Why you’ll want a 1080p screen on your smartphone

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LG announced its latest mobile display earlier this week: A 5-inch, full HD screen with 1920 x 1080 resolution. The new display will be shown off at next week’s SID 2012 Display Week in Boston and expected to be available in devices during the second half of this year. As our mobile video addiction grows, it seems that smartphone screens, as well as their capabilities, are growing in tandem.

Apple may have kicked off the high-resolution mainstream mobile screen phenomenon with its Retina Display, first found on the iPhone 4, but other handset makers have pushed beyond in both size and resolution. Apple’s 3.5-inch screen boasts a whopping 326 pixels per inch (PPI) and LG has far outdone that with its new 5-inch screen: full HD resolution in a 5-inch diagonal display measures an eye-popping 440 PPI. For comparison, my very first PDA in 2000 — a Compaq Aero — had a 4-inch display with 320 x 240 resolution, which works out to laughable 100 pixels per inch. Yes, you could easily see each individual pixel!

LG is touting new display technology for its 5-inch HD screen: The company is using AH-IPS (Advanced High Performance In-Plane Switching) to allow for wide viewing angles and increased light transmission. That should help offset some of the additional power requirements needed for use on a smartphone as it won’t need as much power to backlight the large display.

Of course, in mobile technology there are always trade-offs and the one I see here is between full high-definition resolution and the size of the screen, which directly influences the size of a smartphone. Some have said that Android phones are growing in size because they need room for LTE radios, but I believe that’s a secondary reason, if it’s even valid at all. Instead, as I’ve been suggesting for two years: Consumers are eating up more mobile video and immersive applications that are better experienced with larger, higher-resolution screens. In some regions, online video consumption on mobiles is higher than on fixed broadband.

It’s for this reason that I believe Apple will finally boost the iPhone from a 3.5-inch to a 4-inch display; not primarily to fit more sensors and technology into the device — although it would have more options to add them, or a larger battery, thanks to extra space — but to improve the content consumption experience. Look at it this way — no pun intended — what part of the smartphone do you most use on a daily basis? Sure, you use the camera, Wi-Fi radio, speaker and more, but everything in the smartphone is tied to the screen: It’s both the method of input and output and I’d be shocked if anyone said they use something else on their smartphone more than the display.

For that reason, in conjunction with an uptick in mobile video playback, it simply makes sense that LG and others are pushing the limits of our smartphone displays. When I first heard of the new 1920 x 1080 screen, I immediately thought that was overkill. Then I started to watch an HD video on my 1280 x 720 Galaxy Nexus screen and thought: I want more!

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