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Recently I was told by a developer that most 7 inch tablet users will, if given the choice (i.e the app supports both orientations), use the tablet in a portrait orientation and that a user with a 10 inch tablet will, by default, use the tablet in a landscape orientation. I've noticed that this is certainly true with my friends and family, however I was wondering if there is any research or statistics that actually gives a statistical preference, an extensive search of the internet hasn't provided anything yet other than a couple of articles about how many apps there are that have both orientations.

The question is somewhat answered by this post:

However, this doesn't address the issue of different sizes.

The devs at Google certainly seem to think this is true, their stock OS on a 7 inch tablet is geared up for it to be used in a portrait orientation whereas the 10 inch tablets come with a landscape set up as standard.

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Preferred orientation depends on so many factors, e.g. device aspect ratio, app design, OS, personal preference..., that it might be difficult to isolate a single factor. –  oefe Sep 30 '13 at 18:53
    
This is a really interesting question, and I would like to know if there is data, however, I think @oefe is right, this is something that really is on a person to person basis through preference and habit. I'm interested to see what will come of this. –  Majed Sep 30 '13 at 19:45
    
@oefe While you're both right I'm just looking for statistics which show which orientation people use their tablets and which size, out of that we'd be able to determine if there was indeed a preference and then use that info when laying out a site or app. I don't think it's really necessary to isolate the reasons WHY users do this, just to see if they DO have a preference, of course if we could see why too then that'd be great! –  KitP Oct 1 '13 at 8:10
    
This may be slightly useful. –  Izhaki Oct 1 '13 at 15:45
    
Thanks @Izhaki that goes a little way to answering the question –  KitP Oct 2 '13 at 8:48
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5 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

I decided to do some research to answer this question so I did a survey and collated the results. The basic answers were:

7 inch

Given the choice 72% of 7 inch tablet users would prefer to hold the tablet in a portrait orientation. The majority of these were Android users, although that's possibly because there were very few iPad users with that screen size.

8 inch

50% of 8 inch tablet users said weren't bothered which orientation they used. These were exclusively Android tablets.

10 inch

72% of 10 inch tablet users chose the they use their tablet in the landscape orientation. This was a mix of iPad and Android tablet users at a roughly 40:60 ratio.

The survey had 155 responses from people aged below 18 to 59 years old from 37 countries and at a variety of income levels.

However it can safely be assumed that most people will turn their tablet to the landscape orientation when watching a video. There are also other apps which by their very nature would have a preferred orientation that is contrary to these results.

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The following is not backed up by any type of scientific research, but rather from observation.

  • Screen sizes between 4" and 5" - These devices can be used one-handed if they are held in portrait orientation. Holding them in landscape mode is a bit awkward, often requires to use both hands for interaction and as such is only used when there is a substantial benefit of doing so, such as for watching videos or taking pictures.

  • Screen sizes between 9" and 10" - These devices are mostly used in landscape mode since holding them upright is more difficult due to the leverage force and weight. This is in accordance with answers to the SE question you linked (btw. please note that the top answer in that question is about the screenshots of apps as depicted by their respective authors and not about actual usage)

  • Devices around 7" - The number of people I've seen with such devices is only limited, but from my observation is somewhere in-between. They can be held one-handed in portrait mode, but interacting with them will require the other hand. Usage scenarios that don't involve much interaction (look at a Kindle) are perfect for portrait as they free up one hand. Other than that, there is only little benefit of holding it either way, so I assume users will be more inclined to rotate the device according to the task at hand.

My personal conclusion is that small devices are usually held in portrait mode while large devices are usually held in landscape mode. Regardless of screen size however, users will rotate their device if they see a significant benefit in doing so. But as always, people like to make that choice themselves and hate it if it is made for them by software developers. In short: Yes, it does make sense to watch videos in portrait mode, but if all I want to do is watch a 37 second youtube video @240p, then please don't make me rotate my iPhone.

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+1 for "people like to make that choice themselves and hate it if it is made for them by software developers" and the example! There are also environmental situations (eg. device being held on the table in a static orientation by a case), where I'll rather endure the loss of quality than hassle with physically rotating my device. –  Ilari Kajaste Oct 28 '13 at 10:47
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Sometimes when you hold the tablet, you are conscious about not pressing any buttons on the sides of the tablet. It happens more when you are holding it in portrait mode since the buttons to switch on/off, volume etc come on the sides.

Otherwise, unless and until there is a long text to read and scrolling appears to be a pain (since both the hands are already busy), I don't use portrait mode. I guess most user's experience won't be totally different from me.

So, yes, if the size of the tablet is more than a single hand to handle, landscape mode is more preferable

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It usually depends on the context in which your app is being used. For interactive and typing intensive apps, people prefer using the 10 inch tablets in portrait whereas the 7 inch tablets are mostly used in landscape as its easier to type two handed using thumbs than it is using one handed to type in portrait. (That being said, Swyping makes it a bit easier to type using one hand in portrait mode.)

Still as a general observation for apps that don't require frequent interactivity from users - For a 10 inch tablet, it is highly improbable that the user is going to use it in portrait orientation as the design of most tablets is such that holding it in portrait becomes very uncomfortable. So if you're targeting a 10 inch tablet specifically, it can be safe to assume more or less that the app is going to be used in landscape.

For a 7 inch tablet however, it depends entirely on the user. Nexus tablets are very comfortable to be held in portrait mode as they are in landscape. iPad Mini too, inspite of being a 4:3 device, is used by many in either modes.

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You make a lot of claims here, but where do you get these from? It all sounds plausible but saying 'people prefer using 10 inch tablets in portrait' should really be backed up with some sources to support the statement. –  JonW Oct 3 '13 at 10:07
    
Some of what you say seems to be opposite to what I've seen people doing and what I do myself, I'd love to see your sources for this. –  KitP Oct 3 '13 at 10:54
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LANDSCAPE...

For iPad, there is an article at:

http://ipad.appstorm.net/general/weekly-poll/which-orientation-do-you-prefer-to-use/

The above article contains a survey on 'Which Orientation do you prefer to use?'

Current results are: Portrait 25.39% Landscape 60.26% No Preference 14.35%

Looks like Landscape is beating portrait by more than double...

The most important consideration though, is the nature of your app. If you're watching movies or TV, you want to be in landscape mode.

One thing that really upsets me are apps that are LAZY and don't allow for both orientations. Certainly there are some that simply cannot support one or the other orientation, and that's fine. But, if they just choose to only support one when they could easily support both with the click of an option in the XCode builder, I think that's just lazy.

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I don't suppose you have any Android figures at all? Your point about the nature of the app is spot on and well made, as is the point about not doing both orientations. –  KitP Oct 3 '13 at 10:49
    
I'm guessing that the Android and iPad numbers would be similar, but I have no data to back that up. –  Curtis Oct 3 '13 at 14:09
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