Everyone knows the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, right? It’s one of the most popular fairy tales in the English language.
Variations of the story abound, but basically, while the bears were away, young Goldilocks had to try out the bear’s porridge bowls, chairs, and beds until she found the one that was just right. So it is with Apple’s new smartphones.
Original vs. Humongous
Remember how big the original iPhone’s screen was back in 2007? No other popular smartphone had a screen quite like that now little 3.5-inch iPhone.
3.5-inches? To be honest, that now diminutive size might be the perfect size for a smartphone that acts more like a phone, but something happened to change the industry.
Competition came along after the iPhone’s first couple of years, and a key element of product marketing is differentiation. So, competing smartphone makers differentiated their smartphones from the iPhone by introducing ever larger screens.
Don’t mistake differentiation for innovation. Humongous smartphone screens did not change the industry. How the customer uses today’s smartphones differs from the early iPhone models, and large screens were a necessary and obvious advancement.
The earliest model iPhones were first and foremost phones that also did email, texting, and web browsing. That changed over time. Today, iPhones are the world’s most popular camera. iPhones take on more of what we once did on our desktop and notebook computers. Today, the iPhone is a computing device that also acts as a phone. The progression in screen size is reflective more of what we use the smartphones for; nothing more, nothing less.
The Goldilocks principle states that something must fall within certain margins, as opposed to reaching extremes. When the effects of the principle are observed, it is known as the Goldilocks effect.
The first 3.5-inch iPhone might have been the perfect size for Goldilocks in 2007, but a few years later her needs changed, how she used a smartphone changed, a larger screen became more attractive and began to feel ‘just right.’
Apple adapted to changes in the marketplace slowly; moving first to a slightly larger 4-inch display, but now offering multiple models at 4.7-inches and 5.5-inches respectively. Why?
Even Apple has acknowledged, and I can think that Steve Jobs would be rolling over in his grave over this, that there is no longer a ‘just right‘ formula for a smartphone size to impress the Goldilocks of the tech world. There are extremes, yes. Too large, too small, but the ‘just right‘ size for a smartphone lives somewhere around Apple’s new iPhone sizes– 4.7-inches and 5.5-inches.
A smartphone with a larger screen that has more pixels is not innovation. Making a smartphone that feels ‘just right‘ in multiple sizes for the largest number of customers is the real trick.
In that regard, Samsung’s methodology of trying dozens of different product sizes to see what sticks has helped the industry define the Goldilocks effect range for Apple.