As smartphone screen sizes max out, stylish designs expected at IFA

Samsung and Sony are expected to launch new high-end smartphones without increasing the screen size

New smartphones expected to bow at the IFA show in Berlin next week will likely show that makers are taking a step back from larger screen sizes and emphasizing better design.

The Samsung Electronics' Galaxy Note 4 is one of the most anticipated launches, expected for Sept. 3 ahead of the public show opening.

Over time, the Note's screen size has increased from 5.3 inches to 5.5 inches to 5.7 inches on last year's Note 3. This year the company is expected to forgo the customary bump in size and instead stick with a 5.7-inch screen on the Note, but boost resolution to 2560 by 1440 pixels.

Samsung isn't alone in sticking with a current screen size on an upgraded flagship phone that's already gone beyond 5 inches. The Sony Xperia Z3 is expected to stick with the Z2's a 5.2-inch screen with a 1920 by 1080 pixel resolution.

"I think smartphone screen sizes are stabilizing from 5.7 inches and downwards. Companies like Sony have learned that 6.4 inches on the Xperia Z Ultra was just too big for mass consumer appeal," said Ben Wood, director of research at CCS Insight.

But while the growth of screen sizes is tapering off, the acceptance of large screens is growing among consumers.

"If all the rumors about Apple having iPhones with larger screens are correct, that will further legitimize large screened devices with consumers. When the original Note launched with a 5.3-inch screen that was considered verging on ridiculous," Wood said.

On Thursday, Apple finally confirmed Sep. 9 as the date for its next product launch. The company is reportedly introducing a 4.7-inch model and a 5.5-inch model at the same time or just the smaller model. Rumors have the company possibly introducing a 4.7-inch model and a 5.5-inch model -- or just the smaller model.

But while new high-end smartphones tend to get most of the attention, IFA will also highlight the increasing importance of cheaper devices with more of a focus on design.

LG Electronics will show the recently announced the L Bello and L Fino in Berlin.

Those phones have buttons on the back just like LG's G3 flagship smartphone, and the L Bello's plastic back is reminiscent of the texture used on the G3. The material is different but it has the same "metallic skin design" for a similar look and feel, an LG spokeswoman said via email. At least in photos, both models look more sophisticated than their predecessors.

HTC also took some inspiration from the One M8 when developing the much cheaper Desire 510, which was announced on Tuesday. For example, users will be able to buy a Dot View case, albeit with more limited functionality that what owners of the One M8 are getting. The Dot View case lets users see information through small holes and also access some features without opening the case.

Motorola can be credited for the work it has done on the Moto G and Moto E to start this trend, according to Wood.

"This is a definite trend, and It also reflects there is a new, more demanding audience of smartphone buyers who understand they can get a relatively affordable Android phone without compromising too much on the experience," he said.

Send news tips and comments to mikael_ricknas@idg.com

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Mikael Ricknäs

IDG News Service
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