Device Grasping

Observational study of mobile device Grasping During commute traffic to and from work in Stockholm, Sweden.

A small "study" conducted by myself recording observations of people using their phone mostly on the subway. 1019 observations were recorded during 24 / 10-2014 and finished 17 / 12-2014.


I was talking with a friend about the UI for larger phones and think it was in connection with the iphone 6, and so on (phablets). I remember that I read an article that talked about how people hold the phone. So I looked up the [study][1](1) again.

Several referred to the study. But that was a while ago that it was made. It was during the two months and ended January 8, 2013. In the article they talked about hardware keyboards vs smartphones and that they needed new data which was one of the causes to do it.

Some examples of [people][2] [referring][3] [to][4] [the][5] study. And it has changed a lot since the article was written, one thinks of the size of the screen.

My thought was if there is any difference now. I just wanted to see how it affects the phones with larger screens. Thought it was interesting enough so I took their sheet and used my own observations on the way to and from work on the tube. So it became a minor scientific study of how people hold their phones. Or “Observational study of mobile device Grasping During commute traffic to and from work in Stockholm, Sweden.” :)


Quick explanation of the original study: (Due out that no one clicked and read it :D

Three primary way to keep a phone: one-hand, cradling and 2 hand. With different variations.

1 hand
Cradling - Thumb
Cradling - Finger
2 Hand - Vertical
2 Hand - Horizontal

Then there are sub-groups. This is the complete list of all the recorded observations.

  • 1 hand right
  • 1 hand left
  • Cradling Finger Right
  • Cradling Finger Left
  • Cradling Thumb Left
  • Cradling Thumb Right
  • 2 hand Vertical
  • 2 hand Horizontal
  • Talking

The illustrations show only using the right hand to interact with the screen. There are of course left handed use also.

An important thing to say and repeat from the other article. There are no data on what you did on your phone, no demographic and there is no total number of all the people I saw. So it is eg% of people who do any of this data does not show that% of the world population do so, however. Passive use was something that I neither wrote down / observed so it is also not included.

My (un) scientific data collection began 24 / 10-2014 and finished 17 / 12-2014. A total of 1019 observations noted.


Indivudual grasping style

1 hand
  • Right – 82,61%
  • Left - 17,39%
  • Stand – 48,22%
  • Sit - 46,84%
  • Finger on screen – 55,01%
  • Thumb on screen – 44,99%
  • Left hand holding – 93.22%
  • Right hand holding – 6.78%
  • Stand – 28,73%
  • Sit – 70,19%
2 hand
  • Vertical (portrait) - 81,44%
  • Horizontal (landscape) - 18,56%
  • Stand – 53,61%
  • Sit – 44,63%


But something to think about and as always, is that people often change [how you interact][6](6) with the screen. And something I observed myself over this. But it seems that no one has any trouble using either one or the other way to keep his phone. It depends on what you are doing and where probably more than ever now that it gets bigger.

My hypothesis that there would be no difference there does not seem like there was no significative difference. Especially also when they observe completely different situations so that they really should not be compared. But to hold the phone with two hands (cradle and 2 hand) does not seem to have increased.

The biggest difference might be left vs. right handed use. These numbers correlate more with the [number of left vs. right handed persons][7](7). This may be because they point out in the previous article, the one-hand use is something they saw heavily used in conjunction with other activities. This data comes mostly from public transport then you are at one place and not many activities performed while they were on their way to or from work.

Another thing the result shows are that the observations of cradling the phone occurred more when a person were sitting down then standing. When you design a application that are meant for people on the move the use case of using the phone with one hand might be more crucial.

If it is the case that larger phones is about to take over then how does it affect how you have to design the UI.

It makes little difference that there are bigger screens as of now. If anyone has a problem with an interface, you change the way you hold the phone. But when you make a design should it still be fine to use it with one hand in most contexts.

It is still the [fastest pressing things in the middle of the screen][8](8). And it takes longer to reach out to the edges and so on.

During the time I did this, it has come a little more material on the subject and I did further resarch (more googling, research in the 21st century). The thing to keep in mind when creating something for larger smartphones:

Where it is faster to tap with one hand.

Tappable targets with bigger phones.

And the results of different grasps in what others arrived at in November now this year (why not one month earlier? So I could have avoided this exercise).

  1. [][1]
  2. [][2]
  3. [][3]
  4. [][4]
  5. [][5]
  6. [][6]
  7. [][7]
  8. [][8]

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