Why are phones so heavy?

Why are phones so heavy?

Even though smartphone design has barely changed over the past couple of years, there’s a hidden variable that’s constantly increasing. Today we’re going to address an elephant (in the room) that’s getting heavier and heavier: smartphones’ weight. Yes, the devices themselves grew significantly in size but there are other factors that contribute to the overweight tendency. We’ve taken some statistics from our database and will try to figure out what’s going on in the least boring way (in case you felt shivers down your spine while reading the word “statistics”).

In order to simplify things a bit, we’re going to focus on Apple and Samsung flagships: just the core models from the original iPhone right to the Galaxy S20. There are some interesting points to be made, and if you take a look at the chart (we promise it’s the only one), you’ll see the trend, together with a few pivotal points.

The first few iPhone models kept weight nearly constant, between 133 and 140 grams. That’s really interesting, considering that the iPhone 4, with its bold and unique design, incorporated metal and glass without gaining much weight. Samsung, on the other hand, started things a lot lighter when the first Galaxy S debuted in 2010. If we compare the iPhone 3GS with the Samsung Galaxy S (they’re very similar, leading to numerous lawsuits), we’ll see that the Galaxy S is nearly 30 grams lighter, despite having a bigger screen and being overall a bigger device.

Apple iPhone 3GS

Apple iPhone 3GS

Dimensions

4.5 x 2.4 x 0.48 inches

115.5 x 62.1 x 12.3 mm

Weight

4.76 oz (135 g)

Samsung Galaxy S

Samsung Galaxy S

Dimensions

4.82 x 2.53 x 0.39 inches

122.4 x 64.2 x 9.9 mm

Weight

4.16 oz (118 g)

Apple iPhone 3GS

Apple iPhone 3GS

Dimensions

4.5 x 2.4 x 0.48 inches

115.5 x 62.1 x 12.3 mm

Weight

4.76 oz (135 g)

Samsung Galaxy S

Samsung Galaxy S

Dimensions

4.82 x 2.53 x 0.39 inches

122.4 x 64.2 x 9.9 mm

Weight

4.16 oz (118 g)

To see the phones in real size or compare them with other models, visit our Visual Phone Size Comparison
page

The main culprit behind this difference is the display. While the iPhone 3GS sported an LCD panel, the Galaxy S used AMOLED technology. The latter produces screens that are significantly thinner and lighter, as they don’t require a backlight to operate (the individual pixels emit light themselves). There’s also the metal rim around the iPhone 3GS’s front panel adding a bit of weight, as opposed to the all-plastic design of the Galaxy S.

2012 was a pivotal year for the two companies weightwise. Apple ticked a lot of boxes with the aluminum design of the iPhone 5 while keeping the weight minimal at 112 grams. The Samsung Galaxy S III from the same year was a lot heavier at 133 grams, mainly because it was a bigger device with a bigger battery. The latter, by the way, is one of the main contributors to phones’ weight. Apple kept the screen size at four inches and the battery was also significantly smaller capacity, hence the lighter device.

Samsung Galaxy S5

Samsung Galaxy S5

Dimensions

5.59 x 2.85 x 0.32 inches

142 x 72.5 x 8.1 mm

Weight

5.11 oz (145 g)

Samsung Galaxy S6

Samsung Galaxy S6

Dimensions

5.65 x 2.78 x 0.27 inches

143.4 x 70.5 x 6.8 mm

Weight

4.87 oz (138 g)

Samsung Galaxy S5

Samsung Galaxy S5

Dimensions

5.59 x 2.85 x 0.32 inches

142 x 72.5 x 8.1 mm

Weight

5.11 oz (145 g)

Samsung Galaxy S6

Samsung Galaxy S6

Dimensions

5.65 x 2.78 x 0.27 inches

143.4 x 70.5 x 6.8 mm

Weight

4.87 oz (138 g)

To see the phones in real size or compare them with other models, visit our Visual Phone Size Comparison
page

The next metamorphosis came around 2014-2015 after the design of the Galaxy S5 was criticized for using plastic on the back with a distinct band-aid texture and look. Samsung decided to change things around and it did with the Galaxy S6, introducing the glass/metal sandwich in its model portfolio. Interestingly, the weight went down from 145 to 138 grams, but it was at the expense of battery capacity (2,800 mAh for the S5 versus 2,550 mAh for the S6). Samsung shed off weight from one of the heaviest things in a smartphone, and as a result, the battery life of the Galaxy S6 was a weak spot.

Meanwhile, at Apple things were growing in size. The demand for bigger screens resulted in an increase in screen size from 4 to 4.7 inches between the iPhone 5s and the iPhone 6. Battery capacity was also increased to cope with the energy consumption of the bigger screen. The trend for smartphones to gain weight started to form.

Apple iPhone 5s

Apple iPhone 5s

Dimensions

4.87 x 2.31 x 0.3 inches

123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6 mm

Weight

3.95 oz (112 g)

Apple iPhone 6

Apple iPhone 6

Dimensions

5.44 x 2.64 x 0.27 inches

138.1 x 67 x 6.9 mm

Weight

4.55 oz (129 g)

Apple iPhone 5s

Apple iPhone 5s

Dimensions

4.87 x 2.31 x 0.3 inches

123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6 mm

Weight

3.95 oz (112 g)

Apple iPhone 6

Apple iPhone 6

Dimensions

5.44 x 2.64 x 0.27 inches

138.1 x 67 x 6.9 mm

Weight

4.55 oz (129 g)

To see the phones in real size or compare them with other models, visit our Visual Phone Size Comparison
page

2017 was another year of revolutions for smartphone design, and Apple was again at the forefront. The company adopted its own version of the glass sandwich, revealing the iPhone X and introducing the notch to the world. It all went downhill afterward if we look at the weight. Smartphones embraced the glass and metal sandwich design and just kept on getting bigger and heavier. It’s not just Apple and Samsung – it’s everyone!

Why are smartphones getting heavier?

  • Screen size kept growing through the years resulting in bigger devices.
  • Glass and metal are used predominantly. Glass and metal are heavy.
  • Batteries have increased in capacity and size, adding to the weight.

The future weighs down on us

If you like things light and small, the future looks a bit gloomy, regarding smartphones. Companies have not only pushed for bigger, ultra-premium devices (Galaxy S20 Ultra, iPhone XS Max) but also introduced new heavyweight champions – the foldable smartphones. The Samsung Galaxy Fold weighs 276 g – equivalent to two smaller smartphones, which in all fairness this device actually looks like. The Huawei Mate X is even heavier, pushing the 300 grams limit (295 g).

Samsung Galaxy Fold

Samsung Galaxy Fold

Dimensions

6.33 x 4.64 x 0.27 inches

160.9 x 117.9 x 6.9 mm

Weight

9.74 oz (276 g)

Huawei Mate X

Huawei Mate X

Dimensions

6.35 x 5.76 x 0.43 inches

161.3 x 146.2 x 11 mm

Weight

10.41 oz (295 g)

Samsung Galaxy Fold

Samsung Galaxy Fold

Dimensions

6.33 x 4.64 x 0.27 inches

160.9 x 117.9 x 6.9 mm

Weight

9.74 oz (276 g)

Huawei Mate X

Huawei Mate X

Dimensions

6.35 x 5.76 x 0.43 inches

161.3 x 146.2 x 11 mm

Weight

10.41 oz (295 g)

To see the phones in real size or compare them with other models, visit our Visual Phone Size Comparison
page

In the past, companies strived to make phones smaller and lighter. Now we have the exact opposite trend. Will the tables turn once more and when? That’s a difficult question but at the moment the answer is: probably not.

Source: Phonearena

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