I’ve noted several times on this site that I think that the 3.5-inch screen on the iPhone is too small and that I greatly prefer screens that are larger than four inches. Recently Dustin Curtis wrote an interesting argument on why a 3.5-inch screen is ideal for most people. As an example, he compared the iPhone 4 to the Samsung Galaxy S II. His findings came down to usability vs. visibility. Here’s an excerpt:
Touching the upper right corner of the screen on the Galaxy S II using one hand, with its 4.27-inch screen, while you’re walking down the street looking at Google Maps, is extremely difficult and frustrating. I pulled out my iPhone 4 to do a quick test, and it turns out that when you hold the iPhone in your left hand and articulate your thumb, you can reach almost exactly to the other side of the screen. This means it’s easy to touch any area of the screen while holding the phone in one hand, with your thumb. It is almost impossible to do this on the Galaxy S II.
He definitely has a point in terms of usability, particularly one-handed usability. Most people don’t have Andre the Giant hands like RPadholics BigBlak and Slickyfats. For people like that, one-handed usability on larger screens isn’t an issue. For most people, it’s a compelling argument that a 3.5 inch touchscreen is easier to use than a 4.27-inch touchscreen like on the Galaxy S II.
The argument against 3.5-inch screens is visibility. It’s easier to see larger screens. A lot of my iPhone friends counter this point by saying, “I just hold my iPhone closer to my face and see everything just fine.” I suppose that’s an acceptable answer, but there’s also a comfort level involved. I have a few friends with BlackBerry phones that look like they’re making out with the things as they use them; they have to hold their Berries so close to their face that it looks silly and, more importantly, uncomfortable.
Then there’s resolution. In addition to making text and images appear crisper, higher resolutions on large screens allow for more data to be packed on a screen. That’s one reason I’ve been disappointed in Android phones with larger displays coupled with 800 x 480 resolutions and greatly looking forward to the proliferation of phones with large screens pumping out qHD (960 x 540) or 720p (1,280 x 720) graphics. Plus, the videos will look awesome.
Anyway, I wanted to get your take on mobile phone screens. How do you juggle the factors of size, resolution, usability, and visibility?
3 thoughts on “iPhone 4S 3.5-Inch Screen: Usability vs. Visibility”
Now that Siri is coming and the inevitable nuance variants from MS and Google (or an OEM for distinction??!!) I think the pro and cons of the screen sizes will become irrelevant.
I really can't wait for Apple to offer Siri in OSX with airport speakers and mics. My house will be like the enterprise.
You'll have to use a Picard voice when you talk to your Mac.
Of course I would. He even used what looked like an iPad. It's perfect.Sent from my iPhone 4
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