Choosing the right smartphone is a complex decision and often depends on the specifications, design, accessibility, and durability of the device.
As the front of modern smartphones become increasingly dominated by displays, however, the type of screen a device has is more important than ever.
This may seem like a simple specification to consider, but many factors must be taken into account when comparing smartphone displays.
These include resolution, panel type, and pixel density. Other factors like contrast ratio, brightness, and colour depth also matter.
If you are looking for a new smartphone, these are the most important factors to consider when comparing displays.
The resolution of a display determines its overall quality and sharpness, and refers to the number of pixels the screen displays.
For example, a display with a Full HD resolution has 1,920 x 1,080 (2,073,600) pixels, each of which turns a certain colour to display an image on the screen.
Displays with higher resolutions can deliver sharper images, but require more processing power.
More powerful hardware is also required to transform these pixels into images at a required refresh rate.
Common smartphone resolutions, from lowest to highest, are listed below.
- 768p – 1,024 x 768
- HD – 1,280 x 720
- 750p – 1,334 x 750
- Full HD – 1,920 x 1,080
- QHD – 2,560 x 1,440
- QHD+ – 2,880 x 1,440
- UHD – 3,840 x 2,160
It is important to note that while these resolutions are common in smartphones, many manufacturers use their own unique resolutions.
For example, Apple’s Super Retina HD Display on the iPhone X sports a resolution of 2,436 x 1,125. The Samsungs Galaxy S9’s QHD+ display is 2,960 x 1,440.
The type of panel in a display also makes a big difference.
This is especially true for smartphones, where power efficiency, brightness levels, and form factor are of the utmost importance.
There are two main types of display panels used in modern smartphones – LCD and OLED.
While LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) panels require a backlight, OLED (Organic Light-Emitting Diode) do not, as each pixel on the panel outputs its own light.
Most LCD panels used in smartphones are built on In-Plane Switching (IPS) technology, which offers improved viewing angles and contrast ratios.
OLED panels are currently far more expensive than LCD screens, and are usually reserved for high-end smartphones like the Apple iPhone X and Samsung Galaxy S9.
However, because OLED panels do not have a backlight, they can be tweaked to be more power efficient and can support technology like under-screen fingerprint sensors.
As OLED technology improves, it is quickly becoming the preferred alternative to IPS LCD panels in smartphones.
Pixel density and colours
The last specifications on our list are pixel density and colour technology.
By comparing screen size and resolution, you can find the pixel density of a display – measured in pixels-per-inch.
This figure grants a better idea of image sharpness, as it takes the size of the smartphone screen into account.
For example: a 5-inch 1,280 x 720 display will look great, but an 8-inch tablet with the same resolution would not deliver as sharp an image.
Pixel density can be calculated using this formula.
Colour depth and contrast are additional important factors to consider, and you should compare maximum brightness levels if you are looking for a high-contrast display.
Certain smartphone manufacturers will label their display panels as HDR, which means they offer superior contrast and colour depth compared to standard displays.