In 2017, we noticed that smartphone screen sizes had settled in a sweet spot between five and six inches. In retrospect, that may have been wishful thinking. A short hiatus aside, it seems phones have only continued to emigrate, fueled by an ongoing spec war and panel makers like Samsung.
Heck, even Steve Jobs famously missed the boat when he declared the 3.5-inch a platonic ideal a dozen years ago. “There’s no getting around it,” he noted of the four- to five-inch ones manufactured by Samsung, “nobody’s going to buy that.”
Now the comparison isn’t quite apples to apples, as it were. For starters, in the intervening decade, hardware makers have gotten much better at shrinking the phone around the screen. That is, a five-inch phone in 2010 is a very different beast than a 2022 version. Still, big phones are big. In fact, they’re so big that folding the screen in half seems like the only reasonable exit.
True, Eric Migicovsky wonders, are all the small phones gone? The man behind Pebble and Beeper (who also doubles as Y Combinator partner), talks things into his own (self-described big) hands. Or, perhaps more accurately, he’s pushing it in someone’s direction in the hopes that he doesn’t have to do the famously hard work of launching another hardware startup.
Noting that the dream of a premium, sub-six-inch Android handset is dying or dead, Migicovsky launched Small Android phone. “My hope is that we can get community support and convince Google (ideally) or another Android manufacturer to build this phone,” he writes on the site. Google may have been the tipping point here, as the company mostly left smaller phones with hardware restructuring that gave us the Pixel 6.
He noted in an email to businesstraverse.com that he has already held talks with hardware companies and launched the site/petition in hopes that they will see things his way. “I am busy and happy running Beeper. My goal is to encourage someone else [to] Create one.”
The petition cites the following bullet points as driving factors for returning to a simpler, smaller, and safer time:
- Fits nicely in your pocket
- are much lighter
- Are easy to use with one hand without dropping
- Doesn’t fall out of my pocket while cycling
Currently around 20,000, Migicovsky believes 50,000 is the right place to convince a manufacturer to go all-in on small. “It’s just math, but it feels good,” he says. “Probably ~$10 million [non-recurring engineering]means 50,000 units make a decent profit on [an] Retail price $800.”
One eventually wonders why the smartphone sprawl and increased competition have seemingly led to homogeneity. It is certainly not for lack of trying. When I mention the Palm Phone, he replies, ‘I love that they tried! The Light Phone 2 is also very interesting, but not great as a primary phone.” He adds that he needs – at the very least – a good camera. That certainly doesn’t seem too much to ask these days.
Launching a new telephone company is not an impossibility. We are closely monitoring the efforts of Nothing and OSOM. But there are certainly doubts about the robustness of doing this in 2022, based entirely on a potentially niche corner of the market. On his site, Migicovsky makes it clear that he would rather have it done by someone else.
“If no one else makes one, I think I’ll be forced to make it myself,” he writes, “but I really, really don’t want it to come to that.”