A new aspect ratio for tablets

A new aspect ratio for tablets

HTC Flyer tablet announced at Mobile World Congress 2011

The LG Optimus Pad and HTC Flyer announced at Mobile World Congress 2011 are distinct from the iPad in offering a more elongated form factor, roughly approximating a 16:9 screen ratio.

This shape gives two clear modes. Horizontally, it is used two-handed, grasped firmly on either side. Alternatively, it may be rested on a surface. It is not practical to hold with a single hand in this orientation.

Vertically, the reduced width makes it comfortable to hold with a single hand, while the other is used for interaction. This is different to iPad, where the extra inch from left to right makes it feel unbalanced to hold horizontally with a single hand.

As a general observation, users tend to find square shapes more difficult to hold than rectangles. I wonder if this 16:9 aspect ratio will emerge as the dominant shape for the future for tablets? I’d be interested to hear comments for and against on the blog.


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  1. 3
    Patrick Sansom

    It looks like the old aspect ratio debate is now moving from TV to tablet. TV has standard 4:3, widescreen 16:9, cinema 37:20 (1.85:1) + some others.

    Then you have the web. Looking at a website on a widescreen monitor less than about 13″ is frustrating. In horizontal mode most of the first fold is taken up by the browser and site header. In portrait mode you end up with horizontal scrolling. (Time for responsive web design?)

    Or perhaps instead we should have devices that follow the golden ratio used in science and art (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_Ratio) 1.62:1

    Anyhow, I guess it’s all about context. If users find a particular shape useful, usable and enjoyable, then it’ll stick around.

    I’d like to see some really left-field shapes, how about a circular or triangular tablet anyone?

  2. 4
    Marek Pawlowski

    One of the insights from the working group on MEX Pathway #3 was the potential for circular devices in simultaneous multi-person usage. Here the main driver was the physical space around the device: if two or more people are trying to use the same screen at the same time (as often happens with the iPad), a circular form factor has some advantages, just like a circular dinner table.

  3. 5

    I believe you are falling for widescreen marketing hype. There is nothing beneficial about 16:9 aspect ratio except MAYBE in a television. As a computer monitor, notebook or tablet, its a detriment. The industry-wide move to 16:9 is a step backwards, even if that step didn’t exist before. Its just cheaper to produce. ‘Nothing “better” about it. Apple producing a 4:3 screen, and IPS to boot, makes it miles better than the Android competition regardless of supposed missing resolution.

    With 16:9, in portrait mode a tablet would be too thin to read a pdf or document. You’d have to scroll left and right. In landscape mode, its too fat and short. Nobody reads anything like that. Playing horizontal games like Angry birds gives up too much vertical height. Put a virtual keyboard on there, and your real-estate space is now just a thin, wide ticker tape. How is that better in any way?

    The only argument FOR 16:9 is watching widescreen movies, which is questionable at best. Very few videos are actually 16:9 anyway. What about 4:3 and 2.35:1 videos? You’ll have black bars somewhere. Who cares if there is space unused during recreational movie watching? The other 95% of the time you use a tablet would be more productive with a 4:3 or even 16:10 screen. 16:9 is not more screen space, its less. The only way its “more” is if you make the even tablet wider. Sorry, I’d rather not carry around a 2-by-4 plank.

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