Welcome back! In the last article I talked about screen resolution and this week I wanted to delve a bit deeper into this series by talking about screen size, specifically the actual physical size of your mobile devices LCD.  Screen size has little to do with resolution. Whilst resolution indicates a number of pixels a screen has at its disposal in order to make up an image, screen size is the sheer size of the panel.

How do you measure screen size?

Screen sizes come in all shapes and ...well...sizes!

Measuring screen size is done the same way as you measure you TV screen.  You measure from one of the top corners, diagonally down to the opposite lower corner of the screen.  This length gives you your screen size.  It doesn’t give you the ratio, however.  Some screens will be long and thin, others square, some fat and wide but they could all have the same screen size.

The history of screen size

In the beginning…there was Windows Mobile and things were really simple.  The VGA or QVGA screen was dominant in the mobile world and this resolution seemed to be married to a very few screen sizes.  Namely 2.8″ and 3.5″ and we saw these screens in everything.  Early smartphone makers like HTC tended to opt for the 2.8″ size which made their devices small and neat, whilst rugged devices used both, but the 3.5″ screen was more common.  In fact, belive it or not, there was a time where I used to emphasise that one of the benefits of rugged devices was that their screens are larger and easier to work with!

Screen resolutions had little impact on size in the early years

As you can see from the image above that I pinched from Wikipedia!, today there are loads of screen resolutions, in fact, I don’t think that graphic has them all, but it certainly has most of them.  However, for many years the screen size of a mobile device LCD panel changed little over the years.

However as consumers, not businesses, became the primary driver of smartphone and tablet use we saw some interesting things happen. Firstly the iPhone shocked the consumer smartphone world and whilst the first incarnation of this now classic device was indeed the same 3.5″ sized screen, its longer, thinner design fooled you into thinking it was larger.  However, later versions of the device saw the screen grow to 4″, 4.7″ and 5.5″ that the iPhone plus model sports today.

Indeed whilst we see still see 6″ screens being launched in 2017, screen sizes for smartphones have subsided a little with a screen size of between 4.7 and 5.5 being the most popular.

The rise and fall of the Tablet

Tablets, however, saw a different thing happen. Having actually been around in the business and enterprise markets for a lot longer, tablets were naturally made at larger screen sizes. 12″ not being uncommon at all.  However, screen sizes soon shrunk where 10.1″ and 7″ sizes became common.  Whilst the 10.1″ tablet screen has stayed, the 7″ one proved slightly unpopular, largely due to the HD ratio but also due to the pressure of smartphones with “do it all 5-6″ screens too and so today, the best selling tablets have adopted a squarer 8″ size.  12.2″ tablets are also still quite common as the tablet form factor still struggles to find its place in the mobile market today somewhere between the laptop and the smartphone!  The recent evolution of the true do it all tablet such as the Microsoft surface have also seen a trend of screen size rising slightly to 12-13” and this has been largely down to ones running full versions of Windows 10 and becoming true laptop and tablet dual-purpose machines.

Is it a tablet or laptop? The Surface Pro 4 is both


Best screen sizes today

So that’s great but what if you’re buying a rugged device today?  What’s the best advice on screen size? Well, today the good news is that there’s still a lot of choices when it comes to screen size.  4.3/4.7″ screens are still abundant but in the rugged market, the 5.0″ screen size on smartphones seems to be the perfect fit for most business. It gives the best balance of size, battery consumption and usability and also the most common screens are made for this size too so they are cheaper to make too.

Tablets we definitely still see a split between 8″ and 10.1″, however, the 7″ screen seems to be all but dead these days.

So that’s this short 2 part series done on screen sizes. I’m on holiday next week so taking a break from blogging but will be sure to be back after that where I’ll see you then!


About The Author

Dave's one of the founders of Raptor, his rants are memorable, his thoughts are stimulating and his heart is set on helping, entertaining and making things like mobile, Android, ruggedness, 3D printing and IOT simple.

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