4K Phone Screens: Crazy or the Next Big Must-Have Technology?

by on August 8, 2014

by Stephan Jukic – August 8th, 2014

The future is looking bright for 4K mobile phone screens, and 4K in smartphone cameras is already well established. As smartphone design has steadily settled on rectangular glass touch and display screens that are bigger than ever before and now cover the entire phone, the war on smart phone features has also become a visual specs war.

This is where the future of 4K in mobile is looking very bright indeed. Mobile screen resolutions have been on a steady upwards trend over the last several generations of phones and this is looking to continue right into the direction of 4K resolution itself, particularly for the latest and upcoming flagship smartphones.

The historical trend has definitely been in favor of the best smartphone screens steadily getting better resolution: The HTC One X, for example, had a screen with a lowly 720p HD screen resolution and both the Galaxy S4 from Samsung and the HTC One stepped this up to 1080p Full HD display resolution. Now, we’re starting to see the bar moving higher still with the arrival of LG’s G3 and its 2K QHD display.

While 4K on smartphone screens isn’t here quite yet, the above clearly indicates that both consumers and manufacturers want to see more pixels and are willing to experiment, despite the tiny sizes of smartphone screens for such enormous pixel counts.

However, there are still some problems that make the idea of a 4K screen something some experts are questioning the need for. For one thing, 4K takes a lot of processing power and memory to render effectively. This means a need for more powerful processors and better RAM capacities in what are very small devices. Better RAM and processing in turn sap more power from a phones batteries, leading to shorter times between charges and more pressure on the entire internal hardware structure of the phones in question.

With 4K, these problems would still be massive and the balancing act of creating optimal resolution while giving customers decent longevity between charge times is still weighed well against 4K screens.

Even 2K screen displays, of which there are very, very few available, need to render at least 2000 horizontal pixels and the 2K QHD screen of the LG G3 uses 2,560 pixels, giving 4 times the pixel count of 1080p.

4K, the absolute gold standard would have to go much higher and give users at least 3,840 horizontal pixels and whichever phone first achieves this will have to process all that resolution in a body no bigger than that of current mobile devices.

Furthermore, there is the question of 4K necessity. While 2K QHD and the much denser 4K do provide a dramatically clearer resolution than Full HD in an objective technical sense, the human eye can notice only so many pixels per inch on such small screens. Beyond that, what is seen all looks the same even with different pixel counts.

According to Apple, who was the pioneer in massive pixel quantities on smartphones with the Retina Display that they first unveiled in their iPhone 4, the most a human eye can perceive in terms of pixel density is 326 ppi (pixels per inch).

Nonetheless, if manufacturers find that they can balance 4K screens with decent ability to render them and keep a charge in a smartphone, 4K is almost certainly on the way. Consumers will want to know they can have it even if they possibly can’t perceive its quality.

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