When Size Does Matter
The question came into my mind when I got my hands on Samsung Galaxy Note.
“How many screen sizes do mobile devices nowadays have?”
I gathered all the devices I had in my possession at the moment (that was in November, 2011) and found that the screen sizes are 15.4, 13.3, 12.1, 11, 10.1, 9.7, 8.9, 7, 5.3, 5, 4.3, 4.0, 3.5 and 2.8 inches! Please bear in mind that there are still laptop in 22, 11, and 14.1 inches and smartphone in 4.7, 4.65, and 3.7 inches in the screen size pool. Now, when someone says “size does not matter” will you believe it?
How do we categorize devices based on screen size?
Gartner has some guideline for this. According to the image below, devices can be categorized into 5 main types: Pocketable, At Hand, Portable, Desk and Shared Areas. Most smartphones nowadays are in pocketable type. Tablets are in at hand type.
However, the guideline above is kind of out-of-date now as there are new devices that do not fall into these categories.
As for screen resolution, smartphones sized 2” to 4” no long has 320×480 resolution. 480×800 becomes industry standard and we are having more and more smartphones with HD resolution (see Samsung Galaxy Nexus or Samsung Galaxy Note for example). Tablets, too, have higher resolution screen. Huawei introduced MediaPad with 1280×720 resolution. Tablets with 10.1” screen size nowadays have 1280×800 resolution as a standard.
Just smartphones and tablets alone, the screen sizes already ranged from 2.8” to 10.1”.
We need different screen size to meet both physical and psychological needs
Until foldable screens can be commercialized, the size of the device will increase proportionally with the screen size.
Good news is that Samsung has just showed off the foldable screen technology last year. The screen has a resolution of 960×800 pixels and is 5.3-inch in size.
Bad news? There are still a long way until it can be commercialized.
Screen size is one of a key factor users use in making a decision about whether to purchase the device or not. The bigger device generally comes with heavier weight. Manufacturers have tried their best to make the device as light as they can, but there is a limit to that. To get rid of some weight, some sacrifice must be made. Battery life, for example. Since different users have different needs, device makers usually leave the decision about trading off some features for another to the users. They offer different models with different screen sizes and let the users choose.
Another reason for having different screen sizes relates to user’s physical limitation. Those with small hands usually choose smaller screen size for easy-to-use. You get a better grip for a device that suits your hands.
Yet again, people may feel that 3.5” to 4.3” screen size is too small for them. They may choose Dell Streak 5 or Samsung Galaxy Note instead, knowing what they have to sacrifice (the good grip).
What’s the best-fit screen size, in my opinion?
There is no such thing like “one size fits all” when it comes to gadgets. Different people have different minds. I dare not tell you guys what is the best-fit screen size, but I can give you some guideline to help you make decision.
- Consider 15.4-inch laptop for home use. This size is a good choice for a desktop replacement. You will get almost full-size keyboard. Many models (e.g. Dell Inspiron 1564) offers you a numpad on the keyboard, too. You will get almost the same experience as using PC, but with mobility.
- Normal laptop users should consider 11”-13.3” screen size. The weight will be still bearable if you have to carry it around for a day. Paying more bucks will give you a thinner, lighter ones like MacBook Air or Ultrabook. At this screen size, you already get 1280×800 or 1366×768 resolution which is enough for working and gaming.
- What about tablets? I surveyed my friends and came up with a conclusion that 7-inch is the best to be carried around. 8.9-inch is the first runner-up. However, these sizes are available only for Android tablets. If your OS of choice is iOS, you can only have 9.7” screen size. That’s what Steve Jobs said.
- As for smartphones, I will recommend you to go for 4”-4.3”. I think it should be best-fit in most people’s hands. (For women, the size should be 4”, though.) 3.7” for someone with really small hands.
Please note that above guidelines are based solely on my personal opinion. It can help you make a decision, but please do not set them as your criteria. Like I said, different people have different minds. I don’t think that your preference is exactly the same as mine.