Like it or not, manufacturers will continue to push the boundaries of every smartphone spec, even if consumers think it’s unnecessary. Take the display for instance. Most people are happy with 1080p resolutions (1920 x 1080 pixels), but Quad HD 2K (2560 x 1440 pixel) screens are becoming more prevalent. This brings us to 4K (3840 x 2160 pixels), which is starting to gain traction with televisions, so it’s inevitable that manufacturers will utilize 4K screens in smartphones soon.
We have already seen 4K mobile displays showcased, such as Sharp’s 5.5-inch IGZO LCD screen, but we have good news for those of you that like even bigger smartphones. Everdisplay, a company in China, showed off a 6-inch 4K display with a whopping 734 pixel-per-inch density. What’s even more impressive is that it’s the first 4K screen that is AMOLED. Before it was unveiled, the highest density AMOLED screen was the Quad HD 2K 5.1-inch panel on the Samsung Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge.
This begs the question of why you would possibly need a 4K panel on your smartphone. The emergence of virtual reality (VR) is the major driving force. A 1080p or even a 2K screen might be fine for everyday use, but pop that phone into Google Cardboard or a Samsung Gear VR headset, and it becomes quite pixelated, since the resolution is split across two eyes. It’s called the screen door effect. For example, a 1080p screen becomes 960 x 1080 pixels in a VR unit. This might seem like enough, but don’t forget that the display appears much larger in a VR headset, thereby diluting the quality of the image.
Most people who try VR for the first time say how cool it is, but they almost always notice that the picture needs improvement. A 4K screen will play a big part in improving the experience by giving a 1920 x 2160 pixel resolution per eye.
Unfortunately the downside to all of this is battery life, which continues to be a struggle for most smartphones. Manufacturers have utilized larger batteries to mask the issue, but they can’t go much bigger on flagships, since the goal is to keep them as thin as possible. Companies will need to come up with an answer, though, because the display technology won’t be slowing down anytime soon. Samsung recently received a grant from the Korean government to develop 11K mobile displays within 5 years.
Everdisplay might not be a household name, but the company has been manufacturing 720p AMOLED panels since 2014, and is developing 5.5-inch and 6-inch displays for mobile devices, 1.4-inch circular displays for wearables, and an 8-incher for automobiles. All screens in development are AMOLED.
It’s not clear when this 4K display will show up on a smartphone, but it could arrive as early as next year, since it appears ready for mass production.