Phone Screen Size & Usability

In my previous post I observed that the screen size of the new Galaxy Nexus phone is such that usability suffers. To back up and illustrate that statement, I’ve decided to shoot short demo videos.

But first, let’s examine how we can hold and use touch screen mobile phones in general. In the first image below, you’ll see my right hand. I’ve outlined two grooves in the hand into which you can wedge a mobile phone, and then attempt to generate pressure on the other side of the phone with your fingertips. You will likely need to view the image in full size to see the grooves.

Grooves in the hand with which to generate pressure.

In order for that to work, the distance between your fingertips and those grooves must be less than the width of the phone you’re trying to hold. Clearly the difference in the distances between each groove and the fingertips influences how secure a grip one can establish on a mobile phone.

The fingertips barely reach around the side of the phone.

If the left groove (the one closer to the fingertips) is used, only the fingertips of the longest fingers barely reach the other side of the phone. It is possible to hold the phone in this way, but a bit of jostling could easily cause you to drop it.

The fingertips manage to curl around the edge of the phone.

Using the other groove allows the fingertips to curl around the opposite edge of the phone, enabling a secure grip. This is how I carry my phone when — for some reason or another — I’m holding but not using it. I don’t like the thought of dropping hardware.

The bottom right corner of the phone is wedged into the hand.

It’s the same groove that I use when holding the phone in order to use it. But I shift my grip slightly: instead of wedging the right edge of the phone into the groove, I wedge the bottom right corner into it — it ends up digging pretty much right into the centre of my palm that way. My grip is almost as secure as previously, but my thumb can reach around to the screen.

All these pictures are taken with me holding the smaller Nexus One phone. In order to compare the two phones properly, though, I’ve made some short videos. First, the Nexus One again:

And now the Galaxy Nexus:

It’s clear that at least with the size of my hands, I can’t use the Galaxy Nexus’ upper left corner of the screen with my thumb. I either have to shift my grip to an unsecure grip as demonstrated in the video, or I have to use both hands.