Junko: I have a large phone -- 5" x 2.5" but I have fairly big hands and it doesn't seem over-sized. It has such a good camera that I no longer take my camera when sightseeing, so overall, I'm carrying less stuff. The big screen is better for maps and I like the bigger keyboard due to my klutzy fingers. And the bigger screen is better for watching videos and showing pictures. So for folks like me, it makes sense.
I don't think I will ever carry a tablet around because my large phone is large enough and when I write, I need a good keyboard -- really a laptop.
But I wonder: how many people could get by with a large phone and no tablet?
My wife, her 93 year-old-father and I have Samsung Knacks - antedeluvian flip phones that we have owned for almost three years. Samsung marketed them to the 'senior demographic' and I'm glad they did - big buttons, large text, idiot-simple interface. They don't work well as flashights nor do they light us up as connection-obsessives at concerts or other events where the lighting is dim and smart-phone users look like they are getting the third degree in a Noir movie.
And, like any other forward-looking company, Samsung discontinued them after about six months - so we bought four more on eBay.
My 'service' provider Verizon wants another $30/month for a smart phone. Why should I pay $360/year for the privilege of checking my email anywhere anytime?
To answer your question about features, we like the large buttons, the large text on the screen and the lack of gimmicks - no camera (I have a Nikon D800E that does a very nice job of taking pictures, thank you), no voice mis-recognition software, no apps (like the astronomy app I have been shown countless times by people who can't pronounce Aldeberan) - just the phone, thank you.
We can use software to transform a smartphone to a feature phone. Just paint on screen using white lines on black background a keypad and a numeric display, using minimum light, and connect only to a voice+sms network, and optimize everything. You'll get pretty long standby.
I might like this feature at my last 15% power, but not as a full blown phone.
>> Whatever happened to the concept of "smaller, lighter, simpler" designs?
Why has this changed ? Because people are interested in products that fill specific "jobs" they need, that are comfortable, and that are cheap. Smartphones are a huge win on the "jobs" part, a small loss on the comfort part, with prices becoming good. That's just a better tradeoff.
I'm willing to bet your Windows Phone 6.5 phone was considered a smartphone when it was released. The fact that you think of it as a feature phone illustrates the direction of the market.
But it's not a question for feature phones making a "comeback" - it's a matter of feature phones not going away. There are an awful lot of feature phones out there, and an awful lot of users who simply don't need anything more than what they have.
i just can't see feature phones making any kind of comeback. my las windows 6.5 phone (5 years ago) was a small as any feature phone on the market and was pretty much all screen. the 640x480 screen could easily turn into big virtual buttons. It was pricey and neophytes were intimidated by all it can do. now the price and intimidation factor have been mitigated by market acceptance. feature phones are dying.
But what I am talking about here is this: Whatever happened to the concept of "smaller, lighter, simpler" designs? Aren't they still appreciated by many of us?
They are appreciated by some of us, but the issue is form factor.
What do you plan to do with your phone? If you just plan to make calls, it can be very small indeed. If you want to browse the web, read email, participate in social media through an app, use it as a GPS or the like, the size the phone must be gets dramatically larger, because of the size the screen needs to be to let you do those things.
One reason I have a feature phone instead of a smartphone is that size distinction. I simply want a larger screen, displaying more at at time, than any practical phone can have. A tablet will likely have the minimum display area I'll accept, but a tablet is too big to be a phone.