My Hands are Declaring War on Wide Phones

I’ve had it with wide phone screens. I tried to adapt, I’ve reached, strained and contorted my thumb to reach the sides and top of my phone. I even tried to chase the trend that people seem to have of slapping rings on the back of their phone to keep their fingers securely on the back of the device.

I found a great ring/stand that works on almost any phone (affiliate link) which I do like a lot and it’s not even pricey. I’ve tried using text to speech, and become exquisitely aware of both how imprecise and vague words in English sound, and how doomed we really are with this technology, unless tech companies secretly employ humans to correct our texts to say what we meant, not what we said. I don’t want to participate in that.

We used to call big phones phablets (phone + tablet), but after awhile every phone sported a huge screen, and everyone gave up trying differentiate the difference between the two. The answer is obvious: almost all modern phones are actually phablets, but we stopped noticing that most of them suck as things you use with your one preferred mitt.

I’ve used the ‘one handed’ keyboard modes on things like GBoard. But just the fact that this mode exists is the phone makers’ admission that phones are so wide that they are useless as one-handed devices. One-handed mode is not good, full stop. It’s a pain for your brain to get used to switching into and out of, the virtual keys are harder to hit, and it’s just a hack start to finish.

The iPhone 5 used to seem gigantic. Its 4 inch screen was less than 60mm wide.

But it’s just not typing that isn’t pleasant; often times I don’t feel comfortable just holding my phone when trying to do some mundane task like simultaneously holding a coffee, or opening a door. How insane is that? And manufacturers have decided to simultaneously make phone as slippery as humanly possible, ensuring that either you’re going to put the phone in a case (thus making it even wider), or end up smashing the front or back screen, or even better, sometimes both.

Yes, it’s really nice to be able to sit your phone down and watch a video, especially if you’re watching a streaming service and don’t want to tire your hands. But the way I use my phone most is while moving around, and that means typing on it needs to be as effortless as possible. I might be sending texts, doing web searches, or replying to emails or reddit, but regardless I’m using my fingers to access that on-screen keyboard all the time, and I bet a lot of other folks do too.

70mm but no further

Everyone is going to have their limits, and everyone’s hand is a different size. Time has borne out that my limit for phone width is 70mm. Everything wider than that is just not usable for me, and that removes some 90+% of modern (Android) phones from contention. I had liked the Moto One Zoom initially and wrote glowingly about it. But that was before the honeymoon truly wore off, and I strained my thumb by daring to type on the left side of the screen with my right hand while traveling recently.

I get it, people like the battery life that comes with bigger phones. People like the bigger screen so they can actually use their phone like the perfect portable TV. Some people don’t text as much (or tell themselves they don’t) such that this is a problem. Whatever the reason, if people are willing to live with this frustrating world of phone screens so wide that you have to hold them with two hands and not be able to do anything else at the same time.

It looks nice standing up, but the finger gymnastics aren’t worth it.

Well I say no more. For all phones I review in the future I will be calling out any phone which gives me thumb-sadness syndrome, or stop-everything-you’re-doing mode, whatever you want to call it. In that vein, I will be tackling some phone which are easy on the hand, namely the Huawei P30 (that sweet, sweet contraband) and then the Sony Xperia 5, the little brother of the Xperia 1, though I’m not convinced super long phones will not just cause the same issue. Who knows, maybe I’ll even give iOS another try when the oft-rumored iPhone SE2 gets released.

In the meantime, expect me to complain bitterly when having to hyper-extend my digits or drop my device for the third time in a day the next time I have to try a flagship that’s closer to a boat anchor to carry. But I’m happy some companies still make phones that don’t cause physical pain to use for more than a few minutes.

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