240×320, the new standard screen resolution

I’ve had this theory for the last few months, and so I’ve decided to put it to the test. Today, most of the new phones you can buy have a screen resolution of at least 240×320 and are fully web xHTML (WAP 2.0) capable. When I see all the new models constantly coming to market, it’s clear that the common screen width is definitely shifting to 240×320 pixels.

So over the last month I started to list all the handsets that are available to end users by subscribing to all the operators in Ireland or United-Kingdom. I’ve been through Meteor, O2, 3, Vodafone, Orange, T-mobile and even Virgin Mobile websites, collecting the data, and then for each device checking the screen resolution and whether a “proper” WAP 2.0 mobile web browser was bundled with it.

This data represents only the panel of choice that the customer has, and not per device popularity.

Here are the figures: over Ireland and UK operators there is a choice of more than 120 unique different handsets, for a total of nearly 280 choices.

Of this total:

  • 82% are fully mobile web capable and should give a good user experience (like a Nokia 6300, Samsung E840, Sony-Ericsson W580i)
  • 17% are capable but limited by screen size or poor software. (e.g. Sony-Ericsson W375, Nokia 3110)
  • 1% are not capable, and anyway only available in pay-as-you-go and not targeted for web users. (e.g. Motorola W208, Nokia 1200)

  • 72% have a screen resolution of 240×320 or more
  • 68% strictly equals to 240×320

This resolution is good enough to have a decent experience on a *properly designed* mobile site: it can display enough text on one screen, and it can display many button and links without scrolling too much, or it can even display a readable full size image.

Conclusion: today, the average handset isn’t a barrier anymore for mobile web browsing. (But data cost and user education are still hurdles). And with the short period of mobile renewal for the user (a mobile is nearly a disposable device today), soon most users will have a web capable phone.


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