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Smartphone and tablet displays: Reg readers weigh in

Bigger is not always better

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Survey results In January 2012 we ran a Reg reader survey to find out what you think about your smartphones and tablets, and the results are now in.

Given the diverse range of device sizes now on the market we were interested in your take on what size you like your device to be. In particular, we wanted to see whether bigger does equal better, or if there is an ideal size beyond which things level off or get too big.

What emerged from the survey was a distinct set of preferences for smartphones compared with tablets. In the smartphone camp, the screen size sweet spot is in the range from 3.5in up to around 4.5in with a preference towards the larger screen size. Above this size, the phone requires two hands to work it effectively and is hard to fit into pockets, requiring a bag of some sort to slot it into.

With tablets the minimum size is felt to be 7in, as tablets of 5in were preferred by less than one per cent of respondents. Coupled with the low preference for 5in smartphones, it would appear that this screen size for smart devices is in a No-Man’s Land, and destined to remain niche for some time.

The larger screen sizes of 7in, 9in and 11in are all popular, and increases as the screen size gets bigger. Tablets are typically designed for two-handed use, and few people expect them to fit easily in a pocket.

The indications are that the sweet spot will tail off at around 11in or so, as very few respondents want something bigger at this point. Of course, there are few products to cater for this at the moment, so market popularity has yet to be tested.

Aside from screen size, a trend in screens is to move beyond the highly pixelated screens of the earlier smartphones and tablets. The iPhone 3G had a display of 320 x 480, and the iPhone 4G quadrupled this to 640 x 960. This was revolutionary at the time but now seems commonplace with a number of phones such as the Samsung Galaxy SIII or Nokia Lumia 920 capable of displaying content at 720p HD or even 1080p full HD. So is this just a gimmick, or really in demand?

On smartphones, HD is already in demand at the smaller screen size of around 3.5in, as just under half of respondents thought that it was necessary and this proportion increases as the screen size gets bigger. In the most popular screen size of around 4.5in, epitomised by the Galaxy SIII or Lumia 920, HD or better screens are seen as necessary by more than three quarters of respondents.

When it comes to tablets, HD is all the rage – very few of you are prepared to accept less than 720p HD - even with 7in tablets this is the preferred resolution choice as a minimum. The demand does not stop at 1080p HD though. In the 9in and 11in screen size preference groups, there is a trend towards better than HD-quality screens, with around a fifth of respondents saying that this is their requirement.

Although HD media is certainly helping drive this shift to higher density screens, the preference that many have for doing email or web browsing on their devices also helps to create demand for crisper, clearer displays. So, bigger screen size is not always better for smartphones, but it is generally preferred in tablets. ®

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