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.

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