Smartphone manufacturers these days are trying every possible trick in their bag to sell phones to customers. Be it equipping the phone with the fastest processor (even if it heats up like anything), adding a camera with more megapixels than you know what to do with, or bringing up new standards for screen resolution that are just absurd. Everything has been tried and tested. Unfortunately, for us commoners, we always think that the bigger is better and fall for these tricks. You’ll have to credit Apple at least for not falling for these cheap tactics and always bringing up what seems like the most reasonable standards on their phones.
Among other things, phone makers these days try to cram as many pixels on the phone’s display as they can. Forget 2K (2560×1440), we’re already seeing companies focusing on 4K displays. As good as it sounds, I still have a laptop and a television that don’t have half as many pixels as 4K and they seem adequate to me. Had all this been without any consequences, we wouldn’t have complained. But to keep these extra pixels lit, the phone draws extra juice from the battery and ultimately, the battery life suffers. It also requires additional computing power to process data for these extra pixels and that adds to more strain on the processor and GPU.
We understand the need to push technology to its boundaries, but beyond a certain stage it seems moot. To put it in simple words, a 2K display on a smartphone with an average screen size between 5-5.5 inch throws a pixel density north of 500ppi. Steve Jobs computed 326ppi as the most adequate pixel density for screens viewed at a distance of 10 to 12 inches. It is perhaps the same reason why after all this years, the iPhone 6 still has a display that is close to the range of 720p (HD). Yes, if you bring the phone closer to your eyes, you’ll start noticing individual pixels at such a resolution and perhaps that’s why moving to 1080p display made sense. Such displays offer pixel density in the range of 420-460ppi on average sized smartphones, and from our experience that is more than adequate.
Definitely a 2K display looks better than a 1080p one. But the differences are minute and not worth the extra resources. Imagine living in a city where the average traffic moves at a speed of 20mph and you trying to get a car with a top speed of 250mph instead of your current one that goes up to 160. That is how pointless 2K displays are and let’s not even get into the debate around the need for 4K displays.
Perhaps, in the future when smartphones actually have the need for all those extra pixels (VR could be one such application), such displays would be justified. There are several other ways to enrich the viewing experience on a smartphone. We still haven’t figured how to completely solve daylight visibility problems or color contrast on our displays. If manufacturers could use that as a point of differentiation, it’ll add up to the customer experience instead of running a rat race.
You could still justify such ridiculous resolutions on phablets with screens comparable to smaller tablets. Otherwise, we’d advise you to make the smarter choice.