Are MID-Phones Too Big to be Buddies?

Updated on 18 August 2009 by

Toschiba TG01After reading the article, don’t forget to check out the poll at the end.

I took the opportunity to test out a few handsets yesterday. The Nokia N97 (I’m still not impressed) the HTC Magic Hero (a slick experience that I’m seriously considering as my next phone now) and the Toshiba TG01.

It’s the Toshiba TG01 that I want to talk about today as for me it represents the fusion of the relatively high-powered web-focused MID concept and the 24/7 pocketable phone. It’s got a 4.3 inch 4.1″ 800×480 screen and a high-end smartphone processor. It’s not as big as the 4.8 inch Intel MIDs and yet it’s much bigger than most phones out there. As it turns out I wasn’t impressed by the TG01. The UI seems pretty thin and unnecessary and to be honest, I didn’t go much further after pressing the web icon and seeing Mobile Internet Explorer pop up. It was a shocking expose of the underpinnings of the TG01. But that’s not the thing I wanted to write about.

It’s the size that really struck me. For a phone, it’s HUGE! There’s simply no way that the average person is going to be able to use this as a 24/7 phone. I don’t mean to imply that the TG01 is meant to be a 24/7 phone but it proves that convergence between the full internet minimum screen resolution of 800×480 and the 24/7 total convergent device is simply not going to happen for most people. Yes, there are people out there that can regularly handle 250+ pixels per inch with standard browser font sizes but for me, and I imagine most people, 800×480 in anything less than 4.8 inch is going to be sub-optimal for full web browsing. On a smaller, pocketable-sized 3.5 inch screen either you bump the font sizes up on and reduce the screen real estate or you suffer with a time-consuming zoom operation. Looks like Apple really did the best they could with the size of their iPhone.

This isn’t actually a new thought for me. I’ve always said that 200ppi is about the best for handheld web browsing but over the last months I’ve been open to the idea of pushing that screen size down and the PPI figure up in order to get the ultimate converged mobile device. It’s one of the reasons I ordered the Samsung Omnia Pro but that project is about to be canceled now that I’ve had a chance to put things in perspective again. Big screens make for nice readability but are a false friend on a 24/7 buddy device. High pixel density on a small screens looks impressive but don’t work well for an optimal web experience. The concept of a totaly converged device is flawed in that respect. Start thinking about navigation, ebooks, video playback and finger sizes and it seems even more flawed to converge everything!

Based on that, i’m back firmly into my original strategy of smaller buddy phone and dedicated web-focused MID, if I can find it!

You may be different. Have your say in the poll and let me know in the comments.

[poll id=”3″]

52 Comments For This Post

  1. Steve 'Chippy' Paine says:

    I’ve been thinking about screen sizes, web, pocketability and convergence again. There’s a problem…

  2. Marc says:

    The iPhone is my limit on phone size, and when I first got it that was really pushing the size limits. But I have got used to it.

    It’s the quick pickup option and still gives a good internet experience. Anything bigger and, as you say, it becomes something that is a burden to carry around all the time.

    4.3″ is almost a dead size to me. Too big for a phone, too small for a mid. The sweet spot is closer to 5″ for me.

    If you are consdering the HTC Magic, have a look at the very similar HTC Hero instead. Practically identical, but has a better camera (not that camera and HTC go together!) but also has HTCs new front end to Android and it can cope with flash media in websites. (Of course if you want to hack the Magic I believe you can put the new Hero OS on it)

  3. Eddy says:

    I had a similar discussion with myself. After I bought several netbooks I choose for the following: for my desk a normall big screen desktop, a windows mobile phone that fits in my pocket (with a good camera) and an always ‘on’ smartbook for when I am sitting on the bank or travelling. The smartbook must be light and it must work at least 8 hours.

  4. Chippy says:

    Sorry Marc. It was the Hero I was looking at (T-Mobile G2 Touch) and not the Magic.
    Regarding 4.3″, yes, I agree it’s the wrong size. 5-5.6″ is a good mid/ebook/pmp/web/navi size. 3.5″ for a high-end phone.


  5. EC says:

    I twittered about this too, but I just want to point it out in here too. Though I have “grown out of” the Nokia Communicators mainly due to the OS’.

    I have to say that the Nokia Communicator concept and layout especially of the last one E90 really is a VERY NICE concept. As with some more development could become lighter and thinner, and be albeit on the large size a relatively simple and straight forward phone when closed.

    Yet a device with very nice size KB and screen when opened. Not to mention it would even flip open a tad more to do 360 and if it had touch interface could also serve as a tablet on top of already being a phone closed and a MID-ish device when opened.

    I am only talking about HW layout here NOT the E90 as it is, that unfortunately has become outdated (when it was released already!) though I know there’s plenty that swear by it, it’s not something the “masses” want.

  6. ZSX says:

    I had a play with the TG01 in the shop, including the rather dubious action of trying to put a functioning device into my jeans pocket and then sitting down without stabbing myself in the groin. I’m not the largest of people, so needless to say it was nigh on impossible.

    The version of IE (PIE6 I think) on the TG01 was pretty good though, and the page renders were both fast and accurate. Sadly the rest of the UI really let it down. It really needs something like PointUI Home, SpB Mobile Shell or Throttle Launcher to give it that lift. Toshiba’s own UI is both thin and ugly.

  7. Phen0m says:

    TG01 has a 4.1″ screen.

  8. Chippy says:

    Thanks Phen0m. 4.1 it is. I’m confusing it with the HTC Leo rumors.
    Even more significant then – if a 4.1″ phone looks too big for most, just imagine what the HTC Leo will feel like!

  9. Phen0m says:

    No prob Chippy! And I personally agree w/the poster beneath me that 4-4.3″ is the sweetspot for a mobile convergence device. This day and age phones can be bigger imo, as long as they arent bulky and heavy as devices of years past..
    Todays large displays phoneclass mid’s are very sleek, and at least imo.. not that heavy. I recently purchased the Samsung Mondi, and think this would be great as a cellular device if it had a tinnnnny bit less width..i feel similarly about the N810, and the HTC universal(which is actually a phone/pda.)

  10. johnkzin says:

    If only the Mondi had GSM/UMTS and Android (or Ubuntu, or Maemo, or Mer).

    But WiMax is useless, right now, where I am … and I’d never buy ANY WinMo device.

  11. Sandra says:

    I think 4″ – 4.3″ is an idea size for a phone, 3.5″ is nice, but still tad small imo, and I don’t see an issue with the pixel density, 800×480 on a 4.3″ screen is lowish to me, then again i’m used to 1024×600 on the 4.5″ screen of my UX380 (which is perfect imo) and 640×480 on a 2.8″ screen.

  12. Josef says:

    for me 4.3 is a good size, i had different devices with different screens from the “commi brick” over iphone to htc.

    5 would be also good but hard on the border

  13. turn_self_off says:

    welcome back (your two device setup is what i am using right now with a N800 and a SE C702).

    that the next nokia “tablet” seems to be going 3.5″ have me worried that it will compromise the “web in pocket” aspect of the earlier devices.

    still, if one can pull something like celio redfly, one could in theory carry the net in ones pocket, but use a larger “terminal” to access it when one need to really hit the workload.

    it all depends on how flexible the UI and apps are made to be…

  14. Chippy says:

    I too am worried about rumors of 3.5″ Nokia Tablet (with voice!)
    I’d rather have an updated (and slightly larger) N810 style-device.

  15. Marc says:

    Agree 100%.

    Would it have been so hard to just stick a cortex and a bit more RAM in an N810?

  16. turn_self_off says:

    there is the RX-71 tho, that showed up in the recent fremantle sdk releases.

    only potential problem is that it seems to have less buttons then the rx-51, so it may well be a N800 style device rather then a N810 style.

  17. EC says:

    The smartphone concept and devices have been around for well over a decade (soon to be decade and a half) yet nowhere near ever “average person” has one (whatever average is by def? :))

    Having said though, most likely the average phone of today has more features and capabilities and power than the smartphone of say five years ago. So while not everyone will ever want or need a MID phone, MID or UMPC or even laptop/netbook for that matter. The capabilities of them (as we see them today) will for sure be in just about everyone’s pocket or wearables in the near future, in whatever form it might take.

    As for the size, I don’t think one has to become all to philosophical about this really, just go out there and look at things already available, how about a WALLET? Some prefer just a money clip around their cash and/or CC. Whereas others (some call crazy :)) as myself are happy to carry an OQO sized wallet. Now I am not aware of any wallet (not including women’s purses here now :)) that would be in the Sony P size.

    So my point is, whatever the largest wallet (intended for a pocket) is out there that they find worth while manufacturing (hence someone is buying it) should be a guideline as to what the largest “pocketable” (to borrow from Jenn :)) devices measurements should be.

    Comments? :)

  18. BRYAN B says:

    With todays advances in Bluetooth ear pieces and Voice Command, screen size shouldn’t really be an issue. In most cases my phone doesn’t even leave my pocket. Most if not all of the phone options can be directed using voice commands, including calender notification and listening to music. If you really wanted to stretch the limits of size try using a Bluetooth ear piece with the Viliv x70.
    I have just recently ordered a set of Oakley O ROKR PRO Bluetooth Sunglasses to see if they help in the making the comfort level a little easier to swallow.
    I work in construction, so having to wear safety glasses is a non issue, but including the Bluetooth as part and parcel, seems like it will make it easier to stay in touch with all the different sub-contractors across the job site.

  19. EC says:

    Yeah I’ve looked a those myself too but all in all I am not too fond of the BT devices period.

    I have to say though as this topic is about Mobile INTERNET Devices and their screen sizes, I really don’t think we will ever have an internet device that “communicates” with us or we with it completely in voice, that just isn’t a realistic way to convert the media of the internet.

    However I am a strong believer of virtual screen solutions being projected from some form of glasses or in the lens of glasses, but that seems to be some ways away still. Just as it took pretty long for LCDs to take over from CRTs after entering the market. It will be many years before such a video in glasses becomes a viable marketable product and even after that a while before it comes to realistic size and pricing.

    The Oakley BT glasses while a great option have not hit it that big.

  20. Aura Mae says:

    I used an HTC Advantage (if only it wasn’t JUST a speaker phone…)for years and am anxiously anticipating the Leo.
    Woman. Purse. Pockets not an issue.

  21. EC says:

    I had that one for a (very short) while, and nothing impressed me about it aside from screen size :)

  22. Chippy says:

    I’m interested in that Leo too but i’d rather see it in Android-flavour.

  23. johnkzin says:

    I’d love to see the Leo with Android … and a 5 row keyboard and dpad (or at least arrow keys on the keyboard, like the Touch Pro2 keyboard).

    Gimme that, and I’d be pleased as punch!

  24. johnkzin says:

    To me, the N810 is the perfect size (screen, overall device, resolution) for a pocketable. So, I have to disagree with your statement that a 4.1″ screen device is going to be “too large”, and that 800×480 doesn’t work at 4.1″. Since those are the N810’s dimensions/resolution :-}

  25. turn_self_off says:

    pocketable yes, but have you tried holding it to your face like a phone?

  26. EC says:

    Why are people always so concerned about what OTHERS whink!?

  27. johnkzin says:


  28. johnkzin says:

    (that “yes” was in reply to turn_self_off … yes, I tried holding the N810 up to my face to see if I’d be happy with it as a phone — I didn’t see any problems. Plus, I almost exclusively use a wired headset for talking, and everyone I know either uses a wired headset or a bluetooth headset … but even without that, I didn’t have a problem holding the N810 up to my head)

  29. EC says:

    See another nice HW solution from Nokia, if Nokia only got on the ball and gave us something newer in the form of a communicator or and tablet, that would be as unique as they’re devices so far are. But with more compatible OS’.

  30. johnkzin says:

    Supposedly, the N900, which will be a Maemo phone (though, with a 3.5-ish” screen) will be out in early September.

  31. Chippy says:

    S far I’m surprised with the results. Half of you say that 4.1/4.3 (sorry for my mistake on the TG01 screen size in the article) say that it’s not too big.
    I’m going to have to get some comparison shots of that TG01!

  32. mannc7 says:

    Hi Chippy,

    Carry around a iPAQ 200 daily (use it to keep the budget). It is 192 g and is 17 mm thick. It weighs the pants down when put into the pocket. Add to this the phone and wallet.

    Would gladly carry around either the HTC Leo or the Toshiba tg01.

  33. EC says:

    I love how you’ve pointed out with your comment that it’s not really a matter of “would you be willing to have this device/function with you in your pocket at the cost of this size” but most of us already have the things we want/need with us, but maybe not in the format we would want. Or perhaps not all of the functions?

  34. gammer says:

    For me, 4.1 inch is ok if the bezel is small enough, say just 1 mm. Then you have almost the size of a 3.5 inch device with “standard” bezel.

  35. EC says:

    Don’t think it’s really possible to have all too thin bezel.
    This one has been looking ok in my opin

  36. BRYAN B says:

    @ Chippy
    If the Hero is on your short list, maybe you should put the Motorola Sholes on there as well. It’s using ARMv7 vs. the ARMv6 on the Hero, it has a 3.7 screen vs. a 3.2 screen and the Sholes has slider key board.
    They both also seem headed for release in October.

  37. Stan says:

    I love the n800 but I can never put it in my pocket. The iphone is a good size but I wish it was lighter. I don’t think 4.1″ is for the mass consumer or at least not as the only and primary device.

  38. EC says:

    The N810 is almost20% shorter than the N800.

    The iPhone and N810 aren’t that far from each other in size really.

  39. EC says:

  40. Stan says:

    I guess one can make that compromise even though weight is also important, but I still think even the iphone is heavy. Didn’t like the HTC Touch 2 for the same reason – even heavier.

  41. EC says:

    If you think even the iPhone is heavy what on earth are you looking for on UMPC portal? :) J/K!

    Oh and as for your “I don’t think 4.1″ is for the mass consumer” comment, I doubt there will be any time soon any major focus on UMPCportal (or JKK or Pocketables etc etc) on any device that would be for the masses. Yes iPhone and the occasional smartphone is covered but not focused on as these sites are about MID and UMPCs and they won’t be for the masses any time soon.

  42. Stan says:

    I think it’s heavy for a phone, it’s really OK for a MID. I have the n800 after all and i carry it a lot but not all the time. Phone contracts, at least in the US cost a lot and that can make it even harder to buy. I’d rather just keep a MID and a phone on the side…but maybe I’m minority in here.

  43. Ken says:

    This is the battle between Intel and Arm. I look forward to the outcome.

    Beltclip, how big of a device can you carry on your belt? Think of a gun in the old west. A 5 inch screen should be easy to carry on the outside.

    Speakerphone or headset, both options are very workable. A longer device, but not wider would look good as well.

    What some of us are trying to say is, tweener size is not an issue. Bring them on. Cortex and Moorestown prefered. Thanks.

  44. focus says:

    Even iphone is too big!I look forward to the iphone nano!
    For everything else there is the UMPC-MID.

  45. alese says:

    I think 4.1″ is a bit too big for a 24/7 phone but I don’t believe that 3.5″ HVGA is better than for example 3.6″ WVGA screen for actual usage.
    The main problem I have with iPhone and also Android phones is the low resolution – it’s just not usable for comfortable browsing (and yes I have tried both). I have HTC Diamond with 2.8″ VGA screen and browsing is usable but not as nice as on my 5″ VGA screened Advantage (which is too big to be carried around as a phone of course).
    I’m hoping that devices like TouchPro2 / OmniaPRO with 3.6″ WVGA display will be just right for me to use it as a main phone and as a MID.
    After a year of using two devices, Diamond (Phone) and Advantage (MID) I would like to simplify my life and reduce my devices to just one for daily use…

  46. Knusperkeks says:

    In my oppinion, the best size for high-end-phones is 3.6-3.8″. You can use such a device quite nice even with your fingers and put it in your pocket, too!
    Phones like the TG01 are in my oppinion not big enough for nice surfing but too big to carry it in my pockets!

  47. apa7714 says:

    I think 4 to 5 inches would work out great as a smart phone…depending on the thickness. If it’s too bulky then a 4″ is fine. Holding the phone to your head to talk might be cumbersome…but that’s what headsets are for. I use my BT headset all day and haven’t put the phone to my ear i a long time. If you keep getting smaller devices the touch interface would suck. Also besides from texting and talking I wouldn’t get much done with a screen smaller than 3.5″.

  48. gadgety says:

    4.1 screen, 4.3 screen. Both will work as long as the bezel is small or non existent. My trousers have large pockets, as do my jackets. No problem. I will never hold it up to my ear to talk, but rather use a BT earpiece. With one of those BT watches I could get all the necessary notifications (see, vibration for incoming calls, call reject, sms:s etc. Only whip out the 4.3 phone when I needed som screen real estate or to type messages.

  49. animatio says:

    for most people this size is to big. i do not speak of geeks, techies, some business people or fashion geeks. actually, chippy you adressed the main point: the dilemma of size and resolution. as today’s websites mostly are designed for screen sizes around 1200×800 (a foolish move anyway, considering there are still a lot of devices with smaller screen sizes around and will continue to be) this paradox will continue to exist and can’t be resolved.
    this is one of the main reasons why i personally carry a combo of pda/smartphone and small 9 inch netbook.

  50. Steve 'Chippy' Paine says:

    @c_davies My problem with the HTC HD2 –

  51. Colette Spears says:

    Are MID-Phones Too Big to be Buddies? | UMPCPortal – Ultra Mobile…

  52. Terri Trevino says:

    Are MID-Phones Too Big to be Buddies? | UMPCPortal – Ultra Mobile…

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