It’s a little early for us to post our full impressions of the HTC First, but while we’re waiting to put the device through its paces, let’s briefly talk about what the new “Facebook phone” means in terms of screen size.
Longtime readers will be familiar with the display-dimensions discussion, which we’ve had a few times before. Before manufacturers honed the art of slimming bezels and trimming casing fat, smartphones sporting large displays also invariably required large hardware. HTC’s HD2 and Evo 4G were early victims of the oversized-panel effect, but the trend continues in more modern times with devices like the Lumia 920 and Galaxy S III, both of which are larger phones (though they do “large” in very different ways). That trend, plus the gradual push into phablet territory, had us and others asking where all the small phones had gone.
With the Facebook phone, HTC might have brought just the right mix of specs to deliver a screen that some will find perfect. It probably won’t suit me, personally -I opined several weeks back that you jumbophone pushers have finally corrupted me enough to reject anything smaller than 4.5 inches- but there are plenty of folks out there who still prefer a smaller screen. These are the people who gawk when I pull out my Lumia 920 in public, asking what on Earth I’m doing with such a “big phone.” These people, who’ve carried iPhones and similarly sized devices for all of their smartphone-toting days, deserve a phone with a high-resolution screen, and they deserve the right to refuse to compromise their size preferences to get it. A 4.3-inch 720p display with good color reproduction and good side-on visibility would be music to the ears of these people – and that’s just what the HTC First seems to bring to the table.
But is it too late for this kind of faint midrange praise? I mentioned earlier the big-bezel, big-hardware issue … but that’s a problem some manufacturers have begun to solve. You need only to look as far as HTC’s own One to see a device with a large (4.7″) screen in a body that looks and feels svelte, and Samsung has done much the same with the 4.99″ panel on its forthcoming Galaxy S 4. As manufacturing processes render it ever-easier to slip big screens into narrower casings, and as software design matures alongside, the issues of pocketability and one-handed usability become less urgent. We’ll very soon be able to “have our screen and use it, too.”
Until then, though, we’ll need gap fillers – and it’s nice to see phones like the HTC First (and, as the commenters have reminded me, the HTC 8X and BlackBerry Z10, too) continue to erode the idea that midrange devices don’t have to be awful ones.
Updated to add reference to similarly-sized devices.