightly smaller screens, but all that real estate comes in handy when viewing Web content and videos, among other uses.
The only larger device in recent memory was the five-inch Dell Streak which Dell first demoed at last year’s D8 Conference. That device fell into no man’s land–too big to be a phone, too small to be a tablet, and ultimately not groundbreaking enough to win many converts.
The latest crop of big and small devices are hoping to find sizeable niches within the burgeonging smartphone market. The Veer isn’t the only competitor in the small-but-mighty category. Sony Ericsson last week announced plans for a second generation of its mini line of Xperia Android phones. The devices pack the latest in Android features into a 3-inch screen device.
What remains to be seen is just how much room there is at the edge of the market. And while Sony Ericsson is using its mini line as a way to distinguish itself in a crowded Android field, HP is in the position of needing badly to reassert itself following the Palm acquisition. It’s interesting that the company is leading with the Veer rather than the more mainstream Pre 3 device that was unveiled in February, at the same time as the Veer.