When I worried about Phonepocalypse

Back in 2014, I was rockin’ that great iPhone 5, I think. I don’t know, maybe it was the iPhone 6. Whatever. Back then Apple’s choice of screen sizes was pretty limited. Back then they claimed that people didn’t want big phones. They said big phones were not going to take off.

And you have to realize that it takes several years for a phone design to go from concept to manufacture so you know they were already working on bigger iPhones. But whatever. I took the bait and I wrote an article called “Phonepocalypse” where I worried that phones were as big as they were going to get.

Of course that wasn’t true.

Today’s phones, even Apple phones, routinely range up to 6-inch-plus models that would have been laughable in the early ’00s. People adapt. They carry the phone in their hands, they put it on the table, they carry man-bags, fanny packs (across their shoulders) or purses. A few people do still pocket these big phones but I don’t. It just looks uncomfortable.

But the problem is still there.

Even at close to seven inches, that screen is too small. Ideally, 10″ – 12″ is the right size for most entertainment applications, and 13″ – 15″ works well for computing. Of course if you need real productivity like I do you prefer a 32″ screen but no one is saying that’s going to happen with a phone.

So, the problem is still out there. We still haven’t solved it. To date, foldable phones have been an expensive mess. That’s obviously not going to be a real option for a while. Projector-equipped phones didn’t work out, either. And wearable “glass” displays? The less said about those the better.

I don’t think anyone knows how to solve it.

I know we all want those cool foldable devices like Westworld, but no one knows how to give them to us. We would also settle for holograms or something like that but somehow that technology never happened.

And hey, whatever happened to holograms?

Didn’t it seem like 30-40 years ago we were on the verge of holographic video? And doesn’t it seem like we hear about some breakthrough with holograms, literally every couple years? Somehow it never happens. I think that would be great if you could do it, but it doesn’t seem like it’s ever going to happen.

I know batteries have something to do with it.

Take a look at any of the great teardowns at iFixit and you’ll realize that most of the space in a phone — up to about 75% — is the battery. Battery technology just isn’t keeping up and that’s getting to be a bigger and bigger problem. Hidden in all the great announcements about the iPhone (which I didn’t really buy anyway) was the fact that the new iPhones are actually thicker and heavier than the old ones. Sure this lets them put in a bigger battery. That way they can advertise better battery life. But, iPhone X was already significantly heavier than iPhone 7. Now iPhone 11 is going to be heavier still.

If we could find a way to make phones run on solar, phones would get lighter again. You’d need a small battery to help people use them at night but it wouldn’t have to be nearly as big as today’s phones. I think it would be possible somehow to put a solar layer in the screen, although I don’t know how.

That wouldn’t make for a larger screen but at least it would help with the thickness and weight, that’s something.

Ah well, looks like phonepocalypse isn’t here yet, but check with me in another 5 years. I’ll let you know.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.