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What’s the Perfect Screen Size for Smartphones?

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When it comes to picking a smartphone, the screen is still one of the most critical features. While outdoor readability, vibrant colors and deep blacks are important, I’m mainly talking about the size of the screen and the resolution.

The size of the screen dictates a lot about your phone. What games you can play, how you will use it to watch movies, how much battery life it will use while browsing the web and how well it will fit in your hand and in your pocket.

I’m currently using the smallest and the largest smartphones available to the general public in the U.S. — the Galaxy Nexus with a 4.65″ HD display and the iPhone 4S with a 3.5″ Retina Display. These two devices sit at the opposite ends of a spectrum, separated by over an inch of screen size, but they do have one thing in common: a high-resolution.

The high-resolution means the iPhone 4S‘ 3.5″ display is better for many users than the 4.3″ display of the ThunderBolt because it can show more information, and the high pixel density means text looks nicer. The 4.65″ SAMOLED display found on the Galaxy Nexus translates into a bigger device, but thanks to the higher resolution (1280 x 720) you aren’t just getting a blown up screen.

The opinions on screen size vary greatly here at GottaBeMobile.

3.5 Inches is the Perfect Screen Size

iPhone 4S display

 

Warner Crocker and Tobias Buckell prefer the 3.5″ display of the iPhone.

“I prefer the iPhone’s 3.5″ screen size because with my average sized hands I can easily manipulate anything on the screen.” – Warner Crocker

“3.5″, fits in pocket nicest. I was always a fan of smaller. And Retina makes 3.5″ nice. Before Retina I hungered for larger iPhone. But pocketability is prime consideration for me.” – Tobias Buckell

4 Inches is the Right Screen Size

Droid 3 Screen size

Adam Mills and Sumocat are both OK with four-inch phone screens, but Sumocat is quite happy with the iPhone’s 3.5″ display.

“3-4 inch range (i.e., the 3.5″ iPhone) works well for me with one-handed operation. I can reach every corner with my thumb comfortably.” – Sumocat

4.5 and 4.65 Inch Screens Fit Best

Xavier Lanier and myself are both fans of the 4.65″ S AMOLD display found on the Galaxy Nexus.

“I’m pretty happy w/ the Nexus screen size so far. I have big hands and don’t mind holding it as a phone. But like KT, I use my phones as Internet/app devices much more than to talk. The Galaxy Note and Streak 5 felt like they were crossing into tablet territory.” – Xavier Lanier

Personally I am loving the large screen size and the high-resolution. I may not be able to hit every corner of the phone while holding it one-handed, but with average sized hands I can still hit all the important parts of the display. I use my phone less for calls and more for apps, watching TV shows and surfing the web.

5 Inches and Larger Screens Please

Galaxy Note

K.T. Bradford and Kevin Purcell are fans of larger screens, even if the devices verge on being a tablet.

“5 inches would be ideal for me. I know everyone always screams, ‘THAT’S JUST SO HUGE IT’S TOO BIG OMG’, whenever people bring up this size phone but those people are silly. I was a huge fan of the Dell Streak’s size — sad that it was such crap otherwise. The first Android device I fell in love with was a 5-inch Archos tablet.

Yeah, a big phone looks odd when you hold it up to your head, but I don’t talk on the phone much and hate holding it to my head, anyway. I try to do wired headsets or bluetooth. Reading things on a larger screen is more comfortable, and I use my phone to read news posts and sometimes books.

However, phones with big screens and 800 x 480 resolutions are unacceptable.” – K.T. Bradford

“For me, the bigger the better. I like to be able to see more of a web page as I surf and as I get older my eyes aren’t as good. Smaller text has become a bit of a problem on the iPhone’s smaller screen. I have large hands so that’s not an issue.” – Kevin Purcell

What is The Perfect Smartphone Size?

Best android screen size

When I asked about the preferred size for your next Android device, the results were as widespread as our internal opinions, with 3.5 inch and 4 inch winnng by a small margin, as you can see in the image above.

Once again, we want to know what screen size you want on your next smartphone.

What's Your Perfect Smartphone Screen Size?

View Results

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Josh Smith is Editor of GottaBeMobile and Notebooks.com. He's always looking for ways to help you get the most of your gear and loves to talk about tech on radio and TV. Josh uses an iOS and Android devices as well as Mac and Windows Computers. Josh Smith on Google+ Email: [email protected]

16 Comments

  1. Adam Truelove

    12/23/2011 at 7:13 am

    Anyone who says 3.5″ is joking or an iFan.  The bezel on the iPhone is jokingly huge.  There is no way you can convince me that an iFan who insists that 3.5″ is big enough/perfect would not prefer a larger screen if the overall dimensions of the iPhone didn’t change.

    • Tim Davies

      12/23/2011 at 8:35 am

      I think it’s not which is big enough, but what size is small enough to still be usable. Any smaller then 3.5″ and the touchscreen keyboard becomes a task to operate. On the other end, the Note just big enough before it is to big. It can still be used with one hand if you have big hands. Any bigger and that’s not going to be the case. Once again, one is small enough before it is to small, the other is big enough, just before it’s to big. So, small phone, or big phone? That is the question.

    • Qixo

      03/27/2012 at 3:32 am

      The bezel on the left and right of the display on an iPhone is narrow, so there is really no room for an increase in screen size without making the phone bigger.  The top and bottom could perhaps be narrowed slightly, but the home button is a good size, so there isn’t much room there either.  So sure if somehow it were possible to squeeze a bigger screen in there without changing the near perfect size of the phone, then no-one would object.  But in truth there isn’t room for anything more than a really small increase.

      I have no time for people who worship Apple, but have equal disdain for Android fanatics who think those who choose the iPhone have not even considered the other options.  Yes amazingly enough some people prefer their phone not to be a mini-tablet.

      My brother currently has a Galaxy SII, but when he gets his next phone he is going for something with a smaller screen.  He likes having a big screen, but has found it makes the phone size impractical.

  2. Guest

    12/23/2011 at 7:36 am

    5″ with as thin as possible, Lumia 800 style Bezel.

    • michael arazan

      12/23/2011 at 11:17 pm

      or the galaxy note @ 5″, which looks to be heading to ATT after it passed through the FCC

  3. Anonymous

    12/23/2011 at 8:02 am

    My first Android device was the 5″ Archos 5IT. It’s as pocketable as a stack of 3×5 cards or a Moleskine pocket notebook. A phone that size would be perfect. My mobile device is primarily a data device, not a voice device, so the idea that it’s too big to put to your ear is trumped by the fact that it’s great for surfing, reading, viewing, anything visual. I would hope for resolution along the lines of 720×1280.

  4. Anonymous

    12/23/2011 at 8:29 am

    I’ll be moving on to a bigger screen Androd phone (galaxy note) form my 3.5inches iPhone4. Because not all sites I can zoom to read small text. I use 85% for web or text mesg, I still have 3,000 rollover minutes with AT&T. Use 200anytime mi per mo since I don’t talk much I can’t think why not having a big screen phone? To me maybe not all, perfect reason to get one.

  5. Tim Davies

    12/23/2011 at 8:33 am

    I have the Galaxy Note as well as the iPhone 4. I prefer iOS on the software side, but I really really like the 5.3″ Display. I would take 5″ too…but for now, I am quite happy.(especially with the stylus!)

  6. Dan G

    12/23/2011 at 9:15 am

    4.65 of the Galaxy Nexus is the right size for me

  7. john swain

    12/24/2011 at 8:10 pm

    I want a 5.5 to 6.0 hybrid tablet computer from which I can make a call when necessary. The phone call feature is a lot like the camera, I want it in case I want to take a picture. I want to carry one device in my pocket that carries my entire computing life. I’ll plug in a hdmi video when I want a larger screen and use a blue tooth key board and mouse when i’m home. Otherwise I’ll have a blue tooth ear piece for phone calls.  A quad core tab/ phones with 2 or more gigs of ram would just about cover the spectrum. Samsung and Asus are nearly  there. Who needs a desktop or even a laptop when nearly everything you need on the go is available on the cloud.  If you want a Terabyte of storage for backup, an external hard drive does the trick.

  8. Enoel69

    12/26/2011 at 4:19 pm

    Ideal size is 4″ to 4.3′ but will love a 4.7″ screen if it has little bezel and the space at the top n bottom where the screen ends is not much. For a example i like the G-Nex but think they could have reduced the space at the top and bottom where the screen ends by half at each end to bring the device height to abt 130mm. The rumored pics for the Samsung Galaxy S3 shows a device with a big screen abt 5″ and exactly what i was just saying….less space at the top and bottom from where the screen ends, making it look not as big as it could have been but with a gorgeous screen to play with.

  9. Beefspoker

    01/02/2012 at 5:57 am

    I think its really because the iphone is a girls phone didn’t anyone realize oh and of course gents with small,,,,,  hands as well , please don’t forget they are easier to pick up when they go rotten you know what they say about 1 bad apple ?  M

    • Qixo

      03/27/2012 at 3:36 am

      Maybe all the big screen lovers are trying to compensate for some other deficiency.

      • Jabo Nga

        01/03/2013 at 5:13 am

        Or maybe all the teeny tiny screen lovers are relating with what they have…..harhar!

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  11. qazibasit

    01/24/2013 at 10:59 am

    I am using a galaxy note for about a year. I am in love with the device still now and its size 5.3 is so far an ideal size for me not too big noe too small. Samsung is going bigger day by day.
    I would say samsung should update its 5 inch devices.

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