Big Phones Are Not So Big

Mobile and Connected Device Strategies

Yankee Group is hearing a constant drumbeat of claims in the news that large-screen smartphones are taking over the U.S. While this may be true in some sub-populations of the digerati, the data we collect from consumers suggests otherwise.

Our latest U.S. consumer survey finds:

  • Small screen sizes dominate. Over two-thirds of smartphone owners say their device has a screen less than 5 inches in diameter. One third of consumers own a screen between 4 and 4.9 inches in diameter, and another quarter own one with a screen of between 3 and 3.9 inches.
  • Five inches seems to be the cutoff. Only 16 percent of consumers today own a phone with a screen larger than 5 inches. When we look at big-screen smartphones, we find only 12 percent of our sample owns a phone with a screen size between 5 and 5.9 inches. When we look at the "phablet" category of phones with screens greater than 6 inches, that figure is only 4 percent.

While these findings are heavily influenced by the fact that the most popular smartphone in the U.S. is the iPhone, which has a screen size of 4 inches, they do contrast significantly with the amount of news coverage large-screen phones and phablets receive. In fact, given that our survey shows 47 percent of our respondents still own a feature phone, the presence of big-screen phones in the overall population is even smaller than the figures above suggest.

The upshot: We've written before that the race to make bigger displays on phones has a negative effect on a variety of smartphone design factors, including portability, charging time and battery life. Both smartphone manufacturers and app designers should ignore much of the big-screen phone hype and concentrate on the display factors that consumers buy and use. It's easy to slap a big screen on a smartphone and call it new, but our data shows the big screen isn't necessarily going to draw as many buyers as creating a better consumer experience. For now, that means focusing on display sizes between 3 and 5 inches.