Technology trends changes extremely quickly – we’ve always known that – and nowhere is this truer than in the smartphone world. But what was at the beginning a race to perfect a concept, has now become a spec sheet war (especially among Android manufacturers). And the question that has been on my mind for some time now has been: “How much is too much?” How much of the spec sheet hardware really deliver a better experience to the end user?
At the top of this list for me is screen resolution. The norm for the previous generation of smartphones (which was just over a year ago, mind you) was a screen resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels. This was what we called HD resolution or 720p, and this was already – depending on the size of your screen – over 300 ppi, or pixels per inch. However, according to studies the human eye (if you have very good eyesight) can only see around 300 ppi at a distance of about 25cm. So unless you stare at your screen from extremely close by or under a microscope, you won’t see the difference. So what’s the point of having the current generation of screens that come in at over 400 ppi?
Apple’s retina display comes in at 326 ppi, but we now have Samsung, Sony and other flagships that have screen resolutions of over 400 ppi – and 468 ppi in the case of the HTC One. The screens have a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels, or Full HD. The scary thing is this doesn’t even seem to be the end of the pixels battles. Propaganda is an amazing thing, isn’t it? Most people do seem to believe bigger is better. While in many cases it is, in this circumstance I tend to disagree. And for one very good reason: cost.
We have seen reports that manufacturers in Japan and Korea are putting the finishing touches on their WQXGA panels, with a whopping 2560 x 1600 resolution on screens less than 6 inches large. Just imagine the cost that will incur on the end consumer, and for what, a nice spec sheet? It will have over 500 pixels per inch. I say no! Give me a properly built smartphone with top notch internals and a 720p screen! I think 300 ppi is more than enough for me. Rather improve viewing angles and colours in sunshine. It will cost us a couple of thousand rand less, I can tell you that much.