For a smartphone in 2017, one hand is insufficient

Do you remember, the last time you have used your smart phone entirely just with one hand? Oh, you don’t. Neither do I.
You might have experienced this, you want to send a quick reply of two words with your smartphone while holding something, say a coffee cup, on your other hand. But that becomes a mission impossible. Then you are forced to keep the coffee cup somewhere just to use your smartphone for a few seconds.

Smart phones are becoming larger and larger with respect to screen size as days go by. Although reduction in footprint and ever-increasing screen-to-body ratio are becoming the norm for any smartphone releasing in 2017, with the surging popularity of 5.5 inch screen size segment, it’s even more important to have a one-handed mode.

Surely Apple, Samsung, Microsoft and others have developed one-handed mode for their respective phones, but none of them are really that usable or intuitive. The main one-handed mode methods are to Resize the screen size to make it reachable from one corner or Shift the entire screen towards bottom (as in iOS). But none of these are really designed for long-term usage. These are kind of one-trick-ponies for a unrelated, independent use-case scenarios.

Lets go through some of the features (read obstacles) that are prominent in smartphones of 2017. First would be bezels or lack thereof. Ultrathin bezels or curved displays along the edges are the new trend. Then comes the grip. The materials used as the back covers are mostly metal and glass in any premium smartphone, which is in general slippery. So if you are using an uncovered smartphone in one-hand, you have be more careful about holding it, rather than using it.

Although you may think you have fairly large hands which can reach to all the corners, still there are those accidental touches which happen all the time. There definitely would be cases of zooming out when trying to zoom in, scrolling up instead of down and swiping left instead of right. There are palm rejection tech is used in tablets, but that only works for large surface area. Above all these, you may find it fairly usable with right hand for single handed use, but not with your left or vice versa.

Now, lets go through some of the existing solutions to this obvious problem. First on the list would be voice commands. But voice commands are limited in capability. Also, unlike PCs, you can’t give a voice command to tap on particular spot on your phone. Also, you may not be willing to shout a private message at your phone in a crowded place. Second, repositioning the icons to keep it in reach of one hand, but that serves no purpose once you change from left to right. Third would be scrolling with volume buttons. But that is highly context specific. Some reprogram to physical buttons helps in some cases, albeit it can’t be all-purpose.

A solution to this can be as simple as using one rectangular box in one corner of the screen as a representation of whole screen. That is basically a touch pad, overlaid on the touch sensitive screen. Although this solution may seem quite non-innovative, as we are using it since the inception of laptops. Still it rather is a valid solution to the problem and it is already tested to be effective. Let’s wait and see if there is a future for single handed smartphone usage. Since Google has not put forth their solution yet, I hope they would do a good job, if they're ever going to do it for Android.


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