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By Shamus
on Tuesday Feb 21, 2006
Filed under:


This December I got my first cell phone as a gift from my wife. I’ve used them before, but actually owning one has given me some time to really think about this technology and how I use it. Now I have a question: Why are these things so damn small?!?

I’m only 5’11, so I’m not an unusually large man. My hands are normal sized, and yet cell phones always feel so tiny in my hands. Using the pad to enter numbers is difficult without a tool, because the buttons are smller than my fingertips. When I hold it up to my face it feels like I’m talking into a toy. Its too short, so that when unfolded it audio input is aimed at my cheek. It’s too narrow, and doesn’t really fit into the palm of my hand the way a mouse or electric shaver would. I can’t imagine how big guys even make use of these things. The audio output is so small that it does a poor job of covering my ear, thus letting in a lot of external noise. This isn’t just my phone, this is every cell phone I’ve held in the past couple of years. What’s going on here?

I understand why there was such a push to make phones smaller in the past. The first cell phones were clunky and heavy. Nobody wanted to talk into a brick. But the trend of smaller phones has progressed to the point where it no longer makes a lot of sense. I assume this push is in response to consumer demand, but I can’t imagine why people want phones this small.

What I’d like to see in a phone:

Make the phone about 25% larger. Use some of that extra space for more battery. Use the rest of some sort of internal cushioning or shock absorbtion. Drop support for watching movies, downloading songs, playing music videos, video games, and all of that other non-phone junk. I’m sure that won’t make the phone lighter, but it will get rid of a lot of needless clutter in the interface. You won’t need to waste so much surface area with web interface style buttons, which will free up space on the keypad so that the buttons are useful to adults. All of this would make a phone that is sturdier, more practical, more stable, and (most importantly) easier to use. I’d rather have a great phone than a mediocre phone that is also a mediocre video player / gameboy.

But that’s just me.

Comments (12)

  1. Mom says:

    The “whyso small” is for the time when the phone is NOT being used. It can rest easily in a purse or pocket. Actually kind of important for a guy I think.
    we ladies can get a laptop into our purses if we have to.
    but I agree they are not nice to use. not nice to get calls from either. ruth is very had to hear because her mouth is too far away from the input. I think the “hands free” at least have the inpu/output in the right spot. No buttos will soon follow when speech recognition is use to enter the number. I suppose eventually they will be neural implants. Scary.

  2. Mom says:

    also, you should not swear, even when you rant. If you are going to swear, don’t tell everyone you are a devoput Christian.

  3. Shamus says:

    Swear? Who is swearing?

    Ah. The word “damn”. All I can say is I think you and I have entirely different scales of what we think is “profane”.

  4. Mom says:

    YOUR scale and MY scale are entirly inconsequential.

  5. inara says:

    ??? r u his mom, or r u just proud to be a mom?

  6. inara says:

    btw, thinkgeek.com has a cool accessory for cell phones

  7. Telas says:

    I can’t be the only person who appreciates the humor of a guy’s mom telling him to watch his language on a blog.

  8. AndrewNZachsDad says:

    Oh my G…um, goodness. ;)

    Good call, Mom. But I’m afraid I am also guilty of using profanity (mild or otherwise) for comedic effect.

    On the subject, Shamus: if you are going to get busted for using the word, you may as well try to use it properly. Technically, the use of the word “damn” in this manner comes from referring to something as “damned by God” or “God-damned”. Therefore the technically correct phrase would have been “so damned small”, or even “so damnably small” to indicate that the “smallness” of the item is a quality which is “capable of being damned”.

    And, yes, I know I’m going to hell for using the damned word so much. Oh, damn, I did it again. :P

  9. fyrphnx says:

    I quite agree with you! I just replaced my cell phone that only had phone stuff, and I had quite a time of it too! I don’t need music software or camera junk on there! I just want a phone that makes phone calls and is actually incapable of making my dinner. Apparantly that’s become quite impossible to find these days. silly comsumer demand.

  10. guess what? THEY ARE BECOMING SMALLER!

  11. Tacoma says:

    Eventually we’ll be philosophizing how many angels could dance on a cell phone. A damned cell phone.

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