Do We Need More Widescreen Tablets?

You'd have trouble buying a TV these days that wasn't widescreen (16:9) ratio, but when it comes to consuming entertainment on smaller devices like tablets, standard aspect (4:3) still predominates. Does that need to change?

I started thinking about this issue when I got a press release from market research firm DisplaySearch looking at projections for the future of mobile devices. Unsurprisingly, tablet devices took a major leap in 2010 with 55.7 million units sold worldwide, a move driven in large part by the iPad and to a lesser extent by the many and varied Android options. By 2014, DisplaySearch is predicting that tablets will account for 35% of the market. (You can see some of the details in the chart above.)

One reason that growth will happen is because there'll be a move towards offering widescreen ratios on more devices. As the release notes:

When Apple introduced its iPad in 2010, it once again shocked many industry observers by providing a standard (4:3) aspect ratio device, even as notebooks, monitors, and TVs were moving to wide (16:9 or 16:10) formats. The success of the iPad has sparked debates about the best display format for slates; combined with screen size, the outcome of this debate will help to define the category. A plethora of new devices purporting to be more user-friendly by the nature of their “wide” footprint (or “long” when used in the palm of one’s hand) continue to flood the supply chain.

Of course, having the option to offer a widescreen device in the future gives Apple (and everyone else) an excuse to get us all to upgrade sooner rather than later when the iPad 2 and its successors appear. Even more cynically, it potentially gives app developers an excuse to sell yet another refitted version of their apps, a strategy that worked quite well in some categories for the original iPad.

My main use for tablet devices tends to be browsing web sites, and as such the ratio issue doesn't bother me much. But if I was using it to keep myself entertained on the road or on a plane, I can imagine wanting my movies presented in a more efficient format.

Would you rather have a widescreen tablet, or you are happier to stick with the existing 4:3 ratio? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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Comments

    16:9 is horrible except for videos, and 16:9 videos look fine on the iPad with black bars top and bottom. You hold it in your hands anyway, so who needs more than 9 inches for video? Bigger screen equals more weight and faster battery drain anyway.

      ... anyway

      Erm, why is 16:9 horrible? Especially with the multi-pane UI designs that are appearing ever more frequently in the tablet space, it would seem like a good fit. And those videos you're talking about would be much larger on the same sized screen if it was 16:9.

        I want websites to fill the screen when in landscape mode, which means I've got very little of the page visible, in the vertical direction.

        If the tablet is 1280x720, I've only got 720 pixels in height to view a webpage, and big white bars down the sides of most webpages which are (these days) optimised for 1024 pixel wide browsers. I could zoom in, to fill the screen, but then I'll see even fewer lines of text, and images will clip even sooner.

        So a 4:3 display is much better suited to the kind of content I want to consume, which includes readin email.

        Now if they could build a 1280x960 16:9, I'd be happy, except it would have to be at least 12 inches in size, which is not very pocketable.

    iPad's success on 4:3 is the way to go. A novel or piece of paper is not widescreen.

    Furthermore, anything smaller than a 9" screened tablet is really just a big smartphone.

    I agree with Apple's reasoning for not having 16:9. In portrait it is just unwieldy. I personally feel the iPad is the perfect size/ratio.

    I actually prefer viewing a wider screen. Normal eyesight's field of view isn't anywhere near as square as 4:3, so I find the most comfortable viewing on displays that emulate that. Further, most video these days are presented in a 16:9 format, and watching these on a 4:3 display just blows.

    However, I do admit that a 16:9 or anamorphic display isn't practical for many hand-held and portable devices (though my old Samsung P2 PMP had a 16:9 display which was awesome for its time).

    Some kind of compromise between the two formats (like 32:21 or something) is probably the best compromise for a comfortable and practical display ratio in my opinion.

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