Report suggests optimum size for a smartphone’s display: between 4.0 and 4.5 inches

by: Mike AndriciMarch 15, 2012
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optimal screen size
According to Freud, size definitely matters to women, but it matters far more to men. Although I’m positive that you have heard this stuff before, it probably had nothing to do with your smartphone. But as it turns out, a recent study proves that this psychological axiom holds true even when applied to your smartphone’s screen size. Predictable? Maybe, but it’s always better to have some facts and numbers we can wrap our heads around. According to the Strategy Analytics Wireless Device Lab, smartphone customers basically want two things from their next smartphone: thinness and a large display.

According to Strategy Analytics, most smartphone users would want their next smartphone to have a screen size somewhere between 4.0 inches and 4.5 inches. This “optimal” screen size could have very well been defined by the fact that users simply want devices with bigger displays than the gadgets that they currently posses. Strategy Analytics says that “almost 90 percent of existing smartphone owners surveyed chose a prototype smartphone with a display larger than their current device”.

Bigger (and thinner) is better

The same study suggests that, when compared to women smartphone users, male smartphone users are inclined to buy smartphones with bigger displays. I’m guessing that has a great deal to do with the fact that women simply have smaller hands. Now imagine your girlfriend being able to properly wield the 5.3-inch Galaxy Note with one hand tied behind her back!

The report suggests that, although smartphone users are generally considering a device with a bigger display for their next purchase, they will also take into account how thick (although thin is a better word in this context) the device is, as well as how much it weights. Fortunately, over the past year, we’ve seen Android smartphones (and even tabs, really) getting close to their “theoretical” minimal thickness, considering the fact that mobile devices should also feel comfortable in your hand. I’m guessing anything less than 10 mm should certainly be thin enough for most Android shoppers.

As expected, iPhone users were less inclined to want a bigger display on their next smartphone (as all versions of the iPhone showcase a 3.5-inch display). Of course, as we discussed before, the 3.5-inch form factor does have a huge benefit – the fact that almost the entire screen real estate can be reached with a swipe of the thumb.


However, not everyone seems to agree that you must be able to use your smartphone with only one hand. A big proportion of Android users answered that they would like bigger displays. A big part of all users want their smartphones to be increasingly thin. For your reference, here’s a list of the three Google Nexus smartphones, side by side with their corresponding iOS competitor:

  • Google Nexus One – 3.7 inch display – 11.5 mm thick
  • iPhone 3Gs – 3.5 inch display – 12.3mm
  • Google Nexus S – 4.0 inch display – 10.9 mm thick
  • iPhone 4 – 3.5 inch display – 9.3 mm thick
  • Google Galaxy Nexus – 4.65 inch display – 8.9 mm thick
  • iPhone 4S – 3.5 inch display – 9.3 mm thick

Clearly, Google has acknowledged that Android users want bigger screens, but it’s not like Android OEMs did not follow the same pattern. Here is a list of the previous 3 top smartphones from Samsung:

  • Samsung Galaxy S – 4.0 inch display – 9.9 mm thick
  • Samsung Galaxy S2 – 4.3 inch display – 8.5 mm thick
  • Samsung Galaxy Note – 5.3 inch display – 9.7 mm (obviously not actually a smartphone, but it did sell like crazy so you see my point here, right?)

Do you agree with the study? Is 4 – 4.5 inch the sweet area for Android display sizes? Are mammoth devices like the Galaxy Note (or the Optimus Vu for that matter) the answer? Or maybe you’re inclined towards more pocketable screen sizes? Let us know what you think in the comment section below and vote in the poll!

[poll id=”85″]
  • Brianm3y3r

    It would be nice to have a phone with the screen of the note but bezelless(?) that way it wouldnt be to big for the hands and the pocket

  • d.winner

    I am able to demo phones through work and currently have the Samsung Note. I love the screen and everything is great on it, but the size unfortunatly is just too big. I can not use it with one hand. Maybe someone that has huge hands will find this perfect, but not me. Everything else about it works just fine.

  • The Screen sizes of android phones should have a range of 4.0 for small hands and 5.3 at the largest.

    On a side note….
    I think that phones are getting to thin, and it seems to me that most people carry their phones in their pocket. The thinner it is the more likely it is to break. The Nexus and DroidX have a nice thickness and still feels thin enough. The razor should be the thinnest phone made.

    I dont want a phone that is easy to break.

    I cant use the iPhone cause its too small.

  • “…the 3.5-inch form factor does have a huge benefit – the fact that almost the entire screen real estate can be reached with a swipe of the thumb.” Sure, if everyone had the same size hands.

    Perhaps in general this is true. For others like myself, I can say the same thing on a Droid X, SGS II and some others in the 4.5″ range.

    I switched to an Android phone a few years back when it became too hard to see the screen on the iPhone. At some point, Apple needs to let go of the belief that 3.5″ is all anyone needs.

    • tech_ed

      I find that the iphone, and other 3.5 inch phones feel like they’re going to slip out of my hands…or fall from between my fingers…I’m not a tall guy, 5’11”, but my hands seem to be larger than average….as a person who’s played piano for dozens of years, my hand can span almost 1.5 octaves…with the added advantage that my thumb is double-jointed! So a 5 inch screen seems to be a no brainer to me!

  • Leif Sikorski

    And now compare the OS. How often do you need to reach the top left corner on Android devices? Almost never – we’ve the back button. iOS isn’t made for big screens but on Android it works pretty well.

  • Roscoenwhite2

    IMO, 4.5 is at that threshold of comfort t.hat most people, male and female, can subscribe to.

    • thepeddle

      So this is based on scientific proof I guess?? I am willing to bet you are just one of the “ignorance is bliss” people who haven’t really tried a large smartphone for more than a minute or two or even at all. You just like to spout off and impose your opinion on others. I own the Galaxy Note and with that size screen and Beautful HD display it makes everything from media to browsing to games MUCH more enjoyable. 80% of the Smartphone population use their phones far more for these tasks than making calls, man hands and man sized pants and you’re fine. Plus it will fit a purse easily as well.

      • androidn0x

        Roscoen used the abbrev. “IMO”, so that’s his opinion, not really observation based on scientific tests and surveys and all.

        Other than that, I agree with Roscoen, well, for me, since I have small hands. Also, that aside, I’m thinking that screen size can also benefit/be detrimental to battery life? I don’t know. I would go for a Galaxy Note given that I will be using it mostly as a tablet rather than a phone, but then, if I were just going to use a phone, I might as well settle for 4.5″

        /randombulls**t :)

    • tech_ed

      So…are you just too lazy to pull the other hand out of your pocket to use on a mobile device, or are you too busy looking like an emo-hipster with your fists shoved deep inside your pants in defiant indignity?

  • AppleFUD

    Screen sizes will adjust over the next couple of years. Just like they standardized around 10″ for netbooks and laptops only have a few sizes now.

    Companies are testing the waters to see what people like.

    Personally. . . 5″ is good if they decrease the bezel to about 2mm on all sides.

  • tech_ed

    My smartphone is not a toy, I don’t care to use it to tell people that I’m the mayor of some local coffee establishment, or that I just took a dump. I need my smartphone to use as a tool for work! Have you ever tried to RDP into a Windows server using an iPhone? Sure, it can to it, but what a pain in the butt it is to to so! So, anything under 4 inches just won’t do it! Yes, I know…I can use an iPad, but I don’t really want to carry two devices with me…a cellphone and and a tablet…and not a monstrosity like the iPad! Way too heavy to use for any extended amount of time! I like the HTC titan…nice size screen, but since the Windows Phone OS 7.x doesn’t support VPN of any sort, well…let’s just say, if you have servers running RDP exposed to the internet then you deserve to get hacked!
    And besides…4.5 inches? 4.6 inches? 4.7 inches? Nah, give me something that I can use with two hands, yet still carry with me…5.3 or bigger! Yeah…*NOW* I can get some work done…the rest of you? Well, you can tweet from the coffee shop about how great you are while I’m actually doing something!

  • Mamoon Noorestani

    I think 4.8 inch / 5.5 inch should be the biggest display size for a smartphone. I still think the Galaxy Note isn’t that big.
    But maybe it’s because it feels small for people who have large hands (like mines).

  • PassingThru

    I enjoy 4.3 to 4.8 screens, but my girlfriend likes the 3.5 variety due to her smaller hand size.