How Much Does Screen Size Matter on a Phone?

When Samsung unleashed its mammoth Galaxy Note smartphone, the reception was mixed, to say the least. It brought forth one serious question: What constitutes as “too big” in the smartphone world? With Samsung’s Galaxy Mega, people now have the option to purchase a smartphone that has a whopping 6.3-inch screen (just barely able to fit in a decently-sized pocket). Have we gone too far, or are we seeing a new era of consumer choices? To properly answer these questions, we have to establish a few things and explore some others.

The Problem


It would be very difficult to determine whether a large screen is really worth it, principally because it’s mostly a subjective opinion. Do you want a phone that closely resembles a tablet? Or would you like something that fits more comfortably on the palm of your hand? Is the iPhone 5s’ 4-inch screen sufficient?

One day, I walked into a phone shop to get myself a new SIM card. What I saw was a bunch of people using outlandishly large phones with 5 – 5.5-inch screens. I also saw a few others using phones with 4.5-inch screens like mine. If you have a glance at what phones people are using, you’ll soon realize that the consumer market is very diverse. This is generally a good thing. The question we really have to answer is, “Is everyone really happy with the phones they have?” This is nearly impossible, since it’s hard to gauge exactly how satisfied someone is with screen size. However, we can still look at the positive and negative sides of having either a medium 4-4.5-inch screen and a large 5-6-inch mammoth.

Putting Sizes Into The Arena


I have a confession to make: To me, anything above 4.5 inches really takes a toll. With my phone, I’m already having trouble operating it with one hand, and it’s not even 5 inches diagonally. However, anything less than 4.5 inches misses a sweet spot that harmonizes real estate with one-handed operability. The lowest I’d go is 4 inches, and perhaps the highest would be 4.7. Why? Let’s see the advantages of a medium-sized screen:

  • Everything is reachable with your thumb. In the upper end of the medium size spectrum, thumb operation might become difficult if you don’t have large hands. Overall, one-handed operation is possible.
  • The phone fits comfortably in the palm of your hand, extending up to the bottom-most section of each finger.
  • You’re less likely to drop a phone with this size of screen, since you can hold it relatively tightly in your hand.

But I must concede there are things that don’t play well with such sizes:

  • Gaming is slightly limited (think Angry Birds), since your gestures will surely be more sensitive on a smaller screen.
  • Typing vertically can be an exhausting process.
  • Having a smaller screen impedes your ability to read small text without having to pinch and zoom a billion times.

Added to that, large screens also give you otherworldly video recording and photography experiences. The larger screen will make you feel as if though you’re staring through a window at the subject you’re recording or snapping photos of. It’s really immersive.

So, Is Bigger Always Better?

Surely not! However, there are tons of great points that can be made about both smaller and larger screens. If you were to choose one, I’d say to prioritize what kind of user experience you want to get out of your screen.

What’s your choice? Do you like monolithic screens that bring you closer to having a tablet than a phone? Or do you like keeping your hardware lean for very quick one-handed use? Comment below with your answer!

Image credit: Samsung Galaxy Note

Miguel Leiva-Gomez Miguel Leiva-Gomez

Miguel has been a business growth and technology expert for more than a decade and has written software for even longer. From his little castle in Romania, he presents cold and analytical perspectives to things that affect the tech world.


  1. Hello,
    I’d like to post a few words pros-large screens.
    In fact I’m a fan of large screens because they give us the possibility to use new multimedia & internet functions of a phone in really good conditions with a high visual comfort. Thus a mobile phone becomes more than a simple phone, it becomes a complex/perfect device good for all purpose without great compromises.
    And the stories about “too big to be useful” are for those people who don’t need/deserve to have more than a simple phone in their pocket… They can forget about huge screen phones and their complex and superb utilities!
    But we all should remember that initially, in the first days of mobile phones communication, the great majority of people thought about mobile phones that they were unnecessary… and today we cannot imagine life without mobile phones and their appliances.
    The same way people thought first time about huge screens on mobiles, that they are exaggerated, but we are very close to that day when huge screens will conquer all mobiles. Just remember how small were all screens in the first mobile devices (about 2 inch maximally) and today 4-4,5 inch is a middle-size screen and will become a small-sized one tomorrow! There should be a limit and I think that 6,5 inch is the maximal one for a phone (phablet)… Only the future will tell if I’m wrong !
    And for those who think that it’s difficult to operate a phablet with a single hand, here are 2 simple solutions:
    1 – Forget totally about phablets and use simple phones with small screens or
    2 – Be reasonable and use the other hand too because the final results deserve the effort! And don’t forget that once you get used with large screens (in a short period about maximally one week) you will not feel like turning back to the small ones ! That’s NORMAL EVOLUTION !…

    1. One-handed operation is important while holding onto the railings in a tram car. It’s also very useful when you’re carrying bags or doing anything else that’s occupying the other hand. The problem with big screens is that not all pants have pockets that can fit them. Mostly, men’s pockets can fit up to a 6.5-inch-screen device. However, women’s pants are rarely designed with pockets that are very large.

    2. So true, I have a s3 mini and love it, but now want a bigger phone as my GF has one.

      Also I suggest paraphrasing your text in the future.

  2. I prefer to have a phone and a tablet, not a hybrid device. Using touchscreen technology to attach human being with his/hers both hands to large screen “mobile” device is not very innovating but more likely extending of this technology and with all marketing goes to harvesting of course. Perhaps next step will be some “touchable” hologram emitting pocket toy even with some gesture language but that wont be easy with this big screen race even with attachable keyboards while they support 10 fingers multitouch which goes to notebook/laptop level.

  3. OK, finally the screen dimension it is a matter of personal taste for everyone at this moment…
    Usability with a single hand is an important feature but it will be always connected with small screens and with the simplicity of the corresponding phone application. And the complexity of these applications increases day by day and it needs larger screens even if we like it or not. And normal evolution is to complexity not to simplicity as we can see if we look to the recent history of mobile computers and applications.
    On the other hand I see in the future that people will prefer to wear single complex devices instead of two devices at the same time (phone and tablet).
    Maybe the solution is to invent foldable larger screens that allow to occupy less space in our pocket (for men or women) and we can see it on market sooner than we think of… Samsung has already presented such concept of screen and I think it will hit the market maximally in 2015.
    And the dimension around 6 inch (more or less 0,5 inch) screen I think will be the perfect compromise for a pocket device with foldable screen.
    I will prefer such kind of phone/phablet instead larger or smaller ones because it complex and practical… It’s my choice and I think many other people will like it when it will come as a foldable solution.

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