Part One in a Series
Somewhere during the course of the last several years, an odd thing happened in the electronics world. Mobile devices like smart phones, which had been gradually shrinking in size for years due to advances in technology, suddenly decided to start growing again. It began with the iPhone and spread rapidly from there, eventually manifesting in the development of tablet computers that today bear a shocking resemblance to touch screen smart phones, only lots bigger. Notebook computers are also getting smaller, thinner and a lot lighter than traditional systems, as part of the “Ultrabook” movement, especially as more applications and data are relegated to the cloud.
The surprising shift in direction — from wanting everything to be as compact as possible to now wanting certain things to be as large as conveniently capable — has been driven in large part by public demand. Any doubt to that assertion is washed away quickly when you take a look at some of the biggest selling mobile devices around today: the Apple MacBook Air, iPhone, the iPad mini, its predecessor the iPad itself, and the Samsung Galaxy Note are just three wildly popular examples that prove the majority of mobile device users are keen to the whole “super-size me” concept in their connectivity devices. There is also an expanding range of highly-mobile notebook computers that are not only thin, but in many cases easily convert between a standard notebook and tablet formats.
In the past, cell phones were clunky and singular in their purpose. But as smart phones became capable of so much more than making calls, consumers became keen to the idea of wielding a larger percentage of hand-held real estate. This is due in large part to the ubiquity of touch screen technology, which simply doesn’t work as well on a micro scale. But ease of use isn’t the only reason people are asking for the super-size treatment where their mobile electronics are concerned.
Gaming Apps: A View to Thrill
The ability to play high performance video games that put previously popular monochromatic time killers like Snake and Mine Sweeper to shame are one reason for the explosion in popularity of touch screen smart phones and tablets. Another contributing factor to the upswing in demand for larger glass screen devices is the exponential growth — and simultaneous shrinking in cost — of expanded memory, which allows users the room to store hi-def movies on their mobile devices. In addition to this is the growing availability of streaming entertainment services like Netflix, Hulu and YouTube — as is the equivalent growth in the availability of mobile Wi-Fi hotspots that enable a user to connect without worry over excessive data usage.
For all of these uses, glass screens have become the optimal medium for their enjoyment, in addition to being the most responsive physical surface. But as one can imagine, the combination of glass screens and large mobile devices can present certain problems when it comes to the damage so often caused by accidental drops.
The Bigger They Are, the Harder They Drop
With greater screens come greater responsibilities, however. The very real fact of human error and clumsiness, combined with the widespread use of glass screens on smart phones and tablets, can present a costly proposition — especially since the expense of such devices rules out their easy replacement. According to a recent study by SquareTrade, Americans have spent an estimated $5.9 billion to repair damaged iPhones since 2007. To put that figure into perspective, that’s $100 million more than the combined campaign spending of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney during the entire 2012 Presidential race.
Aaron Cooper, Director of Marketing for Worth Ave. Group, points to a lack of insurance as the primary cause of such hefty consumer repair and replacement spending. This often unnecessary spending is fueled by a lack of understanding among many consumers as to the exact value of their mobile devices, which are subsidized by carriers to cost far less when purchased in combination with the typical two-year service agreement.
“People don’t understand that although they may have just paid $200 for that phone, once they walk out the door it’s actually a $700 device,” Cooper said. “Not everyone has $700 to replace their phone, so insurance is a good idea.” Worth Ave. Group is a privately owned insurance provider that covers a variety of electronic devices — from desktop and laptop computers to tablets and smartphones — from a diversity of losses, including glass screen breakage, water damage, and theft.
Cooper also points out the fact that even the highest quality protective cases can fail if a smart phone or tablet is exposed to a shock serious enough to break the glass. When that happens, the consumer is left to an often rude awakening. “The protective case manufacturers don’t warranty your phone, they warranty your case. They don’t guarantee anything. That’s worthless.” Cooper adds: “If you can’t afford to replace it, you should get insurance.”
The Consensus on Mobile Device Size — Is Bigger Better?
As to whether or not smartphones are going to continue to increase in size to the point where they’ll become unwieldy, or maybe notebooks will shrink to mini-tablet formats, that particular future is in doubt. According to a recent poll, the majority of respondents (47.86 percent) were of the opinion that the current size of smart phones is just right for practical purposes — and that making them any larger “would be a problem.” A considerable chunk of people polled (32.59 percent) reacted unfavorably to the “bigger is better” concept, stating that a return to compact phones that can fit in your pocket without being detected would be the ideal circumstance. Only 19.55 percent of poll respondents felt that smart phones still haven’t hit their maximum size peak.
Facts are facts: glass breaks and there’s little that can be done to prevent physics from doing its thing. The good news is that in addition to the development of shock resistant types of glass, smart phones, tablets and even notebook convertibles are growing increasingly easier to palm due to their thin, lightweight bodies — a combined beneficial development that will likely result in a significant dropping off of damage rates.
Read Part Two in our special series on the importance of glass, A Day in the Life of a Big Screen Device.
Read Part Three in our special series, Getting Tough: Tips for Protecting Your Mobile Device
Go to Glass Act main page for more on screen protection.