Research shows that the larger a handset's display, the more data its user consumes.
The figures, from NPD Group are gathered from the US market and show that owners of smartphones with screens that measure 4.5-inches upwards consume 44 % more wifi and cellular data each month -- some 7.2GB in total -- compared with the 5GB that owners of smaller smartphones average.
Until recently, smartphones with a display bigger than 4 inches were a rarity (as were phablets), but according to NPD, over the past 12 months their availability and popularity has more than doubled. In November 2012, 11 % of phones on the market boasted a 4.5-inch or greater display, but now 28 percent of current devices on sale fall into that category. And it's been the Android fraternity that has been driving this trend.
The Samsung Galaxy SIII, which was the flagship phone of 2012 was notable for its 4.5-inch screen and its popularity opened the doors to other manufacturers, such as Sony and LG. As a result, a 5-inch high resolution display has quickly become the standard for any handset that wants to claim flagship status. Unsurprisingly, the Samsung Galaxy SIV has a 4.99-inch HD display.
And, of course if larger displays lead to increased use, then network operators in particular are going to be more than happy to stock such devices and lean on manufacturers to adopt the trend. "OEMs are poised to continue increasing the product assortment and availability of smartphones with larger screen sizes in the coming years," said John Buffone, director, devices, Connected Intelligence. "Even though today larger screens represent a smaller part of the market, their relevance is increasing as consumers look for more ways to interact with content while on-the-go. This is a win, not only for the manufacturers, but also for the carriers as data consumption and usage will keep increasing."
So what exactly are these bigger phones being used for? Predominantly social media, although navigation (such as through Google Maps) and music and video are also high up on the list, as interestingly is use of the Pandora Radio app.
And will this trend be enough for Apple to make a bigger iPhone in the future? The iPhone 5S, although top of the line in terms of processing power, speed, performance and biometric integration, at just 4-inches, is lagging in terms of screen size. This deficit is often highlighted by tech commentators when criticizing the company but Apple is committed to creating phones that can be easily held and used with a single hand.
That said, the Wall Street Journal recently claimed that the company is experimenting with 5-inch and even 6-inch displays as part of the iPhone 6 development process.