The large, widescreen displays on smartphones and tablets of today are perfect for watching and streaming media from virtually anywhere in the world, especially video content. Pocket-sized computers now come with radios that connect them to wireless networks whose speeds taunt those of your home Internet service providers'. And their huge, vibrant displays boast densities far greater than that of your laptop or big screen television.
To be concise, consuming media is what the modern day smartphone and tablet are built for; they are gateways to an online world that is chock-full of rich media. And for the last two years, carriers and the makers of such devices have been honing in on the perfect combination of components and networks to better connect users, and to refine and streamline the end users' online experience.
Enter multi-core CPUs and GPUs, HD (or "Retina") displays and 4G LTE.
A recent study performed by Harris Interactive and Skyfire, however, suggests that manufacturers' and wireless carriers' efforts just may have been in vain – at least for now. FierceWireless reports that in a survey conducted in May and June with over 900 U.S. and 1,000 British participants reveals that 86 percent of mobile users in the United States prefer streaming standard definition video over HD, so long as it means the video is faster, less choppy and buffers less. A similar result was found with British smartphone owners with 87 percent preferring SD to HD.
The remainder of findings of the survey were pretty intriguing, too. Over half – 57 percent – of U.S. respondents claimed to have watched a video on their handset in the past month, whereas only 29 percent of British smartphone owners claimed to have watched a video in the past month.
Age and gender have a lot to do with mobile habits, too. Over three-fourths (76 percent) of smartphone owners from ages 18 to 34 have watched a video in the last month, whereas only 58 percent of smartphone owners from 35 to 44 have. And of those age 45 to 54 and 55 and up, only 52 percent and 24 percent, respectively, claimed to have watched a video from their smartphone in the past month. Men in the U.S. are also more likely to watch videos from their smartphone as women, with 62 percent of men claiming to do so in comparison to 52 percent of women. A surprising 84 percent of men age 18 to 34 have watched a video from their smartphone in the past month.
To be completely honest, while the findings are interesting, they're not surprising by any means. They only give credence to what many already assumed or have learned from their own experiences. What they do show, however, are that data speeds are more important than ever. (Again, no real shocker.) Skyfire CEO Jeffrey Glueck explains:
"We’re seeing a sea change in the way consumers are using and thinking about their mobile devices, with higher quality content becoming the norm.
This survey shows clearly that when connections are poor, users define a quality experience much more by fast video starts and smooth play, rather than HD fidelity in their video. Moreover, other than price, better data speeds now beat voice coverage and device selection as the most important factor when switching carriers."
The question is: do you opt for standard definition videos when your data connection is poor? To save on data? Or is it HD all the way for you?
For me, if I'm going to watch a video via mobile (I have already explained that I usually watch videos from a tablet when Wi-Fi is available), I'm going to enjoy it. And with a 720p display on my smartphone, there's only one way to truly enjoy mobile video: as high definition as possible. Even if data speeds are sort of slow, I will let the video start, hit pause and let it load while I do something else. (Buffering, be gone!)
About the only times I can ever recall opting for standard definition over HD was when I was nearing my data cap on AT&T or being throttled to 2G speeds on T-Mobile. Other than that, it's full-blown HD or bust. (Lest we forget I'm a pixel junkie.) Why have a smartphone with an HD display and 4G connectivity if you're not going to use it to its fullest potential. Wait just a few more seconds for the video to buffer before playing and enjoy that beautiful, crisp, high definition.
What is it for you, ladies and gents? Do load times and smoother video get priority? Or visual quality?