Arguably one of the most important features of a smartphone or tablet is its display. While a device's internal specs and software most certainly make a difference, the display is the part of the phone (or tablet) you will pay the most attention to; it's what you use to type, to look at pictures, watch video, browse the Web, etc. It is the main form of input and output on the device.
Over the past two years, in an attempt to edge out competitors, manufacturers have started beefing up their displays, packing more pixels in the same amount of space, making brighter displays with higher contrast and even making them physically larger.
The first to release a mobile device with a truly impressive display was Apple. With the iPhone 4 in 2010 and iPhone 4S in 2011, Apple used the LG-made Retina Display. Measuring 3.5-inches diagonally and featuring a resolution of 960 pixels tall by 640 pixels wide, it measures an impressive 326 pixels per inch. Again, this year, Apple introduced an iPad with a Retina Display. With a resolution of 2048 by 1536 pixels, it packs a million more pixels in 9.7-inches than the 1080p big screen in your living room.
The HTC One X, Samsung Galaxy Nexus, Samsung Galaxy S III and a plethora of other mobile devices are also coming with stunning, crystal clear displays. The HTC One X, which has a 4.7-inch 720p display sports a respectable pixels per inch rating of 312, making individual pixels indistinguishable to the human eye.
In fact, all of my devices (save for the iPhone 4S, which hardly needs a higher-res display) have either 720p, 1080p or greater resolutions. In turn, I have become a pixel junkie. And as a result, resolution and ppi ratings have become the two most important specifications for me when it comes to picking out a device.
Luckily, most high-end devices now come with at least 720p displays. That said, it doesn't make picking out a single device any easier. I'm now to the point that I am snobbish about devices, their displays and the respective resolutions.
For example, the ASUS Eee Pad Transformer Prime was my most favorite tablet to date. Even after I picked up the new iPad in April, I continued using the Prime as my primary tablet. Simply put, I like Android in tablet form more so than iOS. But the hardware was finally what turned me away from the Prime. I honestly can't remember the last time I used it, and I never had a single issue with software or hardware on the Prime. But the more I got used to the ultra high resolution display on the iPad, the more difficult it became to go back to the WXGA (1280 by 800 pixels) display on the Prime – it was almost unbearable. The same thing happened with the iPhone prior to 720p displays on Android phones.
Now I'm facing a truly superfluous problem. I'm looking for a 4G phone on Verizon that I can be happy with using while I wait for a device I really want to release. Big Red will be canceling grandfathered unlimited data plans this summer, forcing users into family shared data plans, and there's only one way to avoid it: buy phones no-contract and never upgrade.
Since I am not eligible for an upgrade at the moment, the plan is to purchase an LTE phone now, before they cancel the option, and use it until the phone I really want is released. (I don't actually know what that is yet. I'm hoping for something similar to the One X – not the DROID Incredible 4G or the Samsung Galaxy S III.) The problem? Nothing is appealing. I don't want another HD Super AMOLED display, and the only device on Verizon with a 720p S-LCD is the HTC Rezound. But that device is a bit chunky for my tastes and it doesn't have a S-LCD2 display.
In other words, I would have to take a step back for a while in order to get the phone and plan that I want, assuming a phone that actually appeals to me will eventually make its way to Verizon.
The point isn't that I will have to be unhappy with a device for a while. I can cope with that. I'm almost always unhappy with something or another. But of all the specs that a phone may pack, it's no longer the processor, memory or camera that can completely ruin a device for me. As performance is quickly becoming a non-issue and battery life continually sucks, my happiness in a device now lies almost entirely with its display.
I know it's silly. But I have been truly spoiled by the One X, iPhone 4S and new iPad displays. Pixels shouldn't matter that much. As CNET's Jessica Dolcourt explains quite thoroughly, pixels (and density) are only half the story when it comes to display technology. Contrast, the reflectiveness of the display, longevity and a mountain of other facets come together to make a display truly impressive. No matter, if I see a distinguishable pixel in a phone or tablet display, I am almost instantly turned off of the device ... for good.
Are you, too, becoming a pixel junkie? Does resolution really matter to you? Or do you care more about performance, design, battery life or some other aspect of a device? Share your thoughts below!