There's no denying that phones are getting bigger and bigger but, does that mean that we no longer need the smartphone sizes of old - the 4 and 4.3-inchers? Or, does it mean that there is now a place for the mini sized phone such as the recently announced Galaxy S III Mini and 4"? There are a number of reasons why you would want one or the other but, realistically, is there a place for both? This comes down to what your use case is and what you're going to be doing with the devices and more importantly, where Android seems to be going.
My 7" Tablet Does A Lot For Me - Why do I Need This 4.7" Phone?
Not necessarily, no, the whole idea of the 7" tablet is that it's portable enough for you to take most anywhere and at the same time offering more screen real estate for you to deal with e-mails, watch videos or just play games. However, aside from the Nexus 7 a lot of tablets this size are coming with a resolution of only 1024x600 which, whilst not being terrible, pales in comparison to a 4.7" device at 1280x720 and doesn't do much for reading. Also, getting a 7" tablet with 3G connectivity - to make them truly mobile - is a lot harder these days and also comes with an extra premium on the price tag.
If you really are the person to just take calls and send messages on your phone then a 7" tablet could well take care of the rest while you're on the go but, as it stands, offerings in the 7" department make it difficult without a large data plan on your phone - for tethering.
If you're content without having a 7" tablet being always connected then you could very well do without a phablet and you could even use a miniature sized phone like Samsung's latest in the Galaxy S line.
I Want a Smaller Phone but Why Are There So Few Options?
The rise of the massive smartphone has been happening for the last couple years now and started with the EVO 4G on Sprint and continued onwards until the Galaxy Note. Now, most flagships are 4.7" at least with the Galaxy S III at 4.8" and HTC's new killer phone for Japan weighing in at 5". The problem with smaller phones is that it's been easier to sell a larger phone - especially after years of the iPhone being stuck in the past at 3.5" - it makes it easier to put in high end specs and a bigger screen can often mean a better picture. Take for instance, the One X screen - it's brillaint - with it's superb viewing angles and it being closer to the digitizer than on phones before it, at 720p, it looks excellent for movies, games or anything else.
These days, it seems that manufacturers and carriers are more taking a risk than bringing a new phone to market when it comes to smaller phones. Take the HP Palm Veer, that thing was tiny but, it did have a place, whether or not it served a purpose is another matter. Why do we need massive phones when we have so many choices of tablets? It's an interesting question for sure but, I don't think that Samsung and the Galaxy S III Mini is going to become a regular type of phone on shelves these days and it certainly won't be something adopted by other manufacturers. Which is a real shame because when you think about it, when using a 4.7" and above phone - something we're supposed to be able to use with one hand - the top left or top right corner is often lost to your thumb. Making a phone that large less useful than it could be.
Does Android Encourage Bigger Screens?
I don't think that Android itself encourages the use of larger screens after all, apps will scale to whatever screen they're told to which is why phone apps look terrible on your 10" tablet. However, I would say that Google encourage devices of a certain screen size, with the Galaxy Nexus at 4.65" and the upcoming LG Nexus packing a 4.7" screen it looks like Google have a limit around that mark and that's fine. I'd say that was a healthy limit and with Google pushing the Action bar more and more since the release of Ice Cream Sandwich last year the extra screen size does help.
Whether or not Google will bring out a smaller screen Nexus is something we'll have to wait just one short week to find out.