How Important is Screen Size for Reading?


When it comes to reading on devices, how important is screen size? Pocket, the reading and bookmarking app, looked at how some of its users opened some 2 million articles and videos comparing iPhone 5/5S to iPhone 6/6 Plus, which suggests at least some ways in which screen size is changing people’s behaviors (via the Pocket blog: “The Screen-Size Debate: How the iPhone 6 Plus Impacts Where We Read & Watch”).

Of course, it’s a small population of users who a) use the Pocket app, and b) have iPhones and iPads, but one of the things that caught my attention:

“The bigger your phone’s screen, the more time you’ll spend reading / watching on it: Users who upgraded to an iPhone 6 now view content on their phones 72% of the time, up from 55% when on a smaller screen. Those who went big and bought an iPhone 6 Plus consume content on their phones 80% of the time — the same ratio of phone to tablet reading as seen on Android.”


What would be even more interesting would be the amount of time those users spent interacting with their reading content relative to device and screen size — does more screen size also mean more time spent reading? For what it’s worth, Adobe earlier this year had similar findings about screen size and video watching habits (via Adobe Digital Index: “Large Screen Mobile Changes Video, Commerce Habits”). Not to overly geek, but as an avid Pocket app user, I wonder if some of those increased usage numbers are related to the iOS Safari integration.

The Pocket research also drew an interesting conclusion about morning commute and reading habits: “It’s pretty tricky to read on your iPhone 6 Plus with one hand and grasp a subway pole with the other. Turns out that those with an iPhone 6 Plus read 22% less on their morning commutes than those with an iPhone 5/5S or 6.” And as the graphic on the right indicates, more iPhone time meant less iPad time — with the exception of nighttime reading habits: “Regardless of which iPhone they have, users still reach for their iPads around 9pm for some late-night, bedtime reading.”

I wrote a bit about iPad reading and how the iPad still makes the most sense as a media consumption device — although GoodReader and iAnnotate are some of the best app options you’ll find for things like PDF reading — so maybe the iPhone 6/6 Plus hovers right in between that Kindle-sized device for reading/browsing. The difference between that hefty iPhone 6 Plus screen (5.5″) and the iPad Mini (7.9″) is relatively little; and how many devices do people need to use that do the same things, perhaps only slightly differently?


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I run the ThinkLab at the University of Cambridge, and research digital habits, productivity, and wellbeing.

tyler shores cambridge

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