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Will the tenth anniversary iPhone drive mobile video usage?

Smartphone video consumption in the US 2014-2016

The iPhone 6 Plus had a big impact on the consumption of mobile video. Should we expect the same from the OLED-equipped tenth anniversary edition of Apple’s flagship smartphone?

Tenth anniversary iPhone could be perfect for video

Apple is readying and big upgrade of the iPhone to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the device. According to Bloomberg, it is currently testing an all-screen front, curved glass, and a brand new organic LED display. Though the screen sizes will remain the same as the previous generation, 4.7-inches to 5.5-inches, the OLED display should bring a resolution, vibrancy, and brightness not available in an iPhone before.

The last time Apple introduced a phone so appropriate for video, it had a galvanizing effect on consumption. Apple’s iPhone 6 plus boosted screen size from 4.7-inches to 5.5-inches and increased screen resolution from 1334×750 to 1920×1080. The reaction was immediate from users of the device. It doubled data consumption over the 4.7-inch iPhone 6. And video was a primary driver of that big increase.

With the use of OLED for the display, the tenth anniversary iPhone brings a similar lift in the quality of the video picture as the iPhone 6 plus did. However, it does not increase the screen size. Should we expect a similar bump in video consumption through the device?

Screen size matters more than resolution

Screen size impact on video viewingThe link between mobile video consumption and screen size seems logical enough. In 2015, Ericsson looked at the video usage of a group of LTE-capable Android device users. The company segmented these users by screen size, going from the relatively small 4-inch smartphone to the 7+ inch tablet. Without exception, the bigger the screen used the more video consumed. For example, tablet users spend 50% more time watching video online than the average mobile data user. Similarly, those stuck with a 4-4.5-inch display watched 50% less than average.

There is no such clear relationship proven between video quality and video consumption. However, we can say that the size and quality of today’s screens are driving huge increases in the consumption of video.

Smartphone video consumption doubled in the last year

According to Nielsen’s latest total audience report, average weekly time spent viewing smartphone video more than doubled in the last year. In Q1 2015, the average adult watched just 17 minutes of video of their smartphone. In Q1 2016, that has increased to 44 minutes a week.

What changed in the last year? The size and resolution of smartphones has remained broadly the same over that period. An increase in usage could simply be due to more people opting for the bigger and higher resolution 5.5-inch format screen.

However, there was another change that is much more likely to have driven such a large increase. The wide availability of unlimited mobile video streaming. T-Mobile introduced its Binge On program in November 2015. This allowed customers to watch as much Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube video as they wanted without it counting against their data cap. All three major mobile carriers have now introduced unlimited data plans, and Verizon and AT&T are also exempting certain video services from counting against mobile caps.

The tenth anniversary iPhone is likely to make the committed Apple customer very happy. However, the OLED screen alone is not likely to drive them to consume a lot more video. Unrestricted mobile data plans are already doing that.

Why it matters

Apple’s iPhone 6 plus had a big effect on the amount of mobile video people watched.

The tenth anniversary iPhone will provide a similar lift in resolution, without the same increase in screen size.

It is unlikely to generate the same increase in mobile video consumption as its predecessor.

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