Mobile industry has seen many innovations over the years. While some of them radically changed our way of life, others simply existed for namesake. With cut throat competition prevailing in the mobile industry, companies are chanting the innovation mantra more often than ever. This pressure on companies to continuously innovate and offer something different is driving innovations which are magical, inconsequential or even simply absurd. 2K resolution displays (or QHD) for smartphones is one such innovation, the merit of which is strongly debatable.
Mobile phones have come a long way from tiny monochrome displays to full HD colour displays enabling multimedia consumption. It’s certainly not an exaggeration to say developments in mobile displays have enabled and spearheaded many significant innovations in the mobile industry. In 2014, innovations in this space are expected in the form of 2K resolution displays and flexible displays. While the benefits of flexible displays are apparent, 2K resolution displays offer more questions than answers. However, not bothering about the utility, Chinese manufacturers Vivo, Oppo etc have already launched smartphones with QHD displays. Today, LG announced their latest flagship LG G3 with 2K display and others like Samsung and Lenovo are touted to release theirs with the rumoured Galaxy S5 Prime and Vibe Z2 Pro respectively.
In simple terms, 2K display (commonly known as Quad HD display) refers to a resolution of 2048×1556 pixels (there are other variants too), which roughly translates to twice the number of pixels on a full HD display. So, it is no more than a bump in the resolution of the current smartphone displays, and that’s where the contention about its utility arises. Adoption of full HD displays for smartphones were aimed at addressing a genuine problem of pixelation, particularly on smartphones with bigger displays. The intent was to make individual pixels indistinguishable on a smartphone display, and thereby making it ideal for high quality multimedia and data consumption. Thankfully, full HD displays succeeded in achieving their objectives, as pixelation is no longer a problem on any smartphone equipped with full HD screen. So, the necessity for any additional display resolution in a smartphone, in the form of 2K displays, is questionable.
2K resolution on a mobile display is indistinguishable to the human eye under normal circumstances. So, technically, a customer can’t tell the difference between a full HD and 2K resolution display in daily use. While some may argue it’s nice to have a higher resolution display even if it offers no real benefit, its worth noting 2K resolution comes at a price. Higher resolution display negatively impacts the price, performance, and battery life of the smartphone. Equipping a smartphone with a 2K display increases its price without any apparent increase in its utility. Similarly, packing insane number of pixels negate the performance benefits of the latest SoCs, and longevity of the bigger batteries – all without delivering any considerable benefit to the customer. Also, 2K resolution on smartphones can initially worsen the content consumption experience as most of the apps and content are not yet 2K ready.
Initial reviews shows that even the latest processors can’t handle 2K displays with ease. The smartphone heats up on continuous usage, forcing the software to limit the maximum screen brightness till it cools down. Ironical.
So, why are companies working on 2K displays? To make things clear, customers certainly need 2K and even 4K resolution, but definitely not on a regular sized smartphones. 2K and 4K resolution make a lot more sense for tablets, laptops, and TVs etc as the benefits of higher resolution are more apparent at larger display sizes. Customers would be much happier if the smartphone manufacturers innovate to optimize the software, improve the user experience, and emphasize product support instead of simply packing more pixels. Unfortunately, these are innovations which cannot be quantified and communicated effectively during marketing, and this makes them less desirable for manufacturers keen on simply generating more sales. Compared to the ancient days of monochrome mobiles, current day smartphones outperform in every aspect except battery life. It is one of those critical aspects of mobile technology which hasn’t grown at the same pace proportionate to smartphone cameras, displays, and memory modules etc. Addressing a genuine need like that is true innovation – something which addresses a long standing problem and makes customers happy.
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Given the scenario, packing a QHD display on a smartphone is innovation for the sake of innovation, at least at this point of time. Until genuine use cases emerge, QHD smartphone displays will continue to be dubbed as an innovation without application, and a solution in search of a problem. Of course, it’s the nature of the industry to keep pushing things forward even if the advancements have no perceivable benefits to the current customers and the industry. But, it would be wonderful if somehow the industry can sync or derive their innovations based on the current problems instead of just future opportunities or marketing gimmicks.