What is Your Optimal Screen Size For A Mobile Device

A  mobile device is called ‘mobile’ because the intention is for it to be taken with you and not carried about. We want to be able to flash out that device in an instant, check something on the web, and return it to our pocket.

In referring to ‘mobile device’, I am referring to anything from a “dumb”or smart-phone to a tablet.

For lots of people, there is a delicate balance between the convenience of a generous screen-size, versus the inconvenience of its over-generosity.  While most people would want the screen to be as big as it can get, there is a point where that bigness impairs functionality. If it is too big, you might as well go along with a netbook / laptop. A 10” tablet makes NO SENSE to me!

In addressing what the screen size should be, software developers (for both the OS and user applications for mobile devices) have a duty to make it possible to seamlessly allow users to choose font size. This is primarily applicable to Authors of Mobile Browsers,  E-book Readers and mobile WordProcessors.

To buttress this point, my mobile browser of choice (UCWeb 7.4) allows me to select a font size that is really comfortable for my eyesight. It is noteworthy that the maximum character size on the phone (when running UcWeb) is actually bigger than that selectable on my netbook (10.1”) when running OperaMini on the netbook http://mobilitynigeria.com/2010/10/26/save-some-money-browsing-on-pc/

I mentioned this to emphasize the point that a bigger screen-size does not automatically translate to bigger / more legible font. It is the duty of the software Authors to make good use of that screen ‘real-estate’

Lots of time, there is a correlation between the screen size and the available (virtual-)keyboard.

It is an irony that while everybody would prefer the biggest screen and biggest keyboard, a device offering such convenience  loses its “portability-appeal”

For me, I feel that optimal size for a truly mobile/portable device would be about 4.5” (diameter). It would give me that delicate balance between functionality and convenience.

Anything bigger that, and we are creeping into the realm of being unable to fit it into the glove compartment of a small car or  a jacket / trouser pocket. Anything more than that, and you will definitely need two-hands (all the time) to make use of that device.

Try to carry something that big to your ears – to make/receive a call.

How more ridiculous can that get!

What about you?

What would be the ideal size of your mobile device, keeping in mind the likely battery-life impact, single-hand-useability and ability to carry about in pockets (due to size/weight?


  • Was watching BBC Click a few weeks back, Microsoft CEO Steve Balmer was showing off a tablet with Windows 7 OS, trying to convince us it is a match made in heaven. Right before our eyes, the guy click continously, trying to close a window to no avail.
    Yes, i am sure windows 8 will be better suited as a tablet OS, but i believe they will only be playing catch-up to Apple. Watch out for iPad 3!

  • I root for 4.3". I love that size and I'm not sure how manageable anything bigger than that will be for me.

    7" and 10" tablets? Not unless they give me full PC functionality, not running smartphone OSes. Hope Nokia pulls out a Windows 8 (that's full PC Windows 8) tablet. iOS and Android tablets are essentially nothing but oversized smartphones.

  • Most technical papers and "serious" journals come in pdf format of which screen sizes less than 9.7 inches would have issues displaying because they are mostly formatted to A4 size. Pdfs do not reflow on smaller screens and having to convert to other formats or resize the pdf to fit smaller screens produce varying results, mostly poor ones. This is the only reason why i favour a Kindle DX or an equivalent screen for a tablet.

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