Edit : 1080p Full-HD Display On Smartphones – Game Changer Or Marketing Gimmick?

Now Reading
Edit : 1080p Full-HD Display On Smartphones – Game Changer Or Marketing Gimmick?

Browse This Page

2013 (well 2012-end to be precise) ushered in a new era in the smartphone world. That of 1080p Full-HD  displays. The HTC One, HTC Butterfly, Samsung Galaxy S4 etc all come equipped with what many would call the next step to smartphone greatness. But is it so? Or is it all just a big marketing gimmick?

This was a rather natural move, the one to Full-HD diplays, a move we all expected manufacturers to make. 

When the Apple iPhone 4 was launched, with a new “high resolution display”, Steve Jobs decided that the best name for it would be the ‘Retina Display’, by dearth of the fact it was meant to be so high-res that it’s actually more than the eye can cope with. It had a PPI of 326, so high that individual pixels were indistinguishable to the human eye at normal viewing distances!

PPI is an actual count of the number of pixels found in one inch of a display, which varies depending on the resolution of the display and the overall size of the display.

Full-HD display

The pixellation difference between the iPhone 3GS (left), and the Retina Display of the iPhone 4.

The difference was there for all to see. Consumers were mesmerized by the clarity and sharpness of these displays. More text would show up on the screen at once, and higher-resolution images show in full on a 720p screen.

[pullquote_left]  Life seemed perfect. [/pullquote_left]

The focus of manufacturers shifted from WVGA (800*480) to 720p (720*1280) displays. Companies like Samsung, HTC, LG began churning out phone after phone equipped with what they all claimed were the best displays on the market!

People rejoiced, gone were the days of pixelated displays and watering eyes. Everyone started enjoying browsing the web and reading content on their smartphones now. Life seemed perfect.

Full-HD display

Difference between zoomed in text on a WVGA display, and a 720p display.

But as is the case with almost everything that us homo sapiens do, we wanted more. HTC duly obliged and up came the HTC Butterfly, 

In addition to an impressive spec sheet and super-sized proportions, the HTC Butterfly packed the world’s first smartphone-sized 1080p Full-HD display, a five-inch Super LCD 3 boasting an insane 440 pixels per inch. Boy were we all excited!

Honestly though, once we got over all those amazing marketing lines that HTC threw at us, all that related to a Full-HD display and the massive ppi, we wondered about how useful these new displays truly were.

Full-HD display

I had a chance to test the Butterfly soon after and was  surprised at how unimpressed I was when I saw the screen. Don’t get me wrong, it’s beautiful. It’s ridiculously sharp, everything looks perfect on it, and the sample videos that come with it truly show off what a 5″ 1080p Full-HD display is capable of, video-wise.

Despite all of that though, my reaction to it was more one of confirming what I was already expecting than it was one that blew me away. I still remember the first time I saw an iPhone 4; I was amazed at how good it looked. I didn’t get that with the Butterfly, because I fully expected it to look that way. 

[pullquote_right]Back in February, Richard Yu, head of Huawei’s mobile division, claimed that a 1080p Full-HD display that is smaller than 5 inches didn’t make sense, as the human eye would be incapable of positively identifying the difference between that and a 720p panel.[/pullquote_right]

Post the launch of the latest smartphones like the HTC One and the Galaxy S4, I realised, it’s more of a psychological effect than a physical one. If today someone was to go out and buy a smartphone with a 720p display, it would keep playing at the back of his/her head that there is another phone out there in the world which has an even better display, scientifically at least, than the one he/she is getting by paying a premium price for that smartphone. Even if that means lesser battery life and more GPU usage. 

And we can’t really blame ourselves, for the way these Full-HD displays are advertised, we can’t help but feel we’re missing out on something.  

All that aside, it’s tough to see why anything substantially over 300ppi, the limit Apple initially cited as the “Retina” threshold, is even necessary. If pixels are indistinguishable at 300ppi, are they going to be more indistinguishable at the latest smartphones’ 440+ ppi?

It’s safe to assume now though that a  Full-HD display will be the saturation point as far as screen resolution is concerned, and we hope manufacturers would now shift their focus on improving other aspects of smartphones such as battery life, durability, audio, OS, performance etc.  

In conclusion, it’s clear that you can’t really differentiate between a 1080p Full-HD display and a 720p one. Yet we may find ourselves shelling out a bit more money to get a Full-HD “revolutionary” device than what we would on an equally capable 720p one. It’s all good marketing and the need for us humans to have the best of everything (even if that is not the case) in the end. At this point, it feels more like a bragging right than a feature that can make our lives better.

What do you think? Let us know below!

What's your reaction?
I Want This
About The Author
Shivaank Rana
Shivaank Rana
iGyaan's Carlos Santana! Shivaank loves Apple products! He stays up to date with the latest happenings of the tech world and gets his hands dirty with the latest Gadgets! Follow Him on Google Plus : Google+
  • SauravVerma

    Steve Jobs in 2010 in the launch event of Iphone-4 with Ratina display told it very clearely tha a human eye can see upto 320 pixels per inch. Late all the companies began manufacturing to compete that but now when people are not looking at ppi which is 320 is enough,we are just paying arround 15000 more Rs. just to get what’s not usable for us at all..not only that, 
    the king of apps we run a 1.2 Gig Dual core CPU with a decent GPU is more than enough still we are running for an octacore or whatever device..
    A phone should be made of aluminum or somethhing which s not breakable & should have an unbreakable screen,which is very much possible we don’t get that.
    Why the hell they not creating a massive battery like MOTO or ascend mate ?
    I have seen people (atleast whome I know) who bought S4, They just bought it for style statement either or they just wanted a freshly released device.
    If people can still lve NIRMAL BABA then buying an S4 instead of much cheaper s3  is wise enough :-D
    Read more:

  • VimalanPaulR

    phones were manufactured for calling facility and look now where it has got us. I am happy to be a smartphone user but seriously, what are you gonna do that special with a S4? . Hack a website? prepare masterplans? In reality, people just need a smartphone with budget up to 25k. 40k is way above the limit. 25k phones are enough to fill a mans need. dont expect a dslr from a phone. dont expect a 3D tv from a phone. dont expect a xbox from a phone. dont expect a life from a phone. peace!

  • ShreenitShahapurkar

    True! I totally find it an overkill to have 1080p displays..The results are upscaled apps, text appears too small in some places,  Heavy usage on GPU and battery. As you long as you have an AMOLED display of a pentile Res, say a polarizing filter like the CBD on Nokia’s, You have an adequate display good enough for pretty much everything from utility to entertainment.
    I can only imagine if at this pace they continue we’re gonna have 2k and 4k Screens as well as recording capabilities, which again! Is useless..
    If we really have to innovate in displays, I think its time we have something like say flexible displays, Unbreakable displays..Its 2013, Its safe to say things can follow up on that! LG and Samsung are already in the making! 
    Hopefully this sheds some light on displays!

  • SumeetPatil

    when i got my iphone 4 long back i was blown away with its display n i guess its not just abt the display but the OS which uses that display so well with its amazing GUI ……..
    abt 720 vs 1080 p for me both are grt coz as its a truth that our eye cannot distinguish after 300 ppi which is a scientific fact but in a phone 1080 p display which can shoot video with 1080 p is far better thaen 720p

  • HarryDhaliwal

    could u review karbon titanium s5

  • KachruKamble

    I am sorry to say that you couldn’t find what S4 packed with its hardware compare to Galaxy S3
    1080p Display, Octa Core processor, 2600mAh battery, highend Wolfson Audio Chip, Android 4.2 out of the box 13MP camera and Lots of Development support….

    • s.anmol

      KachruKamble 1080p display?? as you can read above,it doesn’t really matter much,as you can’t really tell the difference between 720p and 1080p display.
      Octa core processor,well its based on ARM’s big.Litttle architecture,which means it consists for four cortex A7 and four cortex A15 cores,they share work load depending upon the intensity of the task they carry out,but given at a moment,these 8 processors never work simuntaneosly,besides there are no apps in the market that can fully take advantage of four cores,all apps can run smoothly on dual core processor as long as they have good GPU.
      big battery and large screen+high resolution cancel out each other,you wouldn’t get much extra batterl life,android 4.2 it will arrive for S3 in mid 2013.
      13MP camera, 8MP works fine for normal usage,i use canon 600D for primary usage,so itb doesn’t really matter much. Air view and  2GB ram and other camera featuress are the only things that piqued my interest right now! oh yeah i totally forgot about 4G LTE,since we have four 4G circles in india,it would be awesome if they release 4G version of S4 in india.

  • s.anmol

    thank you for responding to my request :)
    As you mentioned above “If today someone was to go out and buy a smartphone with a 720p display, it would keep playing at the back of his/her head that there is another phone out there in the world which has an even better display” , i think the same thing is bugging me inside my head, but now, I don’t see any compelling factor for me to upgrade from S3 to S4,i doubt the real world usability of air view on S4 and most other features are gonna come to S3 anyway in next upgrade (as said by samsung) and extra 1GB of ram would sure translate into smooth performance,but i think I’ll wait for your hands on review.
    Once again thank you for the article :)

    • s.anmol  Glad we could help :) Keep the requests coming!

  • KachruKamble

    Purely Apple fan boy like statement, hands down iGyaan.. The website itself contains i in the Gyaan

  • MeenaSahoo

    Difference cannot be pointed out in 720p and 1080p resolution..but people are so fancy ….that these people would shift from 720p to 1080p…..
    From my opinion the phone makers should have some interesting features and UI which would make them the game changer…..

  • AmerBackstreetGuy

    sir please review XIAOMI Mi-2S … i hav seen many reviews claiming it is better than  S4 and cheaaper too plzzz reviews ASAP :)

    • rk_ftw

      AmerBackstreetGuy First of all, I am pretty sure you haven’t seen any reviews of Xiaomi Mi-2S as it has just been announced. And the benchmark scores you’ve probably read are the company’s claims and not from a review or a tech site. Mostly iGyaan doesn’t review phones which don’t release in the Indian market so don’t pin your hopes over it. And Xiaomi phones are very difficult to buy outside of China unless of course you have a relative or a friend over there.

  • dannyvpm

    I actually happened to use the Xperia Z in a mobile store. I couldn’t tell the difference between its display and the display of S3, iPhone 5, etc. I still wonder why they use 1080p displays when our human eye cannot differentiate individual pixels in displays more than 300 ppi itself.

  • Shobith

    In my opinion 720p is good enough as 1080p results in more GPU consumption and also decreases battery life. 
    I compared my friend’s phone with the same chipset and GPU but his screen has QVGA res and mine has HVGA. I found out that my nenamark scores were lesser than his. Maybe this will not matter with current gen GPUs but 1080p is just another innovation without much use currently.

  • techguy

    valid point! what is the point having something which can’t be differentiated between another……
    not related–
    the new website redesign is pretty shitty though… i mean the fancy and useless menus have no use who comes here to read news… and the “breaking news” feature is bugged how on earth is “Lifeproof Nuud Waterproof, Shockproof, Dustproof case for iPad 2 / 3 / 4 Review” is breaking news?
    People are liking the new redesign only because its kind of gimmicky

  • AdityaVenugopalan

    That’s something I would well agree on. Manufacturer’s are just increasing the screen size and its resolution without putting the basic factor of usability on their priority list. The screen may be large, pixels may be sharp eventually the question would be… What in the world can you do with that much of resolution other than hope for bragging rights.

  • Devashish_Saha

    it’s all upto individual’s use. people should consider that first. There is no point of buying a Ferrari if you don’t have even a driving licence.

    • vfirke

      Devashish_Saha I wold rather say there is no use in buying a Ferrari if you deon’t go above 60 km/hr