The optimal portable Internet resolution: 800x480?


Right before I took a break from blogging back in April 2006, I posted some thoughts I had about the optimal mobile resolution, which I gathered to be QVGA (320x240). Well here we are only 18 months or so later and it seems I was completely wrong. The industry has moved along and shot completely past where I thought the sweet spot would be, to 320x480 for the iPhone, and even higher for dedicated internet devices to 800x480.

It started with the Nokia 770 - the web tablet which no one could really quite grasp a few years ago - and now it seems to be spreading to other devices (the Nokia N800 and N810 upgrades included). I noticed the other day that the Asus EeePC that has been selling like crazy had an 800x480 resolution, and just now I saw this Engadget post about the new Sony Mylo and sure enough it has 800x480 screen as well. [Update: Moof just told me in #mobitopia that the original Samsung Q1 UMPC also had an 800x480 resolution, though it could go "virtual" as well to 800x600.]

A single example is a fluke, a second is a curiosity, and a third is a trend. Especially from manufacturers as diverse as Nokia, Asus and Sony, don't you think? I don't even know what this resolution is called... Wikipedia has SVGA at 800x600... so it's not that (it's not on the list, which is pretty big), but it's close. 3/4 SVGA? [Update 2: JimH on #mobitopia points out it's called "Wide VGA."] Well, whatever its called, that resolution is a pretty optimal one for browsing web without scrolling much if at all. I use my N800 quite a bit to read my news and browse the web, and most sites work just fine on it without much munging. I read somewhere that CES this year is going to have lots of portable/dedicated Internet devices - so it should be interesting to see if this new resolution becomes a standard or if the screen sizes are all over the place.

By the way, you might be wondering what that means for Mowser if there suddenly becomes a dearth of 800x480 dedicated web devices. Well, first that won't happen for a long time - so Mowser will continue to be a very useful service to many mobile web users for years to come. And secondly, the name Mowser stands for "Mobile Browser" and we have lots of plans to continue to enhance the mobile web as the future brings better devices. Content adaption is just the first step - there are lots of other places where the mobile web users can benefit from an intermediary service that augments and accelerates their experience.

I'm always acutely aware of not eating my own dog food - so when I use the N800 to browse the web, I always ask myself, "what can Mowser do to make this better?" The great thing about using an 800x480 screen daily now is that if what I'm guessing holds true, I can get some insight into some of the opportunities for mass-market services for the users who'll be using the same sort of device in the years to come.

Then again, I've been wrong before. Hell, 18 months ago I thought QVGA would be the thing to target. :-)


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