10 Sep 2010
By Dan Michael

Mobile video – does size really matter?


Recently while looking after someone who was born in the mid 90s I realised a few things.  Apart from feeling my age overtaking my digital native status, I was amazed to see how much Gen Y are enamoured with mobile TV.

While my Gen Y sidekick would happily sit and stare into a 3” handheld media player all afternoon I find it hard to watch anything over 30 seconds long on a screen that size.

I recently had a HTC Wildfire handset for a weekend and while it is an amazing piece of kit, I still couldn’t find myself watching traditional ‘telly’ on it.

It turns out I am not alone. Size really does matter, according to recent research posted on C2M;

Screen size on a given mobile video viewing device is directly proportional to the viewing session length and new survey by managed video delivery platform MobiTV has revealed.”

Reading this I felt validated and relieved thinking I would lose my digital stripes unless I got my act together and started watching entire series of True Blood on my iPhone.

Add to this the fact that screen resolutions get better and better with every evolution of device that is launched, it seems to be quite clear (pardon the pun) that high quality content on mobile devices is the way of the future.

I am happy watching anything on a tablet sized device, but lose patience on smaller handheld devices within 30 seconds – and I fall neatly into Generation X. My Gen Y and Gen Alpha counterparts are clearly different mammals.

Australia's generational profile. Image: courtesy of McCrindle Research Pty Ltd

Australia’s generational profile. Image: courtesy of McCrindle Research Pty Ltd

So I wonder out loud, is there another missing link here whereby dependant on your age, how much content will you enjoy watching and on what size mobile device?

Kids of the future, please, help me to understand.  

How important is screen size to you and how much content consumption can you sit through?


Posts: 47


  1. Brendan O'Keefe [TEX Customer Engagement Manager] says:

    Size matters to me. I am not a fan of the small screen. I’ve tried to watch a few you tube vids on the bus using the HTC Desire but I just get a headache.

    I’d like to spend some time playing with an iPad or other tablet and watch movies to see if my eyes can cope.

  2. Gwynn (Telstra employee) says:

    I can watch stuff on the screen of my Desire if I have to – but that’s only if I’m desperate to see the content and there’s no way I can last without it until I get to a laptop.

    Having said that I can see more and more we’ll begin to have content supplied to our phones like news bulletins which will be in video – and therefore we’ll be forced into consuming via this media whether we like to or not.

  3. M@ (Telstra Employee) says:

    OK, I’m the exception – but possibly due to circumstances.
    I’m often ‘blessed’ with time to burn while stuck in a car in a far-off suburb on the weekends (before or between gigs) and find that having an episode or two of my favourite show on itunes is a damn fine way of spending my time. (although I love reading, it tends to put me in a far too relaxed mood – and I risk falling asleep)

    I can quite happily watch a show on the small screen – particularly with the new retina display – and find no adverse effects whatsoever (aside from strange looks from passers-by as I lough out loud while sitting alone in a mini at the side of the road…)

  4. M@ (Telstra Employee) says:

    Oh, and I’m also very much a Gen-X’r…

  5. Dan says:

    @Bren – I her ya! The addition of train travel adds balance and movement to the equation of size, which gives me travel sickness (read BARF).
    @Gwyn I’m guessing you my friend are Gen Y!
    @ M@ do you have really really small eyes mayhap?

  6. Gaby Phipps (Telstra employee) says:

    Dan, I’m with you, I love my iPhone and I enjoy having a portable telly, but I like watching short things on my iPhone, and I need a big screen if it’s long.

  7. Michael C says:

    I never realised it was an issue at all. I can easily watch an hour worth of video on the train. I’m sure I could watch for several hours but I’ve never tested this. I can get so engrossed I forget I’m not watching a TV and sometime laugh out loud forgetting where I am.

  8. Nico says:

    I have a 7yr old niece who absolutely loves watching Kids/Nick programing on my HTC Desire. Particularly in the car while I’m chatting to her mother … a thought that occured to me is that the screen is bigger for her and her eyes are ‘new’. Being smaller & younger, with fresh new eyes closer together than are mine etc …i thought that maybe the smaller screen is not that small for her, nor hard to maintain focus on.

    For me … i enjoy watching TV on it … but i’d use it only if a better alternative (like a tv or laptop) isn’t around. In most instances they are … a bit like, why cycle when I can drive.

  9. Deb (Telstra Employee) says:

    Maybe you need glasses or it’s a sign of eye age?
    I find I can tolerate looking at a mobile device or ipod for about 30 minutes before my eyes start to get a bit irritated. But I have (when I was younger) easily gone for 2 hours or more with no issues. Note: I am currently in my late 20s.

  10. Dan says:

    That’s supportive of the research Nico, I like your analogy of little eyes, makes perfect sense!

  11. Wombat says:

    Seriously go ride a motorbike and stop wasting valuable life time, playing with electronic gizmos. have a real adventure not a virtual experience. that is all ;)

  12. David says:

    I think convenience is the driver for small screen video.

    I’ve spent many hours watching portable video on screens ranging from 2″ to 4.3″. And whilst I enjoyed, or even looked forward to, watching, It was always that it was a more convienient way to consume media.

    Generally it’s always as a way to pass time that is otherwise spent in waiting. I also get to watch the content I want to watch, Since the screen is only large enough for 1 set of eyes, It’s also only large enough for 1 set of preferences.

    Large screen when you can, Small screen when you must

  13. jb says:

    I’m a Gen-X who thinks that all small screens are rubbish. Why would you lower yourself to watching them. Get a book. Listen to some music. Or why not be radical and be comfortable with silence and the thoughts in your own head. Use your imagination. Dream a little. Why does every waking moment have to be filled with the drivel that the entertainment industry peddles us. (P.S Gen-Y and Gen-Z, a book is one of those things made out of paper that your parents use).

  14. Don says:

    i’m with Wombat, life is too short always being stuck on your mobile unless you find that an experience worth your time :)

  15. Rob says:

    Ironically, I saw the following quote on a TV show:

    “I dont have a TV, I have a life”.

    Actually, I find that theres not a lot that I’m that interested in watching on a big screen TV these days, let alone on a tiny 3 inch screen.

    I’m also paranoid about the data charges for these devices, and I wonder if the bandwidth is sufficient to offer a really great experience without the signal shuddering due to latency issues.

    So for me, cost is a key issue. I believe the data charges in Australia are quite high, compared to other parts of the world (I lived in the UK for 6 years, and internet access there is very very cheap).

    I really couldnt be bothered spending my time converting something from my PC into a format for these devices, and thereby bypassing any data charges – I’m just not that interested.

    On the other hand, give me a tablet sized device that runs Windows which wont cost a fortune to buy or run, and I’d possibly be more inclined to give it a go.

  16. Michael C says:

    Wombat, when you fall (all regular riders eventually fall) you’ll waste plenty of time in hospital.

  17. AJ says:

    The display resolution is a big factor. I can easily watch ABC iView videos (wide screen HD – scaled down to 800×480) on my HTC Desire during my 45 minute tram rides everyday. Lower resolution videos may be difficult to watch over long periods on the same screen. Also, I think displays in the range of 4 to 7 (with near-HD resolutions) will be ideal for mobile videos.

  18. Dan says:

    @Wombat – rocking idea dude, let’s hit the road.
    @David – nice sensible synopsis, I am compelled to watch stuff on my iPhone when the need really strikes but mostly I can hang out to get to my laptop. Your last point wraps it up nicely, thanks!
    @Rob here here, commercial TV is mostly rubbish and user generated content can be very much take it or leave it too. Each to their own de-vices?
    There are some very exciting tablet devices about to hit the market – both Win7 and Android, take a look here if you are interested:

  19. Great post Dan :)

    Definitely big screen for long programs, but, if like me, you’re a podcast fiend, then loading up your iPod will save you from hours of public transport boredom. But, it’s a dilemma. On one hand I love having a secret little screen to watch what I want without the passenger next to me leaning over for a squiz. On the other hand you get a damn sore neck looking down / damn sore arm holding up.

    Small screen = thumbs up for snack sized entertainment. Thumbs down for OH&S.

  20. Mark H (Telstra Employe) says:

    small screens give me a migraine – the smaller the screen the faster the migraine arrives. Did i mention i hate computers? (Gen X – luddite variant). However. my 2.25 year old finds his mum’s iphone apps invaluable when travelling, or indeed anytime he can get his paws on it. Would stare at it and punch buttons for hours if permitted.

  21. Dan says:

    Well Mark & others, it seems that the research speaks the truth.

    Size and generation are intrinsically linked when it comes to watching content on handheld devices.

    But I will say that no matter what Kindle, iPad or otherwise is thrown at me I still prefer the overall experience of reading a real book any day.

  22. M@ (Telstra Employee) says:

    Ok peoples,

    I agree with Dan that I’d much rather be reading a physical book – it’s just not always handy.

    Mind you, I love the idea that devices can enhance the reading experience. Check out these concepts:

    I particularly love ‘Alice’….


  23. Dan says:

    V cool M@, that is amazing. I would liken it to the Flipboard phenomenon that is going crazy on the iPad at the moment – it takes a flat experience and gives it a richness that makes any digital ‘thing’ you play with so much more interactive.

    Here is another example that flawed me 6 months ago, ( it is just an agency mockup as well but I really hope we start to see these kinds of rich reading experiences become a reality, then books won’t be replaced as much as enhanced and evolved. Horses for courses if you like =)

  24. M@ (Telstra Employee) says:

    How Brilliant is that!?!?
    Wow – It’d make the production costs crazily expensive compared to a flat/linear book….but it would be so damn engaging!

    That’s going to FB…

Leave a Comment