Steve Jobs was Wrong about Tablet Screen Size, Apparently

By Gary Kim September 05, 2012

Steve Jobs believed user experience on a tablet with a screen smaller than 10 inches was not optimal. But new research by Strategy Analytics suggests that, user experience notwithstanding; there is significant end user demand for screens of perhaps seven inches, even among survey respondents, some of whom already owning the 10-inch Apple iPad.

That is not to say the user experience is “better” or “equivalent” on seven-inch screens, compared to 10-inch screens. 

Image via Shutterstock

But the total product value bundle may well be higher for a seven-inch device, for a significant percentage of potential buyers who already own a tablet. The analogy is user experience on a three-inch smartphone screen, compared to any larger screen. Most users will prefer a larger screen when available for use. But that doesn’t mean the total value proposition for a smartphone is less than for a larger screen device.

Despite the smaller screen, a smartphone offers value above and beyond the physical size of the screen.

The interest in 10 inch screens by iPad owners was greatest in the United States, United Kingdom and China, where 62 percent or more of respondents preferred this size screen.

In Germany, 46 percent of respondents preferred a 10-inch screen. But 31 percent of respondents would prefer a seven-inch screen. In Japan, a quarter of Apple iPad owners stated that they would choose a seven-inch screen if available.  

Across all six countries, 20 percent of the sample of 923 tablet owners (including iPad owners) would prefer a seven-inch screen device for their next purchase. The respondents were from the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, China and Japan.

Neverthless, the 10-inch form factor remains that most popular design, in all countries, Strategy Analytics found.

"Clearly Apple has correctly targeted the most preferred screen size with its initial 10 inch iPad offerings, but our survey suggests that if the iPad  Nano is launched in the next few weeks, the company can be confident that market potential exists for a smaller screen size,” says Peter King, Strategy Analytics service director.

You might argue that Steve Jobs was not so much wrong as mistaken about the sources of value for a tablet device. User experience, interpreted as ease or desire to navigate on a 10-inch screen, is but one element of the overall value proposition.

As for smartphones, even screens that are arguably sub-optimal in that sense can still be part of a total value-price bundle that has very high value.

Edited by Brooke Neuman

Contributing Editor

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