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Study: most users want 4 to 4.5-inch smartphone screens

updated 07:15 pm EDT, Wed March 14, 2012

Strategy Analytics sees Apple out of sweet spot

The ideal smartphone's screen size for most prospective buyers is on the large side, Strategy Analytics determined from a study. Researchers talking to existing American and British owners found that the "sweet spot" for a phone was between four and 4.5 inches, as long as the phone was reasonably thin. About 90 percent of those asked chose a device larger than what they have, although the study didn't gauge how many would buy a larger phone if pressed.

Certain truisms about smartphone habits appeared to hold under scrutiny. Women were more likely to consider a slightly smaller device than a man. Likewise, current Android phone owners were more likely to want a larger device than iPhone owners.

The desire for bigger screens was pinned on a shift towards the mobile web as well as gaming and video, all of which tend to benefit from bigger screens. Phone calls and traditional text messaging have been on the decline among smartphone owners.

Although not a definitive examination, it suggests that Apple may be losing an opportunity to get more users through its current 3.5-inch display. Apple has had no problems becoming the top smartphone maker through its current design. Collectively, however, Android is currently more popular among smartphones, possibly helped by both larger screens overall and a wider range of options.

The range could spark a possible backlash to the latest crop of Android devices from hardware makers insistent that larger screens are always better. The 4.7-inch HTC One X, five-inch LG Optimus Vu, and 5.3-inch Samsung Galaxy Note all fall clearly outside of the size class. Such sizes are known to create genuine usability problems, such as being unable to reach parts of the screen without shifting position, discomfort during voice calls, and trouble fitting into smaller pockets.

by MacNN Staff



  1. Jubeikiwagami

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Looks clunky

    Compares to an iPhone that looks like a 1980s retro kit. Oh with the stylus even more obsolete looking.

    Comment buried. Show
  1. wrenchy

    Joined: Dec 1969


    comment title

    >>>owners found that the "sweet spot" for a phone was between four and 4.5 inches

    >>>it suggests that Apple may be losing an opportunity to get more users through its current 3.5-inch display.

    Soooooooooo, you're saying Steve was WRONG??

  1. facebook_Larene

    Via Facebook

    Joined: Mar 2012



    What were the questions? Were people asked if they would prefer to watch a movie on a 4.5" screen or a 3.5"? Were they asked if a game looked better on the bigger screen? Were they shown a web site with small print and asked which one was easier to read?
    I bet if they had been asked if the 4.5" device would fit in their hand or a shirt pocket, or whether they preferred the lighter one, or asked if the higher resolution of the smaller screen looked better, they would have received different answers.
    I guess it is the same company who published this morning's poll that claimed that tablet buyers all prefer to have a keyboard. Except that they don't get one.
    Samsung must be getting desperate.

  1. iphonerulez

    Joined: Dec 1969


    It's not the size, it's how you

    use it that matters. Hehe. I find it difficult to believe that most smartphone users want some display bigger than 4". Maybe the larger size screen is easier to read on non-Retina Display screens. Maybe if Apple upped the display size a bit more while still keeping the same case form factor might help. I think the iPhone is a perfect size, however, consumers have a right to choose. I believe Apple will continue to use the same form factor regardless of how large Android smartphones become. There are so many after-market accessories that use the current iPhone form factor and it would seem a shame to redo those accessories to fit a larger iPhone.

  1. SierraDragon

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Of course

    Of course there is room for more than one size. The market is huge and buyers will have varying preferences.

  1. Makosuke

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Wrong Question

    Preface: There is no perfect "one size fits all"--some people really do want and will prefer in actual use a larger or smaller phone. I might be perfectly happy with 3" for my pants pocket and Twitter use, while my wife might want a 5" monster because its always in her purse and she uses it for TV shows on the train.

    That said, what people say they want in a "blind" survey isn't necessarily what they actually do want in practice. There are plenty of consumers--the majority, I'd argue--who honestly think that they want something they really don't once they get it.

    The perfect example would be the iPad--it wasn't at all what people were asking for (least of all tech-heads), but it's exactly what a great many of them ended up wanting to use. Or the Wii--nobody was asking for it, but boy did they want it once it existed.

    Not to say that Apple shouldn't, necessarily, make, say, a 4.5", 3.5", and 3" iPhone. Nor that some people don't genuinely want what they're asking for. But people saying "I want a bigger phone" is a very different thing from them saying "I owned a 3.5" phone and a 4.5" phone, and I liked the 4.5" better."

  1. revco

    Joined: Dec 1969


    For me it's the keyboard

    The iPhone's keyboard is too small for me to use. It slows me right down. The iPad's is great but the device is too big to lug around. Something in between would be great.

  1. BigMac2

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Role your own size

    Apple should come with a new alien technology where you can cut by your own an iPad into smaller working iPhone.

  1. SwissMac

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Must fit in my pocket

    If it doesn't fit in my trousers pocket, it's too big. If it doesn't fit in my hand easily, it's too big. i saw a Samsung phone the other day and spent the next ten minutes trying to work out why anyone would buy such a large phone. And then I realised, they don't; they buy an iPhone instead!

  1. global.philosopher

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Apple will release an iPhone 5 4" screen and sell a boatload of them. What do the other OEMs have as their strategy to sell theirs. They have nothing more to offer....perhaps a built-in cup holder.

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