Big as phones

So you want a giant phone. I did. I mean, just look at that screen. You’re going to sketch masterpieces, scrawl sweeping notes of genius in your elegant handwriting, be immersed in games virtually more real than ever, and kiss celebrity faces right on their now-painfully-obvious makeup. Eat it up. A spoon tucked in next to the stylus would be great. And a bib for your drool.

Smaller was better as phones evolved from merely cordless to pocketable to nearly invisible. But that was before Prometheus stole apps from the gods and bestowed them unto phones.

Shelby Morell Photography for Enrich
Shelby Morell Photography for Enrich

The evolution of smart phone intelligence might be analogous to the enlargement of the prefrontal cortex in the evolution of human intelligence. So the size trend is reversed, because all that talent needs a big stage. If my phone is at least as smart and flashy as I am, no wonder it fits my massive cranium, shades me from the sun, and shelters me from hail and volcanic ash.

Personally, I never cared about phones until they became decent computers. And a good computer doesn’t just run processes; it has useful, easy, and beautiful human interfaces for both input and output. When the Samsung Galaxy Note was first released, it fit those criteria. And, since I can’t type on an iPhone to save a puppy’s life, I was sold on the larger keyboard. The saleskid attached to the other end of yet another iPhone was incredulous that I would want such an apparatus. It wasn’t cool yet, so I was a little embarrassed to hold the whole thing up to my face (and I had yet to develop the arm strength). But I embraced the awkwardness by speaking into it loudly and clearly, “HELLLOOOO?” The inevitable snickering would turn to laughter. And now my right bicep is pretty jacked.

But I should have considered two more criteria.

Maybe you’ll really take your creativity to the next level with a stylus (mine spent a year lost in the couch). But if you don’t take daily advantage of the huge display, it comes with some big headaches: lack of one-handed operability and portability.

Do you enjoy doing simple cellular tasks with just one hand, leaving the other free to eat a banana? Unfortunately, giant opposable thumbs didn’t necessarily come with your giant cranium. If you have normal hands, you won’t be able to reach every part of such large screens, without juggling the phone precariously and probably pressing “send” inadvertently. Trust me. You’re going to need both hands most of the time.

Let’s think through portability. Is this thing going to be your primary phone? You know, the one you have to carry everywhere to count likes on your latest foodstagram? Yet, in everyday life, there are times when you don’t want to have a purse or briefcase on you. Like summer evenings. You don’t take a backpack on dates, but imagine the pitfalls of holding a phablet in your hand or keeping it on the table in the cafe. Instead of staring into your date’s eyes, you’ll be glancing at it every time the screen lights up when your mom calls to ask if you’ll be home for dinner.

And picture the risks to life and limb. Spruce boughs, unruly dogs, subway doors, trays of wine glasses, all spell disaster proportional to your display’s diagonal dimensions. I like to be ready for unscheduled business. I like to hold the door for people, ward off flying objects in a tropical storm without adding another projectile to the mayhem, help moms lift strollers onto buses, and do it all before finding a safe place to stash an expensive device.

You could go beyond everyday heroism, get a Kevlar case, and strap the phone to your chest to be bulletproof, or strap it to your arm as a shield for knife fights. Until mom calls…. I’m thinking out loud. Clearly, it’s all very awkward.

It’ll be tough to take your phone along for some GPS-enabled jogging or downhill shopping cart racing, when you want to prove to your buddies that your top speed really was a high fraction of the speed of light.

As for me, I would accept the restricted range of motion from chronic phonal pocketightus less begrudgingly, if my altered gait was as heroic as it was reminiscent of Terry Fox. But my hobble is self-inflicted and fruitless. I can’t wear skinny jeans anymore, and I have to get out of the car to get my phone out of my pocket. It’s either that, or leave it at home. Which I do. Often.

Those phabulous enough could wear fanny packs. I hear they’re coming back. Seriously. But it can be lonely way out here on the cutting edge.

In the end, when the three-year death grip on my wallet subsides, I’ll retreat to the dark ages before phones showed promises of becoming hover boards, and bide my time until they do.

By Paul Hubble