Emotions May Drive People To Buy Smartphones With Bigger Screens
June 4, 2014

Is Bigger Really Better? Emotions May Drive People To Buy Smartphones With Bigger Screens

Brett Smith for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

While there may be numerous practical reasons for wanting a smartphone with a bigger screen, a new study has found that many people are more motivated by an emotional need to own a bigger device.

"There are basically two different reasons that 'bigger is better' for screen size: utilitarian reasons and affective, or emotional, reasons," said S. Shyam Sundar, a communications professor at Penn State and author of the new study, which was published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking. "There are so many things on smartphones that we can use, but an even more powerful factor of the larger screen is its hedonic aspect – how attractive and pleasing it is to users."

Some practical reasons for owning a phone with a bigger screen include better visibility of online video or more screen real estate for buttons or keyboards.

"The screen size has increased the bandwidth of user interactions on smartphones, making it more than a talking-texting device," Sundar said. "With high definition screens, people now can watch television and movies, as well as multi-task, something that wasn't possible in earlier smartphone versions."

Study co-author Ki Joon Kim, adjunct professor in the department of interaction science, Sungkyunkwan University, South Korea, said the practical reasons for a ‘bigger is better’ mentality extend to other tech products as well.

"Large-screen TVs and monitors are known to have positive effects on user experience," Kim said. "Our study found that the same applies to the mobile context as well."

For the study, the researchers arbitrarily assigned smartphones with two distinct screen sizes to 130 university students. One of the phones had a 3.7-inch screen and the other had a 5.3-inch screen. Volunteers were then asked to visit a mobile website and locate the departure time for a shuttle bus.

Finally, volunteers were asked to fill out a survey on their experience with the smartphone. The participants were asked questions like, if the smartphone helped them identify the bus schedule and whether or not they felt enthusiastic about using it.

The researchers noted that there is probably a practical limit to the size of a smartphone and engineers are currently working to determine an optimal size.

"We have not reached the point where the screen is too big yet, and I believe there may be some room for expansion of the screen size," said Sundar. “Finding the ideal size is something that I’m sure industry engineers and designers are working to find."

Kim said that the dual appeal of bigger smartphone screens, both practical and emotional, may point to how smartphones handle the merging of various forms of media.

"Smartphones serve both utilitarian and hedonic purposes," Kim said. "They are convergent media."

A preference for larger screen sizes comes as more and more online videos are being watched. According to a report released by Adobe on Wednesday, online TV viewership reached an all-time high in the first three months of 2014. Most of this video was seen on an iOS device, the report said.