Why do I want a bigger phone when the pockets in my jeans are still the same size?
At the risk of sounding trite and lame and, yes, sophomoric, size isn’t everything.
Maybe I'm too eagerly betraying my age, but I can remember the first mobile phone to ever appear in a Hollywood movie: “The Brick” held by Gordon Gekko, the character played by Michael Douglas in 1987′s Wall Street.
And like everyone else who thought the idea of getting a phone call someplace other than a home, an office — or, if you were really cool, a restaurant — was an unrivaled step forward for mankind, I was impressed.
Then something even more amazing happened. Mobile phones got smaller and smaller, small enough, in fact, to clutch discreetly under a table when you were waiting for that oh-so-important call in an inappropriate place.
So why are we so excited that phone screens are getting big again?
There's no difference in call quality … Ah, that's it. I still use my mobile phone to call people. Silly me.
Smarter and Dumber
In the decades since the debut of "The Brick," phones have gotten smarter and users seem to have become dumber. As I've noted before, "We talk, text, surf the web, take pictures and post them to social media, all the while we're walking, working, driving. We need signs to remind us not to talk on our phones in restaurants — and the kindness of strangers to keep us from walking into traffic while texting on our phones."
According to the most recent data from The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project:
- 67 percent of cell owners check their phone for messages, alerts or calls — even when they don’t notice their phone ringing or vibrating.
- 44 percent of cell owners have slept with their phone next to their bed because they wanted to make sure they didn’t miss any calls, text messages or other updates during the night.
- 29 percent of cell owners describe their cell phone as “something they can’t imagine living without.”
What do we use our phones for? A lot of things other than making and receiving calls, Pew found.
The Truth About Screen Size
All of this focus on cell phone screen size is, of course, related to today's most over-hyped, highly anticipated news out of Cupertino, Calif., where Apple CEO Tim Cook is expected to announce two iPhone 6 models — one 4.7 inches and the other 5.5 inches.
Many of us who use our iPhones like the corded landlines they were intended to replace — ever vigilant for electrical outlets to get a momentary boost of power for the batteries with the shortest life on the planet — would be happy for Cook to simply unveil a better battery. But the smart money is on a bigger screen.
Just yesterday, Tamara Gaffney, principal analyst at Adobe Digital Index, told her followers on LinkedIn, why iPhones will get bigger today. "I'm finally able to share our research on web browsing by smartphone screen size and the results are quite dramatic," she wrote.
According to Adobe's new Mobile Benchmark Report, big screens are big business:
ADI sees strong user movement toward larger screen devices — that is, greater than four inches in size — which are driving 30 percent of smartphone web traffic, up from just 19 percent last year. In contrast, web browsing by smaller screen phones (four inches or less) is down 11 percent, year-over-year. This has big implications for Apple. Until the company introduces a larger screen smartphone, its market share will erode, according to ADI."
Gaffney noted that Samsung, which offers the 5.7 inch Galaxy,represents nearly a quarter of all browsing and is still gaining steam.
The Curse of Fat Fingers
Many users claim bigger screens are more functional: they allow you to not only check your email but actually read it and respond without getting "finger cramps," as if those were a thing.
But even Adobe recognizes certain issues, which could have implications for digital marketers. "From a mobile-social perspective, it appears that the 'fat-finger syndrome' is quite a problem in the mobile world, according to ADI. Bounce rates for referrals from social networks is much higher on mobile devices than it is on desktops (61 percent versus 53 percent)," the report notes.
Tyler White, an ADI analyst, explains in the report that social smartphone users convert less often and, as a result, produce lower revenue per visit, regardless of the social site that referred them. He added that Facebook referrals produce the highest revenue per visit from mobile devices.
Are fat fingers less of a problem on a bigger screen? Maybe. Or maybe there's a better explanation: Too many people try to browse the web while they're walking, talking and, yes, driving.
From that perspective, I suppose a bigger screen will be useful. But I have enough problems walking and talking, let alone adding chewing gum or searching the web at the same time.
I have used my iPhone 5S for everything from writing stories to searching the secrets of the universe. I can buy stuff (even before Twitter's "buy" button), check my medical records and watch entertaining videos — including today's favorite, Weird Things All Couples Fight About — just fine on my tiny screen.
I can hold my phone in my hand like the third appendage it has become almost anywhere, without seeming impolite (even in my new hometown, here in very polite coastal South Carolina.) So why do I want a bigger phone?
If I want my butt to look big, I'll just eat another donut.