Jelly makes me long for an Android phone small enough to get lost in my pocket

Some 2,000 people have already backed Jelly, a 2.45-inch smartphone that runs Nougat. Could this be the small Android phone of our dreams?

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If there’s one thing all prominent Android phones have in common (besides their OS, of course), it’s that they’re big. But Jelly, a new Kickstarter phone that makes the original iPhone’s 3.5-inch screen look monstrous, has me re-thinking my unconditional love of the Galaxy S8+.

As Android has evolved to make the most of all those extra pixels, plus-sized phones have actually outsold their smaller counterparts. More and more people are using their phones for the work they once turned to tablets for, and if you were to chart it, you’d see a pretty close correlation between the rise of phablets and the fall of tablets. But along the way we’ve lost something: comfort.

Even for someone with big fingers and big pockets, there’s no denying that phones have gotten less comfortable to carry and use. Phones that were once able to be easily operated with one hand now require gestures to shift the screens closer to those with smaller fingers. And that’s why Jelly is so intriguing.

Small wonder

The most buzzworthy phones at MWC this year weren’t the LG G6 or the Moto G5 Plus. It was a reboot of the Nokia 3310, a 15-year old candybar phone that doesn’t have Wi-Fi, won’t run Play Store apps, and can’t take selfies. It won’t even work on most networks. But it has two things going for it: It’s cute and cheap.

nokia 3310 Nokia

The small-statured Nokia 3310 was the surprise star of CES.

The Nokia 3310 is mostly targeted at emerging markets, but there’s a place for it among the large-screen crowd, too. At just $50, it’s way cheaper than a smartwatch, and with carriers beginning to embrace the concept of one phone number everywhere, owning a second phone isn’t as much of a headache as it once was.

But Jelly is something a little different. It works just like any other Android smartphone, but smaller. When it (hopefully) ships in August, it will run a miniaturized version of Nougat on its 2.5-inch screen, support 4G networks, and fit in the coin pocket of most jeans. It’s meant to be the handset you use “whenever it is unnecessary to take a bulky and expensive phone with you,” but what’s most interesting about it is that it could actually be your primary Android phone. And for many of the thousands of people who have already backed it, it very well may be.

Price chopper

As phones continue to creep into the four-figure range, what’s most impressive about Jelly is its price. At just $109 (and much less if you back its Kickstarter campaign), it shows that small phones could have a place in the Android universe.

jelly android 2 Jelly

Jelly is a throwback to the pre-smartphone days—except it runs Nougat.

Now, I can understand why Samsung and LG wouldn’t want to pour millions into R&D for a phone with limited appeal, but you can’t tell me that a 4.5-inch Galaxy S8 wouldn’t sell. Lots of people want big screens, but I’m willing to bet that many are buying them because they have to. A cheaper, smaller version of the S8 or the G6 would appeal to lots of people, and it would open up a segment of the market that isn’t all that interested in modern smartphone features to begin with.

And something as low-priced as Jelly or the Nokia 3310 is perfect as a second phone for family vacations or nights out when you don’t need the distraction of a 6-inch screen in your pocket. It’s also a solid option for fitness buffs who don’t want to tote around a giant phone during a gym session. I’m not saying Samsung is missing the boat by not making a $70 S8 mini, but a Galaxy version of the $399 iPhone SE could be extremely attractive to buyers who are put off by the size and cost of the S8.

Thinking small

When Apple launched the iPhone SE last year, even Tim Cook was surprised at how high the demand was. It took months to catch up, and I have to assume that a large portion of those sales were to switchers who were fed up with the lack of small-screen offerings from Android phone makers.

And Jelly could fill a similar niche. A 6-inch phone is useful for a lot of things, but there are plenty of people who just want something that fits comfortably inside a shirt pocket or a pair of skinny jeans. That’s the main appeal of the iPhone SE and the reason why Jelly has picked up 100 backers in the time it took to write this. 

Listen, I’m not about to give up my S8+. But it might be spending a lot less time in my pocket once my Jelly arrives. 

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