updated 06:25 am EDT, Tue March 22, 2011
Phone displays sub 3.5-inch losing market share
Market research company The NPD Group has published a report showing that smartphone users are leaning towards large screens on their devices. When asked whether they would prefer portability, most users said that they would opt for screen size first. According to NPD's research, smartphones with 4.0-inches screens and over have captured market share from devices with screens any less than 3.5-inches.
"The explosion in Web and video content available for smartphones has caused consumers to rethink their phones' sizes," said Ross Rubin, executive director of industry analysis for NPD. "Larger displays offer a richer media experience, as well as a roomier surface for on-screen keyboards. Handset vendors are continuing to push the envelope of pocket real estate to complement the video capabilities of 4G handsets."
In terms of market share, handsets with screens 4.0-inches or larger, which first hit the market in Q2 2010, quickly captured 24 percent of the market by the end of the year. The market for iPhones and other devices with 3.5-3.9-inch screens held steady with a small increase of market share 2 percent higher than the same quarter in 2009. However, handsets with displays smaller than 3.5-inches, which dominated market share at the start of 2010 with 63 percent market share, saw this collapse to just 36 percent.
CES 2011 saw manufacturers of Android handsets including HTC, Samsung, Sony and LG launch a slew of devices with screens that were 4.0-inches, 4.3-inches and even 4.5-inches capitalizing on the popularity of larger displays. Among the recent phones released with screen sizes 4.0-inches or more are the HTC Thunderbolt, the Samsung Galaxy S II, while the Samsung Infuse 4G comes equipped with a huge 4.5-inch display.
When the iPhone first launched in June 2007, its 3.5-inch screen was considered large. However, the definition of a large smartphone display has evolved nearly five years after its release. Recent rumors suggest that Apple will respond to this trend by releasing an iPhone 5 that will be fitted with a 4.0-inch edge-to-edge display. If true, the likely aim of this design would probably be to deliver a larger display without compromising too much on size and weight. The iPhone 4's super high resolution Retina Display may have helped to keep Apple in the game, despite remaining at 3.5-inches. Its resolution exceeds most of the 4.0-inch and even 4.3-inch displays among its Android competition.
Regardless, the current trajectory of smartphone display size appears to be headed towards 4.0-inches becoming the new default size, with larger displays increasingly the norm. Android phones currently have an advantage in this regard, and it will remain to be seen whether Apple resists this trend or jumps on board too.