It ain’t no secret that one of the mobile industry’s latest trends, as far as smartphones are concerned, is increasing the display size. And we’re not only talking about phablets here, but also about “regular” handsets. Just look at the evolution of the Galaxy S series. If the first handset bearing this moniker had a 4 inch display (which was already big by iPhone standards – 3.5 inches), the latest entry – the S4, boasts a 5 inch display.
Even better, if the first Android smartphone, the HTC Dream, had a 3.2 inch display, HTC’s latest flagship phone boasts a screen whose diagonal clocks in at 4.7 inches. Y’all see where I’m getting at right?
However, increasing the screen diagonal in small increments was not enough for Samsung (and neither for a large part of the smartphone enthusiasts), as the manufacturer single-handedly created a whole new trend. The Samsung Galaxy Note, the first device to be marketed as a “phablet” (but not the first such device if we’re to look back at 2007’s HTC Advantage or 2010’s Dell Streak), shocked many of us with its display size – 5.3 inches. Remember, we’re talking about the end of October 2011, a time when Apple was still playing in the “little league” with its iPhone 4S (3.5 inches … way to evolve Apple, i got to give it to you, you’re really pushing the industry forward). But was it enough for Samsung? No, it wasn’t – the Note 2 packs an even larger screen (5.5 inches) and rumors are currently claiming the the 3rd iteration in the Note series will break (or at least touch) the 6 inch barrier. Whooo, that’s a big ass screen.
For those of you interested in statistics, “inspired” by the commercial success of the Samsung Galaxy Note, other manufacturers have decided to join the phablet party (although their success is/was limited at best). HTC came up with the Droid DNA (5 inches), LG shocked everybody (in the bad sense of the word) with its Optimus Vu (5 inch screen with a 4:3 aspect ratio), while Huawei pushed it even further with the Ascend Mate (6.1 inch display).
Ok, now that we know where we stand and how the industry will evolve (i have a feeling that manufacturers won’t stop here, even though i don’t know how much bigger smartphones can get – BTW, have you seen ASUS’ PhonePad? Damn!) let’s talk about the limitations and inconveniences of having such a huge screen on a smartphone. First of all, they’re getting so damn bulky that we soon won’t be able to fit them in our jeans’ front pockets and we’d all have to get used to wearing one of those “male-purses”. The fairer sex shouldn’t have too many issues though.
Second, and probably most important, it’s getting harder and harder to operate our day-to-day handsets with one hand. And God knows, there are a lot of scenarios where it would come really handy if one could operate his smartphone with just one hand (while carrying an object in the other hand, while hanging on to a strap in a bus or subway, so on and so forth). But don’t worry, it looks like Samsung has figured out that it has to come up with something in order to overcome this at times huge inconvenience. Whant to know more, join us after the break.
We recently stumbled on a patent granted to Samsung by the US Patent & Trademark office concerning the “METHOD AND APPARATUS FOR DESIGNATING ENTIRE AREA USING PARTIAL AREA TOUCH IN A PORTABLE EQUIPMENT“.
In the “Background” section, Samsung admits that due to the fact that current phones and tablet computers have larger display sizes than in the past, “the entire display area of the device may not be able to be touched with a hand which holds the device due to the larger display area“. Therefore, the manufacturer is proposing a rather interesting solution – “designating an entire display area by using a touch on any partial area included in the entire display area when it is difficult for a user to touch the entire display area with one hand in a portable device having a large display screen such as a smart phone or a tablet computer“. Kind of hard to understand right? Don’t worry, we got it figured out. Let’s take a look at the snapshots below.
In the above example, if the user holds the device (smartphone, phablet, tablet etc) with one hand, and for whatever reason, can’t use the other hand to tap on the text input window (located in the upper side of the screen), all he needs to do is draw a pattern on the bottom half of the display and the aforementioned input window will be moved downwards, within reach of the user’s thumb. Pretty cool right? But it gets even more interesting.
In the above example, if the user’s thumb cannot reach the desired app icon, all he needs to do is draw a pattern and the screen will be divided in 9 equal input sections (the patent says that the number of sections can be predetermined by “a vendor, a manufacturer, or a user“). As you can see in the above snapshot, the section previously used for inputting the pattern changes to a grid, with each small section corresponding to one of the larger ones (kind of like a mini-map).
Next, all the user needs to do is to tap on one of the smaller sections that corresponds to the location of the desired app icon and the software will move that particular area within reach of the user’s thumb. You can think of it like some kind of zoom.
What needs to be mentioned is that Samsung appears to be working on this for quite a while. The patent has been approved on May 16th, following a November 9, 2012 filing. However, this “invention” has been filed with the Korean Intellectual Property Office on November 11, 2011.
As far as implementing this feature in real life devices goes, if Samsung will get it to work properly, we’ll probably see it as part of its TouchWiz interface. And if the rumors about a 6 inch Samsung Galaxy Note 3 will turn out to be true, this feature might prove to be really useful.
Also keep in mind that the patent says this is also applicable to tablets, so who knows, if not the Note 3, maybe one of Samsung’s upcoming Galaxy Tab slates will debut this software feature.
That’s it for now, but stay tuned for more. How does a Samsung 3D (TouchWiz) UI sound?
[UPDATE] Here’s the link to the patent.