What's been happening with phones lately?

Anyone who follows gadget trends knows the answer: People use them to watch movies and play games, and the screen size is now the most important spec of all.

At an event this week, Apple announced the biggest iPhone ever, one that measures a massive 6.5-inches. The iPhone XS Max (pronounced Ten S, not "excess") duplicates some of the features on the current iPhone X, especially the notch at the top, the swiping gestures you need to learn since there is no Home button, and the OLED tech involved.

The phone will cost $1,200 and ships on September 12. If you go all the way up to the model with 512GB of storage, it costs $1,449.) It's going to be huge.

I wrote about the rising price of smartphones recently, but this trend of phones increasing in size is interesting for a few reasons.

One is that people are using their phones more and more for entertainment, and when you play a game like  Fortnite or watch Netflix, you really care mostly about whether you can see your game character or a movie actor in full detail. Smaller-screen phones like the discontinued iPhone SE tended to look a little washed out and pixelated for movies.

Samsung models like the Galaxy Note 9, with a 6.4-inch screen, and the Google Pixel XL 2, which has a 6-inch screen, set the bar higher. Now Apple is embracing this trend even more (the iPhone 8 Plus has a 5.5-inch screen). You might wonder: Why the changes? 

For starters, almost everyone I know doesn't put their phone up to their ear any more. A few use earbuds, but almost everyone uses the speakerphone. So the phone is no longer something you need to carry in your hand while you talk--you can set it next to you or leave it on your desk all day. With an iPhone X, I tend to leave it sitting on a table more and more, so as the screen size has increased in phones, it hasn't made much of a difference.

And, we can guess that future phones will be thinner and lighter, especially as battery technology improves. But there's a another trend that I find even more interesting, one that could be a sea change.

Lately, I've been hearing about more and more Gen Z users who also don't bother with a television, a tablet, or a laptop (they use laptops for homework mainly). The youngest users are demanding bigger phones, even as the rest of us are still wondering if that really makes sense, given how many apps we use all day, carrying around the device.

This trend is personal. Gen Z prefer entertainment that is not in a room, and gravitate to a device that makes the experience seem more real and up close. 

The iPhone XS Mac weighs 7.34 ounces, which is heavier than the Note 8 (at 7.1 ounces). I haven't seen the Max yet, but I imagine it's noticeably heavy.

No one will care. This is the phone you'll want if you primarily watch Netflix movies and YouTube videos, and if you play games. It also has a faster A12 Bionic chip, which helps if you have ever used a slower phone to watch movies and noticed stuttering.

The screen size is also a stunning 2688 x 1242 pixels, and it has a 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio. That will make movies pop even more. A new tech called Smart HDR will also improve your photos, mostly by adjusting the image to improve shadow detail and highlights.

A few of the remaining features mimic what we're used to already on the iPhone X, but I'm mostly looking forward to testing the Max to see how this entertainment device performs. We'll see once I get my hand son one in a few weeks.

Published on: Sep 14, 2018