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Summary:

Apple started the race for smartphone screen clarity and others are following. Samsung, LG and HTC all beat out Apple’s Retina Display with higher pixel counts, but even they can’t compete against Qualcomm’s new Mirasol display.

The race for screen clarity continues. Apple started it with a 326 pixel per inch Retina display on its iPhone. Now the latest flagship phones from Samsung, HTC and LG have full high-definition displays: These devices cram a 1920 x 1080 resolution into their screens with around 400 pixels per inch. Too bad all of these just got spanked by the competition, even if it is just a prototype.

At the SID Display Week event currently in progress, Qualcomm is showing off its latest smartphone screen tech that tops and eye-popping 577 pixels per inch.

Engadget is on site at the show and captured some video of the 5.1-inch display and its 2560 x 1440 resolution:

The screen uses Qualcomm’s Mirasol technology, which we’ve been covering for the past four years. Sadly, no major product hits have used a Mirasol panel in all that time and Qualcomm says that the smartphone screen is just a prototype; it could be another few years before such a pixel-packing screen is ready for mass production.

Higher resolution isn’t the only benefit here, however. Mirasol uses reflective light and microscopic MEMS (Microelectromechanical systems) to create small airgaps in the display; as the airgap size changes, the light color passing through it is manipulated. As a result, the screens are very power efficient, up to six times more than today’s LCD and OLED screens.

Aside from the time to market then, is there a downside? Because the displays primarily use reflective light — although they can be front-lit — colors often appear washed out as compared to traditional screens. I’m not sure if there’s a solution for that challenge, but my money is on Qualcomm to find one if it exists.

  1. Apple did not start a race. Any higher than retina resolution is just specs porn.

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  2. What advantage to the user does going over retina resolution provide? It seems like a sales marketing bullet feature to tout when advantages of merit are lacking. Disadvantages: increased image processing, memory, internal bandwidth requirements…

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    1. You can hold a device further from your eyes with a higher pixel density and not lose clarity; particularly helpful on larger screened devices as Apple’s “Retina Display” definition is based on 10″ from the eye.

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      1. Thanks Kevin. I’m sure you meant closer than 10″ from the eye.

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