Size matters: Study shows bigger screens lead to greater app usage

Smartphones with screens of 5.5 inches generate more minutes in app usage than smaller devices, according to a joint report released by Mobidia Technology and IHS. The two firms assessed more than 25 different smartphone models from Apple, HTC, Samsung and Sony with screen sizes ranging from 3.5 to 5.7 inches model ages of one to four years.

  • iPhone mobile app revenue generated per active iPhone is more than four times as much as Android, despite historically smaller iPhone screen sizes than Android flagship competitors.
  • In the second quarter of 2014, 80 percent of smartphone models launched had screens over 4.5 inches, larger than any iPhone then on sale. However, iPhone apps still tended to monetize better than their Android counterparts. 
  • Streaming video and social networking apps have a stronger link between increased data consumption and screen size than do chat apps (e.g. WhatsApp, WeChat) or mobile games.
  • Higher resolution screen smartphones have higher data consumption, but resolution is less important than physical screen size as an indicator of higher data use.

"Companies building apps for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus need to know what greater engagement these large screen iPhones will deliver for their genre of app, because higher engagement means more revenues through in-app purchases and advertising," the report said. "And, given the importance of large screens on user engagement, Android becomes a significantly more attractive platform than in years past."

The notion that bigger is better probably shouldn't come as a surprise, but developers can't simply count on this trend continuing as some smartphone models become ever-larger. It's actually a good sign that genres like mobile games weren't hugely affected by screen size, as there are probably few developers trying to create another Netflix or YouTube. 

This kind of research would be particularly interesting to continue as wearable devices such as smart watches enter the market--will the tiny screen sizes on consumer's wrists drive consumption? There could be similar questions about the performance of apps on tablets, which can vary between six inches, eight inches or 10 inches. Also, what about so-called "phablet" devices that blend smartphone and tablet designs? Until there's more of these kinds of studies, developers are probably better off focusing on creating the best app possible for all screens, big and small. 

For more:
- download the report here

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