Big Screens Are Actually Better for You

The ergonomics might suck, but for most of us, bigger is better

Angela Lashbrook
Published in
6 min readFeb 26, 2020
The new Apple iPhone Xs and Xs Max against a bright modern neon yellow background.
Photo: AdrianHancu/iStock Editorial/Getty Images Plus

AA small iPhone presents a big problem for me: I can’t see its screen. Not that well, anyway. Even the screen on my iPhone XR, which is just under six inches tall and three inches wide, is a bit small (I bought it because it was the cheapest new phone at the time). While a big phone is a bit of a pain in the butt to use when you’re packed like a sardine on the subway or walking the dog — especially for someone like me who is five feet tall with proportionally sized hands — it’s well worth the ergonomic trouble.

Big phones may be harder to hold, but when our lives are increasingly shaped by what happens on their screens, their size offers something crucial: the ability to both cognitively grasp and emotionally connect with what’s displayed there.

A study from 2018 found that screen size was directly and significantly related to how well students did on a test. The researchers did an experiment in which students watched an hour-long movie about European history on either a 3.5-inch, seven-inch, or 10-inch smartphone. When, at the end, the students took a quiz testing their knowledge of the film, the researchers found that the larger the screen size, the better the student did on the test, though a second experiment looking at how well the students retained the information two months later found that differences between the different screens collapsed.

In other words, for learning in the short term, larger screens made a big difference, but less so in the long term. An earlier study, from 2012, found similar results. In that investigation, students who used a medium-size smartphone and a tablet performed better on a foreign-language vocabulary test than those who used a small iPod-size device.

Larger screens allow for much more efficient interactions on the phone, says Tim Wood, assistant professor of Industrial Design and Interaction Design at Rochester Institute of Technology. “The larger devices with larger screens have become more practical, especially as mobile application complexity has increased,” he adds.

“We know that scrolling in a digital text leads…



Angela Lashbrook

I’m a columnist for OneZero, where I write about the intersection of health & tech. Also seen at Elemental, The Atlantic, VICE, and Vox. Brooklyn, NY.