After more screen estate? We've been talking to Hauwei about the 6.1-inch Huawei Ascend Mate, and the future of phone display sizes. What's coming next?

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The bigger the screen, the better your multimedia experience. But just how big are our phones going to grow? The Huawei Ascend Mate has just joined Vodafone and, with its beautiful 6.1-inch display backed up by a quad-core 1.5 GHz processor, it’s settled right in as one of our biggest smartphones ever.

Not only that, but it’s hugely powerful, has a stonking battery life and is available from free on a £25 a month plan with 600 minutes, unlimited texts and 500MB of data – or for just £300 on Pay as you go.

But what can you do with a display that big? And what’s the future for screen sizes? We’ve been speaking to James Powell, UK Product Director at Huawei, to find out.

Rise of the ‘phablet’

“We all have different views in different parts of the world,” says James. He’s talking about the rise of the word ‘phablet’ to describe big phones that approach the dimensions of smaller tablets. “In the UK, ‘phablet’ is quite a convenient term for people to use to explain why you might want a bigger phone. A phablet offers the best of both devices.

 

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“With 6.1-inches of screen estate, the Huawei Ascend Mate can be whatever kind of device you want it to be,” he adds. “And, most importantly, it’s priced to bring the phablet to a whole new type of phone fan.”

The 6.1-inch display on the Huawei Ascend Mate is a monster, but what exactly does that make it better at? The answer, as James reveals, is a little bit of everything:

“The trend toward larger-screens has historically been driven by the business market, for people working on the go. The Ascend Mate delivers on all of that, but a very important part of this phone is that it’s very accessible to a whole new audience of people who want to be entertained by their phone as well.”

Ok, so the Ascend Mate is a great work tool and a top multimedia mogul. But James insists there more to it than just making a phone physically bigger; you’ve also got to adhere to a brief that’s based on our biology…

Working around you

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“The human hand isn’t going to get any bigger,” says James. “You could argue that phones can keep growing because the pocket or bag can take bigger devices, but if you want to hold your phone comfortably, then size is really limited by the size of your hand.

“If you’re going to have something that you use as a phone, it needs to fit in one hand. But even so,” adds James, “the size of screens in the future will be influenced by how people use their phones; if you just want phone calls you could just use a bar phone from a few years ago. If you want the full-blown entertainment experience and the mobile internet, then bigger screens are probably ideal for you.

“It’s all very well being big; it’s also got to be usable, too.”

“It’s all very well being big, though, it’s also got to be usable, too. 6-inches of phone might not necessarily sit in the hand comfortably unless you adapt the way you work on it.” To that end, the Mate has some nice tricks up its sleeve:

“In most scenarios where you’re commuting, you’re unlikely to be able to use both hands. “So, with the Ascend Mate, for example, we’ve adapted the keyboard so it can move to the left or the right of the screen. The profiles can be changed with one button. One-handed operation is really important.

You’ve got to be able to use both if you want, but it needs to work with one hand and with the digits you’re born with. “The Mate even works in the cold with your gloves on, too.”

The future of the smartphone screen

If you can make a phone like the 6.1-inch Huawei Ascend Mate, and make it easy to use in one hand, where do you go from there? We asked James to predict what he sees coming in the years to come…

“Once you’ve used a phablet for the first time it’s very hard to go back to a smaller device,” he says. “People don’t tend to go backwards.”

But does that mean there’s room to go bigger still?

“I personally don’t believe that much beyond 6-inches is possible to use in the hand in the current form factor, and with current technology. But, once you start to see screens that can go edge-to-edge, then obviously the footprint that a large screen takes up will diminish.”

 

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And after that? James sees that eventually there’ll be a pretty fundamental change in the way our devices look all together…

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“There will, no doubt, be a point where we can’t go any further,” and in James’ view, that’s where things get really exciting: “We might find that the whole form factor changes. Folding screens, for example, are inevitable at some point. We’re not in a position to say that that’s going to happen next year, but of course that sort of thing will come through.

James says, wrapping up: “In reality, 6 is probably about right if you want to be able to use it for entertainment or for working on the move. If it’s any bigger than that, though, it becomes more obtrusive. We’ll all see what happens in the future…”

Bigger is better… If you’re already taken by the Huawei Ascend Mate, you can now grab yours at vodafone.co.uk. And also be sure to check out the other half of our talk with James, in which he tells us about the brilliant backstage battery tech that keeps the Mate going all day.