Can You See Me Now?

I am deeply disappointed that many of you are still viewing a 1080p display. I mean, seriously. Why don’t you just take two rocks and bang them together and consider yourself technologically advanced? Don’t you realize that you are missing all of the nuance in the picture? Frankly, with such a low resolution, can you even tell if the display is turned on or not? 1080p is a joke. I want you to take your phone and just drop it in the toilet right now. That’s right - we’re talking about phone displays.

I am so out of the loop. I blindly figured that a phone with a 1080p display was pretty sweet. But a few niche phones already have higher-res Quad HD displays, and the word on the street is that Quad HD is on its way, soon, from mainstream companies like LG and Samsung. Reportedly, LG’s new flagship G3 will have it for its summer launch.

Also referred to as “2K” these displays have four-times the number of pixels as a 720p display; in particular, they offer, for example, 2560x1440. On a 5.5-inch display, that works out to 534 ppi, and on a 5-inch display, that’s an eye-opening 587 ppi. For reference, the highly-touted Retina display on the Apple iPhone 4 and 5 is 326 ppi, and the Samsung Galaxy S5 has 432 ppi (1920x1080). As another point of reference, a glossy magazine might be printed at 300 ppi. As an aside, it’s important to note that pixel count isn’t the final word on displays; the technology behind it also plays a huge role in visual quality.

Several questions present themselves: First, why are phone manufacturers moving to 2K displays? The answer is easy: Companies need you to believe that your current phone is a piece of garbage, and should immediately be dumped for a newer phone. Remember the race to more megapixels in cameras? Ditto. When it comes to technology products, specs sell.

The second question isn’t so easy: Under what conditions can we see an improvement in picture quality? Some reports claim that people can tell a difference in pixel counts greater than 400, other reports disagree.. Without having actually seen a 2K phone, I have no idea. I suspect I would have to hold the phone a few inches from my face, and also upgrade my vision to 20/20 or better.

There’s also the question of content. Most phone video is streaming or downloaded, either way - highly compressed - so a super duper display seems at least questionable. And, won’t all those additional pixels mean even faster battery drain?

In any case, it seems inevitable that 1080p will become standard for low-end phones, and Quad HD will be common in flagship phones. At least until Ultra HD (4K) phones arrive. Then, your flagship Quad HD phone will be a piece of garbage.

Ken C. Pohlmann's picture
It occurs to me that hi-res displays might be very useful for Chinese characters, maybe less so for blocky Western fonts. Also some proponents have compared the Quad displays to looking at 35mm slides on a light box; it will be interesting to see them.