There once was a time when people wanted the smallest phone they could find. In the era of the smartphone, however, those days may be over.
According to The NPD Group, the smartphones with the largest screens -- those four inches or larger -- are increasing their market share, while those with the smallest screens (those less than 3.5 inches) are losing ground.
"Some consumers, given the choice at the same price point, prefer the larger screens," Ross Rubin, executive director of industry analysis, tells Marketing Daily. "It's not that the smaller screen sizes are not adequate. It's that given they've been priced at $199 in many cases, consumers are opting for the most screen real estate they can get."
The reason for the preference is fairly obvious. As more consumers use their smartphones for non-communication-related activities, such as browsing the Web or watching videos, they want a richer media experience, Rubin says. In addition, the larger screens provide more room for keyboard use.
Based on information from the company's Mobile Phone Track, smartphones with four-inch screens or larger now encompass 24% of the smartphone market (as of Q4 2010). Meanwhile, smartphones with screens between 3.5 inches and 3.9 inches increased market share by only 2%. Smartphones with screens smaller than 3.4 inches, however, dropped to 36% of the market (compared with 63% from the previous year.)
"It appears the manufacturers are having success pushing the iPhone's 3.5-inch display, which was considered very large when it debuted in 2007," Rubin says.
Those findings, however, don't mean the world is returning to the age of the brick-sized smartphone, Rubin says. Of the five best-selling handset models in 2010 (with screens four inches or larger), three had four-inch screens, while only two had 4.3-inch screens, Rubin says. Dell, he adds, also attempted to market a phone with a five-inch screen, but it failed to catch on nationally.
"We may reach a point of diminishing returns if the phone no longer fits in the pocket," Rubin says. "It remains to be seen. We have seen AT&T and Verizon announce 4.5-inch [screen] products from Samsung, which should be arriving later this year. At this point, manufacturers are still trying to push bigger screens."