When 4” is just big enough

How important is mobile phone screen size?

iPhone and Galaxy Note

In the sea of mobile devices available to consumers the screen size ends up being the deciding factor way too often when purchasing a new mobile phone. I think this is definitely a wrong approach akin to the choice of number of pixels on your next point and shoot camera. Simply put there is a score of characteristics which is far more relevant to your user experience than the mere size of the cell phone screen.

Before I go any further I would like start by admitting that I was somewhat of a ‘size queen’ myself; started on HTC HD with 3.7” and ended up with Titan with 4.7” screen. I loved the idea of larger screen thinking of improved web page browsing and movie watching. So I spent hours transcoding my favorite movies to the mobile format hoping that one day I would watch these movies (or my transcoded TV series) when travelling and away from my home TV. Do you know how many times I actually watched them? Zero!
Yes, zero.
The reason being is that any time I really wanted to see a movie I would wait to get home and see it on a properly sized screen, or if I was away travelling I’d usually have my laptop with me; the mobile phone, regardless of manufacturers’ claims is just not good enough for movie watching.
Nor is it preferable.
With the arrival of tablets, which are much better for content viewing, the mobile phone’s screen size not only loses its importance but the larger screen becomes a hindrance. The arrival and subsequent success of tablets also results in a clear differentiation between tablets and cell phones in essence returning the cell phone to its primary function. As a matter of fact, customer polls have repeatedly shown that features, which consumers mostly use, are texting and built-in camera for which even a 3” screen is sufficient if not even preferable.

Some points to consider when choosing a screen size:

- the grip is not as firm on a 5” phone as it is on a smaller one so it is more prone to being dropped
- there is actually no perceivable difference in web viewing; your eyes will adjust in a split second and you will forget the screen size quickly for your attention will have switched from the size to the actual web content
- smaller phones have a better grip and are easier to type on
 - it is doubtful that on most hand held device with large, power guzzling screens, you would be able to watch an entire movie or play a game for a couple of hours without sacrificing your battery life

With proliferation of various types of electronic gadgets it becomes ever so important to know exactly why we purchase them; what do we need a laptop for, when will we use the tablet for and why, and for what do we need a cell phone. Personally, ever since I got my iPad I rarely reach for my cell phone for any content consumption; the phone is used mostly for its primary purpose of making calls, texting and reading emails. If I wish to answer emails I always reach for my tablet, and only at times when my laptop is not in near vicinity.
In an attempt to squeeze more money from consumers manufacturers have opted to offer ever growing array of different products: cell phones which can almost serve as tablets, tablets with keyboards which are supposed to replace laptops, etc. How successful this attempt will be only the market performance will show. My prediction is not optimistic, ‘phablets’ and ‘tabtops’ may turn out to be just like to age old adage says: jack of all trades but master of none.


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