What do cars, electric scooters and smartphones all have in common? Among other things, they are all getting bigger.
Average phone screen diagonals have tripled since the arrival of the iPhone in 2007. Lime’s newest scooter generation is 30% heavier than the last (Source: flava.co.nz). Although the average french car hasn’t gotten much longer since 1953, it now weighs 50% more and is 15% wider (Source: L’Argus). Why is this?
Phone, car or scooter manufacturers will tell you that this trend is in line with customer demand for their products. A lot of a car’s weight these days is due to the added safety features and electronics on board. Lime added front suspension to its scooters in Paris to deal with the cobbled streets which were a cause of wear and passenger discomfort on the previous models. Reading and watching videos on large screens is indisputably more comfortable on larger screens. It seems difficult to argue that these innovations are not in the customer’s favour.
Yet this trend for bigger things also happens to be particularly convenient for the manufacturers of these products, because the importance we attribute to objects is directly related to their size. Small things can be tucked away, hidden, forgotten about. Large objects are always in view, ostentatiously there, impossible to draw attention away from. The distribution of public space in Paris is a perfect illustration of how pervasive cars are and what a disproportionate importance they are given. More than 50% of public space in Paris is reserved for motorised vehicules, yet only 13% of all travel in Paris is done by private car or scooter! (Source: Le Monde).
It can be demonstrated that size can have really fundamental effects on our appreciation of objects. A relatively common illusion is to perceive the smaller of two equally heavy objects as lighter. Researchers have recently gone even further to demonstrate that object size is the truly fundamental factor here and that a large object with the same amount of material as a smaller one will be perceived to be heavier. (Source: Scientific Reports)
As for the more specific case of smartphone screen sizes, cognitive scientists have demonstrated that adverts played in video form on large screens are more conducive to affective trust than text form on small screens (Source: Human Communication Research). This was due to the fact that information can be presented more heuristically on larger screens that it can on smaller screens where more effort for reflection is necessary. Visual cues on large screens are an effective way to appeal to our emotions.
To extend the logic: a bigger scooter/car is a bigger company logo/badge, and a bigger objects have more opportunity to flaunt their manufacturers signature designs. By making objects more visible, companies are connecting with our innate emotional bond to that which we can see and convincing us of their importance.
- Le Monde, “A Paris, la moitié de l’espace public est réservée à l’automobile”, 30th november 2016, . https://www.lemonde.fr/les-decodeurs/article/2016/11/30/a-paris-la-moitie-de-l-espace-public-est-reservee-a-l-automobile_5040857_4355770.html accessed on 05/09/2020
- Myrthe A. Plaisier & Jeroen B.J. Smeets, “Object size can influence perceived weight independent of visual estimates of the volume of material”, Scientific Reports volume 5, Article number: 17719 (2016)
- Ki Joon Kim & S. Shyam Sundar, “Mobile Persuasion: Can Screen Size and Presentation Mode Make a Difference to Trust?”, Human Communication Research 42 (2016) 45–70
- Lime, “Lime for a sustainable Paris”, https://www.li.me/hubfs/Assets/LIME_ENG_Paris%20Sustainability%20Report_11OCT2019_RGB.pdf
- Flava, “New, BIG Lime scooters are on the way”, 19th August 2019, https://www.flava.co.nz/the-latest/new-big-lime-scooters-are-on-the-way/, accessed on 05/09/2020
- GSMArena, “Counterclockwise: the quest for the all screen front in numbers”, 2nd June 2019, https://www.gsmarena.com/counterclockwise_the_quest_for_the_highest_screen_to_body_ratio_in_numbers-news-37313.php, accessed on 05/09/2020
- L’Argus, “Voiture moyenne neuve 2018 : son évolution depuis 1953”, 13th June 2019, https://www.largus.fr/actualite-automobile/voiture-moyenne-neuve-2018-son-evolution-depuis-1953-9833394.html, accessed on 05/09/2020