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I recently wrote about screen size trends and the trend is clear: 240 x 320 (aka QVGA) is the new baseline screen size, both for feature phones and smartphones. Smaller screen sizes like 176 x 220 is disappearing and the 128 x 160 size is pushed down into basic phones.
QVGA will be the new small size, but it is not clear what the new dominant large screen size will be, or if there is going to be any.
What is pretty clear is the trend towards widescreen and landscape orientation for high-end phones. QVGA and larger phones are getting automatic screen rotation. Landscape is often preferred for media consumption and handheld movie consumption has been "promising" for quite some time.
The primary design objective for the iPhone (in my opinion) was to make the optimal video iPod. When you have 70% marked share you need to grow into new markets. Several new phones from other manufacturers seem to have the similar design objectives.
I have compared some available and coming devices that could represent a trend. LG and Samsung seems to be partial to the 400 x 240 screen size. They have released several devices with this screen size the last year or so. Nokia has recently tipped their hand with the Nokia Tube. The name obviously refers to a video use-case. At MWC in Barcelona in February they showed a demo that ran on a 360 x 640 screen. This gives a 16:9 resolution, the same as HDTV. 640 x 360 is also called QHD for "Quarter HD".
The Sony Ericsson Xperia has been developed for the US market specifically. It runs WinMob 6.1 on a 800 x 600 screen, a resolution not supported in any official Microsoft documentation, but I guess Microsoft saw fit to go the extra mile in this case :-) The Xperia has an extreme resolution, it has more pixels on 3 inches that a good ole VGA desktop screen. I'm not sure that the Xperia exact screen size and resolution represents a trend, is kind of an extreme case. But it underscores the general high-end widescreen trend.
Pixel dimensions and aspect ratios
I used 9 as lowest common denominator for ease of comparison.
Physical screen size
Most of the devices uses 3–3.5 inch screens, something that does not leave much space for a keyboard. The phones are either clamshell or pure touch. They are also fairly similar in physical size.
Gestures, pixels and bandwidth
After years of designing for really small screens and always in portrait orientation, these devices sure feels like drowning in pixels. I absolutely expect to see some great and innovative user interfaces coming out of gestures, pixels and bandwidth!
[Note:] No mention of Motorola here, for the simple reason that I have no idea what they are up to.
[Edit] Just to be clear, the reason I'm exited is because the phones above makes it possible to design for a wide screen. I'm aware that many or most of the standard functions in most of the phones above is intended for vertical use.