Wednesday, 22 August 2012

The screen size conundrum

It seems that the new iPhone is getting a larger screen - a bump in size from 3.7" to 4" to bring it a little closer to the mammoth devices being launched by Samsung, HTC et al. 4.8" is the norm for these manufacturers at the pinnacles of their phone ranges.

If the rumour mill is to be believed, then Apple will also launch a 7" version of the iPad to address an untapped market in (a) poorer people (!), (b) commuters & other mobile users.

So what I wonder is whether we've reached an apogee in phone screen size. As one of my colleagues likes to point out, you'd need giant hands to find a 4.8" screen device comfortable to use. And the benefits for media consumption are marginal when judged relative to even a 7" tablet.

Part of the reason why I'm more convinced than ever about 7" tablets is that people are becoming more comfortable with the benefits of the tablet for consumption (as opposed to creation). But the 10" tablet is still that bit too big, fragile and expensive to carry around. 7" is probably just right for reading books, digital newspapers or watching the odd TV episode. At £100-£150, they're also almost an expendable item.

If larger numbers of people start owning portable tablets (I think we could get to 35% - 40% penetration in the UK by 2015), then I question the need to have an expensive, cumbersome, large screen phone. I don't expect feature regression - browsing, email, IM and so on are now core functions - however I wonder whether screen size will regress to around 4" to 2015, with 5-6" being a small tablet format, rather than a super-size phone.

If that happens, I'll be interested to see what Samsung do to remain competitive, given that to date they've seemingly focused on a TV-style "more for the money" approach.

Incidentally, I also reckon there's a market for domestic 12" or 13" tablets to cater for the coffee table market. If I'm right and tablets are supplanting small TV sets for use in the kitchen or bedroom then that screen size would make sense provided weight could be controlled.


  1. I am surprised you managed to write this article without using the portmanteau word "Phablet"....

  2. I am surprised you managed to write this article without using the portmanteau word "Phablet"....