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Smartphones: Why one size doesn't fit all anymore

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Whether it's huge screens, miniscreens, flashy colors or novel features, smartphone vendors are making a huge effort to stand out in the sea of devices available on the market.

But while all the specs and fancy functions may look impressive on paper, it doesn't necessarily mean consumers will bite.

Here's a look at what smartphone trends analysts say will actually stick when it comes to mass market adoption.

One size does not fit all

Samsung Galaxy Mega
Source: YouTube
Samsung Galaxy Mega

Samsung's latest phone, the Galaxy Mega, is the latest example of trying to stand out. The smartphone, which launches Friday on AT&T for $150, measures 6.3 inches diagonally, making it almost as big as a 7-inch tablet.

(Read more: New 6.3-inch Samsung phone approaches tablet size)

Samsung says that the new Mega is meant to work as a hybrid between a phone and a tablet so that consumers don't have to buy two products. However, the size of the phone may be more of a joke to consumers instead of a practical device.

"It's becoming a little silly," said Carolina Milanesi, a vice president of research on Gartner's consumer devices team. "It seems to me these companies are doing it just for sake of doing it."

Huawei rolled out its 6.1-inch Ascend Mate smartphone earlier this year, so Samsung had to play catch-up to that, she said.

"Five inches use to be the best size and then 5 inch became the norm and so companies felt like they needed to go up, and if you do 5.5-inch screen, people are going to catch up to you very quickly. So they jumped to the 6 inches," she said.

But with the phones entering the 6-inch range, the line between phone and tablet becomes blurred. Vendors, though, argue the large size solves the problem of having to carry two different devices—a tablet and a smartphone—at the same time.

And while this may be a solution for some consumers, it's really not a problem most people have.

While there is a growing number of tablet users, most of them only use their tablet at home, Milanesi said. In addition, most people still a want something they can fit in their pocket while they're on the go, which is why she said she doesn't see these extra large smartphones having mass appeal.

"I've always been a skeptic about very large screen smartphones," Milanesi said. "As much as you want people thinking they are getting one device with everything, it's still not quite practical. And as prices on 7-inch tablets continue to [get] lower, you will have more consumers who can afford both so they will buy both."

But there is definitely a market for the large-screen phones, said Charles Golvin, a principal analyst at Forrester Research. While the sweet spot for a smartphone size remains 4-5 inches, there's a segmented group of consumers who will prefer a bigger device, he said.

"You can't just have a one size fits all. Now people have a lot more choice, they have a lot more experience, they know what they like, and what they don't like. For some people, bigger is better; they like the bigger screen," Golvin said. "They are definitely not mainstream; most people want something that is more pocketable than that. ... [But] they are still selling."

While Samsung is going big, HTC is going smaller. The HTC One Mini, which also launches Friday on AT&T for $99.99 with a two-year contract, features a 4.3-inch screen, making it slightly smaller than the full size version's 4.7 inches.

However, while the Mini may be smaller than some of its competitors, it's still about the same size as an iPhone 5, which has a 4-inch display screen.

"When the HTC Mini was announced, it made me smile to see something that's 4.3-inches considered a mini, 2.6-inch was once considered a mini," Milanesi said. "If you go back a few years ago, Ericsson had a 2.6-inch mini. It was incredibly small. We haven't had 2.6-inch screen for years now, and now 4.3-inch is not that small."

Gold iPhones and other customization

Motorola's Moto X
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Motorola's Moto X

In addition to custom sizes, consumers are also becoming more concerned about being in control of how their phone looks, sounds and how they interact with their device, Golvin said.

"Personalization is clearly a continuing trend in this space. The smartphone is the most personal device people carry with them. There is this need for consumers to standout among their peers," Golvin said.

A big way vendors are trying to appeal to consumers when it comes to customization is by giving them more control of the color.

Google-owned Motorola Mobility, for example, introduced a variety of color options for the casing of its new Moto X. The HTC One comes in red and is rumored to also come in blue soon. And the latest Nokia Lumia Windows Phone comes in yellow, in addition to the usual black and white.

(Read more: With Moto X, Google aims to truly redefine Android)

Apple may soon also be getting in on the color game with its new iPhone, which is expected to launch this fall.

(Read more: Blinged out: New Apple iPhone may be gold )

According to a TechCrunch report Monday, Apple will likely roll out its next generation iPhone with a new color option when it reveals its iPhone 5S this autumn. The company is planning to introduce the new phone in a shade of gold, similar to a champagne color, according to the report.

Golvin said while he's not sure Apple will roll out a gold colored iPhone, he does think the company will introduce a new color soon.

"It's not a matter of if Apple will add more colors, but it's really a matter of when ... and what is that color going to be," Golvin said. "If you look at the competition and what they are offering, it's reasonable to say that Apple has reached the end of the line of just offering black and white."

New features aren't just gimmicks

Along with the display screen size personalization options, smartphone vendors are also experimenting with new ways for consumers to interact with their devices.

"One of the challenges all smartphone makers face today is that there aren't that many areas in hardware where these companies can distinguish themselves," Golvin said. "There's size and pixel density, color depth, but realistically there are only a few screen suppliers out there and they all use them. ... What that leaves is software innovations."

Some of the software innovations gaining traction among smartphone makers are voice-controlled commands and gesture-controlled navigation. These functions make smartphones more convenient to use and shouldn't be considered gimmicks, Golvin said.

"As new capabilities come into these devices, there is a cycle of forcing a change in customer behavior and how they use them," Golvin said.

These functions are similar to how the touchscreen was perceived when it first came out, he said. Many people weren't sure if consumers would adopt the technology, but eventually it became embedded in consumer behavior, he said.

However, it's worth noting that voice-control commands, like the Google Now feature on Motorola Mobility's Moto X and Apple's Siri on the iPhone, are moving into the mainstream more so than gesture control functionality, Golvin said.

By CNBC's Cadie Thompson. Follow her on Twitter @CadieThompson.

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