A long time ago, smartphones were small. Like, really small. It used to be a given that such a device should fit snugly in the hand, so you could do everything you need to with it using only your thumb. They certainly don’t make ‘em like they used to.
In 2022, most “smaller” smartphones are still enormous, sporting screens nearly double the size of the phones of yesteryear. Even Apple, which has produced a “mini” iPhone for the past two years, is assumed to be ditching the form factor with the iPhone 14 lineup this fall.
While the world seems to be moving on from smaller smartphones, not everyone wants to. Dig into enough tech forums, and you’ll find users complaining about the lack of smaller smartphones on the market, especially in the Android world. While a lot of customers clearly love those larger screens, there’s definitely a submarket of people who are (or would be) happy to message, watch, and game on a phone that fits easily in their hand. One of those people is Eric Migicovsky.
Migicovsky is best known for starting Pebble, a smartwatch company that, at the time, boasted the most funded project in Kickstarter history. Pebble was eventually sold off to Fibit, but Migicovsky is now trying to make waves again, pushing a new chat app dubbed Beeper and making a concerted effort to inspire a tech company, any tech company, to bring back the small smartphone.
The Pebble founder has launched smallandroidphone.com, a website dedicated to the resurrection of the tiny phone. His reasons for wanting a small phone are likely similar to those of anyone else: he just prefers it that way. Migicovsky says he’s never liked the feeling of a large phone, and even though he’s a tall guy, a compact phone has always been more comfortable for him to use.
Migicovsky is looking for four key things out of a small phone: a screen smaller than six inches; a design profile roughly similar in size and quality to the iPhone 13; great cameras; and stock Android OS (sorry Apple fans). Funnily enough, to get his small phone fix, Migicovsky actually uses an iPhone 13, but he doesn’t like iOS compared to Android. He cares that much.
Here’s his list of the features this new small phone “has” to have:
- Follow Mini industrial design as close as possible
- Consistent width bezels around the entire display
- 5.4”-ish 1080p OLED display (60hz OK)
- Cameras must be as good as Pixel 5must have great low light performance
- Stock Android OS
- Snapdragon 8 (or other flagship processor equivalent)
- 5G world phone
- Hole punch front camera
- 2 rear cameras (regular and wide angle)
- 8gb RAM
- 128/256gb Storage
- 4 hours Screen On Time (SOT)
- Unlockable bootloader
There’s also a short list of features that would be “nice to have,” but which are not strictly necessary, in his opinion:
- Rugged enough to not need a case
- IP 68 water resistance
- Fingerprint sensor on power button
- Hardware mute switch
- Wireless charging
If you jive with most or all of that wishlist, consider signing Migicovsky’s petition. He’s looking to “unionize” the community of small phone enthusiasts, hoping to amass at least 50,000 signatures to present to tech companies as proof there’s still a market for smartphones of this size. While The Verge’s Mitchell Clark is sceptical Migicovsky’s plan is enough to move a tech company to produce such a small device, it’s a noble cause. After all, both Clark and I have signed this petition, so that’s two tech writers at least who want to see this happen.
As Clark points, there are a lot of hurdles here. First is the manufacturing crisis we find ourselves in: big companies making established products are having trouble meeting demands, leaving less room for niche offerings. Second, there’s the low likelihood a huge company will see the merit in producing such a device, especially if Apple itself doesn’t seem to have been able to make it work. Third, small phones in 2022 are difficult to balance: today’s chips today are powerful, and 5G connectivity is the standard. Both of those things put a strain on battery life, and a smaller phone means less room for a battery. The iPhone 12 mini was even heavily criticised for its poor battery life, so any company looking to make a modern smartphone to scale would have to figure out how to manage all those moving parts. (Migicovsky suggests making the phone thicker until the battery was sufficiently big enough — and while most of us don’t need a phone as thin as Apple’s minis, but you probably don’t want to veer too far in the other direction.)
As of Friday morning, Migicovsky’s petition has 20,000 signatures, showing there is interest in this type of product. He has a ways to go before he hits that 50,000 goal, and there are a lot of questions left to answer, but I’m onboard. I’d love to be able to use a small phone that meets today’s standards. If you feel the same, sign that petition, and take us one vote closer to 50,000.