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Size matters – the big screen renaissance raises some interesting questions for mobile marketers everywhere

This article was originally published on Technology.Info.
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Size always matters, doesn’t it? Is bigger always better? Well, for the best part of a decade, where gadgets and mobile phones are concerned, we’ve been cultured into believing everything has to be micro. Smartphones, laptops and other devices have all been geared up with powerful portability in mind. In the early noughties, if your screen was larger than four inches, you were the modern day equivalent of Del Boy from Only Fools and Horses and his 1980s mobile brick. Yet, the tide is turning…

Samsung now has a plethora of devices with screens in excess of four inches, the line between smartphone, tablet and phablet is increasingly becoming more blurred and even Apple is rumoured to be looking to sport a larger screen size in the next iteration of the iPhone. There are surely many reasons for this change in tact, but the spread of the mobile web has certainly transformed the way consumers engage online; their willingness to bank on the bus, play games while caught in traffic or shop while sitting in the salon has led to increased demands on how those experiences should look and feel.

In the Netbiscuits 2014 Web Predictions report, we highlighted the continuum of screen sizes that now characterizes the mobile landscape. Our predictions are based on how users are actually engaging on the Netbiscuits Platform and we found some interesting changes in the size screens users were using in 2013 compared to the previous year. If we look at the Top 25 devices, the 3 to 3.9in category dropped 19 per cent, while the 4 to 4.9in segment saw its share rise by 14 per cent. Similarly, the 7 to 9in category broke into the Top 25 device traffic for the first time. Share of traffic in the 5 to 6.9in category increased four-fold. All of the segments over 4in saw growth in share compared to last year. Bigger maybe isn’t always necessarily better, but right now it’s certainly where the consumers are heading.

This is a significant shift and more than hints that consumers want larger screens to do more of their everyday online activities. NPD Group recently reported that monthly Wi-Fi and cellular data consumption on smartphones with screens of 4.5in and over is a substantial 44 per cent greater than it is on smartphones with screens under 4.5in, at 7.2GB and 5.0GB, respectively.


This is good news for marketers and for web designers. It means that people want to see richer content. It backs up what we found in last year’s

People’s Web report

, where over a third of consumers stated that they wanted mobile websites to be consistent with the PC experience. Consequently, they are also staying on sites for longer.

While these factors are very positive, it does create additional work for marketers developing a mobile strategy. Our Web Trends report suggests users are now being split across even more devices, with the top devices accounting for less traffic volume than compared to 12 months ago. This makes testing sites even more of a minefield than it already is. Building for different screen sizes is one challenge, however, how do marketers truly understand the devices their customers are using and also the context in which they are using them?

We also found that there were differences in preferred devices across regions and countries around the world. Device usage characteristics at local level reveal fascinating insights into consumer preferences, which have a direct impact on the types of experience they are expecting. We know that consumers are becoming less tolerant of poor mobile experiences, so marketers need to think about what these characteristics mean for their brand in specific territories. Also, combining device data with usage and behavioral patterns can reveal valuable insights into why websites frequently underperform, or worse still, fail in a global setting.

In the mobile world, very little stays the same. Screen sizes change, device capabilities improve and new technologies, such as wearables transform the way mobile experiences are consumed. One thing we can be sure of is that mobile web users are constantly looking for better experiences that suit the way they consume the internet on the move and they’ll be looking for brands to satisfy those requirements long into the future.