Huawei’s 6.1-inch Ascend Mate (right) dwarfs the iPhone 4S.
After a year that saw Samsung’s 5.3-inch Galaxy Note and 5.5-inch Galaxy Note II smartphones go from curiosities to serious product trends, it shouldn’t be shocking that CES served as the launch pad for a 6.1-inch smartphone.
It still is. And it’s atrocious.
The phone is the Huawei Ascend Mate. Start playing with the device and it’s quickly clear that Huawei didn’t make the phone bigger to address any particular need or shortcoming. It didn’t advance the cause of melding phone and tablet into — ugh ugh ugh ugh ugh — a “phablet.” It supersized the Ascend Mate purely for the sake of novelty.
To assume that a six-inch phone is a good idea just because Samsung found commercial and critical success selling tens of millions of 5-inch phones is supremely faulty logic.
I’m not the biggest cheerleader of the 5-inch phone craze (or a cheerleader at all), but it’s a product that people want, and it’s clear Samsung did its homework. They figured out just how big they could make their Galaxy Note devices before they became completely unusable.
The Ascend Mate doesn’t have that thoughtfulness. There’s no benefit to its size bump.
When attempting to hold a phone like a “phone” no longer feels natural in any way, it’s a problem.
When you feel like you’re holding a book against your face while making a call, it’s a problem.
When a single thumb can’t properly reach a majority of the screen real estate, and the phone’s user interface isn’t designed to address such limitations, it’s a problem.
Testing out the giant slab, I felt like I was part of a gag ripped straight from the world of Pee-Wee Herman. And with the Ascend Mate in my hand, I had a moment of irrational panic. I worried that this abomination won’t fade away into obscurity. That it won’t be the last 6-inch monstrosity we see.
Just as the commercial success of the Galaxy Note has — for better or worse — driven up the size of the average smartphone screen above 4 inches, this Godzilla “phone” could someday be the norm.
It’s a paranoia fueled by Sony and Lenovo releasing 5-inch flagship handsets at CES. Rumors suggest that Samsung’s moneymaker, the Galaxy S IV, will also be 5 inches.
If a 6-inch phone catches on, who’s to say the smartphone lemmings won’t follow?
This isn’t the first ridiculous tech spec arms races gone awry. We’ve seen this before with the speed of computers, the power of speakers and the megapixelage of cameras.
Those tech pissing matches were ridiculous, but they rarely affected the experience of using a device.
You can’t avoid physical screen size, though. Good or bad, it’s something that confronts you in every interaction with your phone. And every last ounce of my being hopes that the Huawei Ascend Mate serves as a red flag warning the industry that bigger phones do not automatically equate to better phones.