AMOLED vs LCD: Which screen is best for your phone?

amoled vs lcd which screen is best for your phone smartphone1
Buying a phone is becoming harder and harder these days. There are so many different options on smartphones that it is hard to keep up with all the latest technology. With phones and tablets almost completely relying on touchscreen interfaces, the screens on these devices are easily the most important part of modern day devices. There are several different technologies behind these screens, and we aim to explain what some of these terms mean. If you’ve ever wondered what AMOLED, LCD, IPS, or TFT mean, you’re reading the right article.

These days you really only have two choices of screens when you are buying a smartphone or tablet: LCD or AMOLED. Many of you probably can’t tell the difference between the two screen types, but both technologies have inherent strengths and weaknesses. LCD has been around for a while, but AMOLED phones are gaining popularity thanks to Samsung and other manufacturers. There isn’t a clear winner at this point in time, so here’s a look at both.

Update: This article was originally published on June 18, 2012, and updated on Aug. 25, 2014, to reflect recent devices. DT writer Aaron Liu contributed to this article.

LCD

LCD, Liquid Crystal Display, has been a part of our lives for years now. Besides mobile devices, we see LCD screens being used with almost every computer monitor, and in the majority of TVs. While these screens are made of wondrous liquid crystals, they also require a couple panes of glass, and a light source. LCD screens produce some of the most realistic colors you can find on a screen, but might not offer as wide of a contrast ratio (darker darks and brighter brights) as an AMOLED screen.

LCD Screen

Some common terms you will find associated with LCD displays are TFT and IPS. TFT stands for Thin Film Transistor, which makes the wiring of LCD screens more efficient by reducing the number of electrodes per pixel. One benefit of TFT displays is an improved image quality over standard LCD screens. Another popular LCD technology is In-Plane Switching, or IPS, which improves upon TFT by offering much wider viewing angles and color reproduction on LCD screens. IPS screens are able to achieve this by keeping all the liquid crystals parallel to the screen. IPS is generally preferable to standard TFT.

Notable Devices with LCD Screens: iPhone 5 and 5s, LG G3, Sony Xperia 2, Google Nexus 5.

AMOLED

AMOLED, Active Matrix Organic Light Emitting Diode, technology has grown in popularity in recent years, particularly among Samsung products. AMOLED screens consist of a thin layer of organic polymers that light up when zapped with an electric current. Due to this simple construction, AMOLED screens can be extremely thin and do not require a backlight. The benefit of losing a backlight is readily apparent: these screens are able to produce blacks so deep that the screen pixels can shut right off. Shutting off pixels can also save electricity and battery life in phones and tablets. Just keep your backgrounds close to black and you’ll save energy.

AMOLED Screen

Sometimes when you read about AMOLED screens, you might hear people complaining about something called a “pentile” display. This is a feature of most color AMOLED screens. Instead of having just a single red, blue, and green sub pixel per actual pixel, pentile displays have a RGBG sub pixel layout which has two green sub pixels for each red and blue. The positive of this technology is that you are able to create a screen that is just as bright as normal screens with one third the amount of sub pixels. The negative of pentile screens is that they can appear grainy, or appear to be lower resolution due to the larger, more visible sub pixels. For a while, Samsung begun using a display type called Super AMOLED Plus, which does not use a pentile sub pixel layout and also improves viewability in direct sunlight — traditionally a weakness for AMOLED. Samsung equipped the Galaxy S II with a Super AMOLED plus screen, but then reverted back to Super AMOLED screens for the Galaxy S III, citing screen life as the reason for the switch.

Notable Devices with AMOLED screens: Samsung Galaxy S series, Nokia Lumia 900, HTC One S.

You be the judge

Samsung Galaxy S3 and HTC One X -- LCD vs AMOLED comparison
Can you tell which is AMOLED or LCD?

There are pros and cons for each type of screen, and both screen technologies can produce vivid, beautiful displays. The only way to know for sure if the screen on your future device will satisfy you is to try it out for yourself. You will be able to easily see if the screen viewing angles, contrast ratio, and color reproduction will fit your needs after using the phone for just a few minutes.

Related: LCD vs. Plasma TVsLED vs. LCD TVs, and 1080p vs. 1080i.

Product Review

Mediocre battery and a big notch slight Google's otherwise perfect Pixel phone

Google’s Pixel 3 XL has two big flaws: The gigantic notch on the front, and mediocre battery life. That being said, this is the best Android experience you can find in a smartphone today.
Deals

Here are the best 4K TV deals for November 2018

There's no doubt that a good 4K smart TV is the best way to take your home entertainment setup to the next level to enjoy all your favorite shows, movies, and games in glorious Ultra HD. We've got the best 4K TV deals right here.
Mobile

Samsung patents show what Infinity-O display could look like on Galaxy S10

While we still may be months away from an announcement, there's no doubt about it: Samsung is working hard on its successor to the Galaxy S9. Here's everything we know about the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S10.
Mobile

Samsung will reportedly announce its folding smartphone at MWC in February

Samsung has been showcasing bendable display tech for a few years and now a folding smartphone might finally arrive. The Galaxy X, or perhaps the Galaxy F, may be the company's first example. Here's everything we know about it.
Mobile

Instagram tool accidentally exposes user passwords. Were you affected?

Instagram's Download Your Data tool accidentally exposed the passwords of a small number of users. Here is the explanation on what happened, and how to find out which Instagram accounts were compromised.
Mobile

New iPad Pro’s durability in question after it fails YouTuber’s bend test

The new iPad Pro models failed a bend test that was carried out by popular YouTuber JerryRigEverything. The result raises questions about the durability of the tablets, especially since customers are also reporting bending issues.
Emerging Tech

Microsoft’s friendly new A.I wants to figure out what you want — before you ask

Move over Siri and Alexa! Microsoft wants to build a new type of virtual assistant that wants to be your friend. Already making waves in Asia, could this be the future of A.I. BFFs?
Mobile

How to use recovery mode to fix your Android phone or tablet

If you’re having a problem you can’t seem to resolve with your Android device, or maybe you want to update it or wipe the cache, recovery mode could be what you’re looking for. Here's how to use it.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: A.I. selfie drones, ‘invisible’ wireless chargers

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Deals

Cyber Monday 2018: When it takes place and where to find the best deals

Cyber Monday is still a ways off, but it's never too early to start planning ahead. With so many different deals to choose from during one of the biggest shopping holidays of the year, going in with a little know-how makes all the…
Mobile

How to choose the best MicroSD cards for your smartphone or tablet

If you need some extra storage space and your device supports it, then a MicroSD card is an obvious place to start. Here, we look at what to consider and suggest some of the best MicroSD cards for your smartphone.
Mobile

Common Kindle Fire problems, and how to fix them

Is your Amazon tablet giving you grief? Is it refusing to behave the way you expect? Take a deep breath -- everything will be fine. Here are some widely reported Kindle Fire problems and a few possible solutions to go with them.
Mobile

Tumblr for iOS vanishes from App Store, possibly due to inappropriate content

Tumblr for iOS is currently only allowing searches in Safe Mode, and it is not available on the App Store. The speculation is that the app's disappearance had something to do with inappropriate content.
Deals

All the best Target Black Friday deals for 2018

The mega-retailer opens its doors to the most competitive shoppers at 6 p.m. on Thursday, November 22, and signs indicate that the retailer means business this year. We've sifted through all of the deals, from consumer electronics to small…