Has your smartphone changed the way you look at your television?

Chase Bonar
 from Winter Springs, FL
Published: January 14, 2013

There are many reasons to be thankful for the high resolution displays gracing our beloved smartphones. If you're one of those people who believes you have the best screen on any phone ever made, you are surely justified. Smartphone display technology has evolved at a rate so fast it's in danger of making TV's look like garbage. In other words, your screen has never looked so good, reader.

Until late last year, consumers had no option of seeing a higher pixel density than 1080p for a reasonable price. CES 2013 changed half of that equation with the availability of a higher resolution screen, but at a significant cost. Ultra High Definition displays (UHD/4K) were all the rage in Vegas this past week, but it took much longer to make the jump from the previous industry standard, 1080p. Combine the ultra high resolution with new OLED technology and you're surely to be blown away by the deep blacks, high contrast ratio, unbeatable refresh rates, and saturated colors. It looks like TV's have finally caught up to smartphone displays.

But I'm still not impressed by the screen on my smartphone. Even the 4K OLED TV's introduced a new industry standard: a slight curve.

Screen resolutions have steadily increased year over year since the creation of the first multitouch smartphone back in 2007. Fast forward almost seven years and we are staring at technology re-marketed. You guessed it - it's 1080p again.

Before I continue, you have to understand the retinal limits of the human eye. Stare at the (arguably) previous industry leader marketed by Apple, the Retina display. Try to find those pixels. You can't.

"You would be able to if you had robot eyes."

True. I am due for a retinal upgrade soon anyway.

All jokes aside, look at the new flagship screens gracing smartphones in 2013. 1080p, again. But smaller this time. On your phone. Carry those pixels on the daily...in your pocket. I'd imagine that's what display manufacturers tell themselves in the morning.

In all honesty, this is undoubtedly an amazing feature to carry in your pocket. I'm grateful for screen technology and how fast manufacturers have been able to shrink and mass produce such a feature. After all, screen resolution is at the top of my priority list when it comes to my next. The problem with resolutions is the fact that we can't tell the difference between 720p and 1080p. Manufacturers are going through the hassle for no reason.

"But it's innovation!" "It's never been done before." "It's never been this big!"

You are completely right and I applaud you for sticking with this approach for this long. Again, we have been unable to find any pixels since the iPhone 4 came out, and we all count the days between Apple release cycles.

If you read my BIO, you'd probably say I'm unsatisfied because I stare at one quarter of a pixel's dimension all day on the PenTile pixel layout of my Galaxy Nexus. You have a point there. PenTile screens might have better shelf life according to Samsung, but it's less than stellar in most conditions. So as long as you can stay in a dark corner far away from Earth's favorite star, there's more to desire. For the record I have owned the following phones: HTC EVO 4G LTE, iPhone 5, Galaxy S III, and the LG Optimus G.

Yes, I have used the DROID DNA and loved it, too.

The problem is every smartphone has fantastic screen resolution right now. Screens have served their purpose well. They have gotten better because competition has increased. I appreciate this and am in no way ungrateful.

Unfortunately, from a purely functional standpoint, innovation has been relatively static. All screens have been used the same way since 2007. For the most part, they're still flat fingerprint magnets that respond to multiple touch inputs and gestures.

We are not truly staring at anything new. It's just being marketed differently.

I believe we need to see the true potential of the smartphone by 2014, or the mobile industry will be stalling.

The technology has been available since 2011. Nokia’s kinetic interface is proof that manufacturers are holding out. Nokia’s kinetic screens rely on different functional inputs to interact with your phone. From a functional standpoint, Nokia’s technology is still one of a kind. It's not too late for this, Nokia. Put it in a hero device already.

When Nokia's kinetic displays are being squeezed and twisted, Samsung's Youm flexible displays are getting busy by bending, folding and wrapping. With Youm, your phone is used the same way, you just now control the way you see the screen.

We need Youm. In fact, we needed it two years ago when it had no name at CES 2011. This past week at CES, Samsung reintroduced flexible displays with some significant upgrades. Upgrades include a bump in resolution to 720p, an increase in size by a full inch to 5.5-inches, and updated in display technology from AMOLED to OLED.

I'm floored and speechless. This future is looking so bendy!

It’s important to mention that Samsung did not demo touch inputs at CES, or any CPU-intensive gestures like flipping through home screens, or opening applications. Youm was showed off for it was designed to do – bend.

The mere fact that Samsung has been able to increase the resolution, screen size, and keep it under a millimeter thick is outrageous. If this is any inclination of how we will use our phones in the near future, count me in. I expect 2014 to show me a phone that truly changes the way my phone works for me. If they put Youm in the next Nexus, or Motorola X phone, you can guarantee that the industry will change. Fast followers will be left in the dust. Patent wars will follow.

Something tells me Apple and Google hold most of the gesture and touch inputs we will see in the future.

Unfortunately for Apple and Google, it's the hardware king Samsung who looks to have the most to gain out of the technology. They look set to be the world's number one supplier of future screens.

We can make our screens as big as our competitors. We can get our screen closer to the glass by reducing thickness. We can make our blacks deep and saturate the brighter colors. And we can bend it making it relatively indestructible.

Samsung also has a potentially enormous customer base from the supplier's perspective.

Strictly from a hardware standpoint, one could argue that most phones have some feature that differentiates it from another. Whether it is the screen, CPU, or camera, all phones have hardware standards that keep them viable alternatives to each other in the mobile industry.

Not for long, though. I hope.

I want my phone to bend. It should bend because smartphones are evolving. Smartphones already make you question why you still call them phones. If we can send and receive data faster than your standard ethernet cable, share pictures and videos via NFC, and have conversations with our phones, they should bend, too. Slap Corning’s new Willow Glass demoed at CES on a smartphone and call it a day.

How do you feel about 1080p screens? Do they still excite you, or do you have robot eyes like me? Am I way off the mark by calling-out every manufacturer, or do you agree display innovation is stalling?

Products mentioned

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