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Smartphone Screen Size: Users Want 4-to-4.5-Inch Phones, Survey Says

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The trees in Michigan may be just the right height, but is the most popular phone in America too dang small?

That is the implication of a new study by Strategy Analytics, which found that 90 percent of American and British smartphone owners want a screen size larger than the one on the smartphone they currently own, with 4-to-4.5-inch smartphones being the most popular ideal size. Survey takers were offered prototype smartphones of varying display size and thickness and asked to choose which they preferred: Thin devices with displays between 4-inches and 4.5-inches came out on top in the survey.

The iPhone 4S -- the latest iteration of Apple's iPhone, the most popular line of smartphones in America -- has a 3.5-inch display. Despite rumors that Apple would upgrade to a 4-inch display in the lead-up to its unveiling, Apple stuck with the 3.5-inch display -- a fact mocked by Samsung in a television advertisement for its Galaxy S II (which has a 4.2-inch display). Several phones running Android and the less popular Windows Phone mobile OS are in that 4-through-4.5-inch display sweet spot, though none of them enjoy the iPhone's singular popularity with consumers.

Recently, there have also been a series of high-profile smartphones that burst that 4.5-inch screen-size boundary. Samsung's half-phone, half-tablet Samsung Galaxy Note, with a 5.3-inch screen, is probably the most notable (pardon the pun) example, though other companies are betting big on big displays as well. Google's flagship Android phone, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, has a 4.65-inch display, for example; in the coming months, HTC will release its own redesigned flagship phone, the HTC One X, which packs a 4.7-inch display.

Nokia, meanwhile, which was once the most popular handset maker in the U.S., is trying to regain its footing in America with a phone that seems to hit this survey's specifications square: Its Lumia 900, which will be released in the coming months on AT&T, has a 4.3-inch display.

Despite being a half-inch on the wrong side of this survey, meanwhile, Apple's iPhone maintains its broad consumer appeal in the U.S., and to a lesser extent, in the U.K. What remains clear is that user preference comes down to more than just display size and device thickness: There are also a variety of other factories, including but not limited to operating system, app availability, speed, price, commitment and -- yes, all of you cynics out there -- slick marketing.

Will Apple join the 4-inch club with their next iPhone? The rumors, as it did last year, point to yes. That would make a lot of Americans and Brits quite happy, if the Strategy Analytics survey is correct. You can head to the SA website to read the full study (but only if you've got $2000 burning a hole in your pocket).

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