The Problem Many Women Have With Apple's Latest iPhone Announcement

"I can't grow my hands any bigger."

Last week, Apple announced its latest series of iPhones — the iPhone XS, the iPhone XS Max, and the iPhone XR. The larger screens on these devices have inspired many women to speak out on social media, arguing that the phones are too large for their hands and pockets.

According to The Verge, the iPhone XS is the same size as the older iPhone X, with a 5.8-inch display. However, the iPhone XR and iPhone XS Max are 6.1 inches and 6.5 inches, respectively. News that Apple is discontinuing the 4-inch iPhone SE only added to the frustration.

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This isn't even a new complaint. Arguments have been made that iPhones are too big for women's hands as far back as 2013, when sociologist Zeynep Tufekci argued that "good smartphones are designed for male hands."

"Increasingly, on the latest versions of the kinds of phones I want to use, I cannot type one-handed," Tufekci wrote. "I cannot take a picture one-handed. I can barely scroll one-handed — not very well, though. I can't unlock my phone one-handed. I can't even turn on my phone one-handed as my fingers cannot securely wrap around the phone while I push a button with a finger."

A 2015 study by Experts Exchange (via Bustle) looked at how different hand sizes compared to different popular smartphones. It reported that the average woman's hand is 6.7 inches high and 2.9 inches wide. The average man's hand, in comparison, is 7.4 inches high and 3.3 inches wide.

However, the study also concluded that even basketball player LeBron James (who is 6-foot-8-inches tall) couldn't use the iPhone's earlier sizes comfortably with one hand. The iPhone 6, it found, would only be comfortable to Robert Wadlow, known as the Giant of Illinois, who was 8-foot-11-inches tall.

But it's more than just hand size that has people talking about the inconvenience of the latest iPhones. Women also have trouble fitting the bigger devices in their pockets. The Verge points to an August 2018 study by The Pudding, which found that women's jeans pockets are, on average, 48 percent shorter and 6.5 percent narrower than men's. 

"Only 40 percent of women's front pockets can completely fit one of the three leading smartphone brands," the study concluded. Clearly, the larger models will cause even more problems for women who wish to keep their phones in their pockets.

In some cases, using larger phones one-handed has even caused health problems. Feminist activist Caroline Criado-Perez told the Independent that she developed repetitive strain injury from using a 5.5-inch iPhone, and said it was "extremely odd" that Apple didn't take into consideration research showing that women are actually more likely to use iPhones than men.

"This is a great opportunity for them to step out ahead of their competitors and design a top of the range phone that women can use as comfortably as men," she said. "I really hope they grab it with both hands — pun intended."

Meanwhile, Sophie Walker, leader of the Women's Equality Party in the U.K., speculated to the Telegraph that "women's needs are an afterthought" at companies like Apple because women are not equally represented in senior positions.

However, The Atlantic points out that Apple's larger devices may "represent the beginning of the end of one-handed smartphone use," and therefore encourage users to devote even more attention to their phones. "At last, the iPhone can stop competing with the worldly distractions that might draw its naïve user away from it," writes Ian Bogost.

It will be interesting to see whether this prediction is correct, or if Apple takes user complaints into consideration and starts downsizing its future models — because none of us, regardless of gender, can change the size of our hands.

Cover image: Twin Design / Shutterstock.com

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