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

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

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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!

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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+