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Advocating a Fairphone mini

Playdoyer pour un Fairphone mini

From this original forum post : (14k views as of 2020-07)

1. Cases

2 days ago, I was walking of the street, with big bags of vegetables and an appointment not to miss. I put all the bags in my left hand and took the FP2 in the right one. I was unable to secure my grip on the phone and pilote OSMand~ at the same time. My fingers are to short to fix the phone in a position allowing the thumb to do something on the other side of the screen. So the phone was, from time to time, in an unstable equilibrium and an involuntary bump would have it falling on the floor, which is a bad feeling speaking about a half thousand euros device. Has my hands stopped growing since a little while now my point of view is that the FP2 is uncomfortably too big.

Another reason is that the battery can’t last more than 2 days, even with no WiFi, even in 2G-only and polling the data only once every 1h (BatteryFu from F-Droid), even with brightness at 33%… With a smaller screen we would be able to actually use the phone and get more autonomy.

It would definitely help making it cheaper. Cheaper to buy, cheaper to replace screen-module. Currently, most of the people I proudly show the blue-tinted goats of the beast look at it like if I was doing a nice militant action, but off the reality with a so expensive device. Lets meet your market. Currently only company owners are buying it (for whom I convinced to).

Then, if you are to make a compressed model, lets get it non-symetrical, adding striations on one half of the back cover, in order to know in which position you hold the phone right out of your pocket. (I still can’t predict from what side I’m holding the object…)

Screens are not all getting bigger… Samsung made a Galaxy S4 mini for instance (4.3", thin borders). A great product (running CyanogenMod ;-)).

2. Facts

Some more statistics mainly from…

Fairphone made an excellent FP1 / FP1U with a 4.3" screen size. [edit 2019-03-23 finally got my hands on one and it feels great to use] [edit 2020-07-04 used it as my main drive since]

Nokia, at its best, offered an N97, and 6 months after an N97 mini.

  • N97 screen size : 3.2" (2009)

  • N900 screen size : 3,5" (2009)

  • N9 screen size : 3,9" (2011) no physical keyboard

Samsung Galaxy S phones all come with a mini version:

  • S3 mini screen size : 4"

  • S4 mini screen size : 4.3"

  • S5 mini screen size : 4,5" (2014)

  • S6 mini screen size : ??"

  • S7 mini screen size : 4.6" (rumors)

Sony Compact series:

  • Z1 compact : 4.3"

  • Z3 compact : 4.6"

  • Z4 compact : 4.7"

  • Z5 compact : 4.6" (2015-10)

Interesting to see that the screen size did reduce between the Z4 and the Z5. Less is better here.

iPhone mainstream series:

  • 4 : 3.5" (2010 ; Steve Jobs died in 2011-10)

  • 5 : 4" (2012-09)

  • 6 : 4.7" (2015-09)

  • SE : 4" (2016-03)

Still smaller than FP2. Newer are smaller again.

Apple on Steve Jobs era conducted experimental researches concluding than the 3.5" will always be the size to be.

Touching the upper right corner of the screen on the Galaxy S II using one hand, with its 4.27-inch screen, while you’re walking down the street looking at Google Maps, is extremely difficult and frustrating. I pulled out my iPhone 4 to do a quick test, and it turns out that when you hold the iPhone in your left hand and articulate your thumb, you can reach almost exactly to the other side of the screen.

Palm Computing : it’s also interesting to get the point of view of another person whom spent a lot of time seeking the perfect size for a small computer to carry in pockets. It was Jeff Hawkins, the founder of Palm Computing. He said in an interview that he spent a year with different objects in his pockets to seek the best size. It’s interesting to see that Palms were, during 18 years with 3,7 to 3,9" screens. Looks like a reasonable choice, isn’t it ?

Other mini series:

  • Motorola DROID mini : 4.2" (2013)

  • HTC One mini 2 : 4.5" (2014-05)

  • OnePlus Mini : 4.6" (rumors)

3. Screen size tradeoffs

The phone thickness can, more or less, be converted in accessible screen area as a thin phone allows a grip in a position where the thumb is dominating a bit more of the screen.

And, as a matter of completeness, the edge width (around the screen) is also an optimizable variable, but no edge means muscles of the thumb touching the sensitive part of the screen… which must result in erratic movements.

4. Conclusion

Phone makers are merely all offering “hand-sized” phone lines, in addition to the bigger and bigger screens presented as mainstream…

They might be making bigger screens just because they miss other improvements to announce. Still my hands are not growing anymore and I don’t want to watch videos on my cellphone.

My opinion on this matter is that a good market positionning for a Fairphone mini would be 3.5" screen size to establish a clear difference (and lets consider 4" again if it’s technically too difficult to achieve 3.5").

This would address a clear other segment of the market.