When the phablet—a portmanteau of phone and tablet—first started emerging, some thought it was a terrible idea. A tablet too small to properly watch video on and a phone too big to readily fit in most pockets seemed like a disaster of a strategy. Yet on some fronts, it seems to have worked, and a recent study from Strategy Analytics revealed that the ideal size of a smartphone is still pretty large, though actually coming down from previous years.
The study found that the ideal size of a smartphone, based on word from the first half of 2016, was between five inches even and 5.3 inches. That's actually down somewhat, as in the first half of 2015, the ideal size was at 5.3 inches. Most were interested in a smartphone that had a display size only negligibly larger than the current model, and users with larger displays were more satisfied than those using smaller displays. Essentially, users want larger displays, but not necessarily larger devices.
Strategy Analytics' director of UX projects, and the report's author, Paul Brown noted, “As consumers continue to want a large display, but with an overall device footprint in line with their current device's size, OEMs will need to find ways to maximize the display to casing ratio. We expect to see more devices with frameless or ultra-thin bezels in 2017. This in itself will bring UX challenges relating to holding the device and not accidentally activating the touchscreen on the edge; as well as challenges for case manufacturers.”
It's not surprising, in a way, to see more users interested in larger display sizes for smartphones. Mobile device use has been on an upward tear for some time, resulting in things like mobile streaming video and the rise of the mobile workforce. So it's understandable that users would want a larger display size to better see all those things that need to be seen, or that users just want to see. With points like T-Mobile's Binge On allowing users to watch video without fear of overage, users would want access to bigger, brighter displays to let them watch video anywhere, as though they were at home.
There's plenty of reason for bigger displays, though users are likely also starting to run into the “I can't get this in a pocket” problem. It's going to be a challenge for smartphone makers going forward, but those who manage to split the difference most effectively should come out ahead in the long run.
Edited by Alicia Young