Most Android smartphones have been stuck on the same 800 x 480-pixel resolution for a couple of years, while the iPad 2 has maintained a mediocre 1024 x 768 resolution. Thankfully, with the advent of larger phones such as the 4.6-inch Samsung Galaxy Nexus, manufacturers are turning attention back to making better images. With higher resolutions and wider viewing angles on phones and tablets–including the iPad 3–2012 promises a mobile feast for the eyes.
The name of the game is adding more pixels, because high pixel density—measured in Pixels Per Inch (PPI)—is critical for image quality. Too few pixels in an area make an image appear grainy. A typical 1280 x 800, 10-inch Android tablet has a mere 150 PPI.
Some experts believe a PPI of 300 to 350 is ideal, because the human eye can’t perceive anything higher. The iPhone 4S’ 326 PPI Retina display reaches this threshold. “The picture quality is more noticeable because it’s closer to your face,” said DisplaySearch analyst Richard Shim.
The iPad 3 is expected to sport a very high-resolution screen, packing a reported 2048 x 1536 pixels. Rumor has it that Apple will employ cutting-edge indium gallium zinc oxide (IGZO) technology to achieve this level of detail.
Higher-resolution screens will be a major selling point for the next-generation of mobile devices. With your sharper screen, you’ll want to consume more HD content on the go. You may also find yourself reading and surfing the web more on those devices.
“Smartphones really are just miniaturized computers,” said Eunsun Jun of Samsung Mobile Displays. “For things like multimedia and especially web browsing and watching movies on the phone, larger and brighter screens are helpful.”
Device manufacturers are also promising enhanced color quality, better viewing angles, and lower power consumption. For instance, IPS (In Plane Switching) displays have started to proliferate because of their wide 178-degree viewing angles. On phones, AMOLED displays are becoming more and more popular because of their power efficiency.
Last year the first 1280 x 720-pixel phone screens appeared, but according to NDP’s Rubin, that resolution will become the new standard for high-end phones in 2012. We also expect a significant bump in tablets’ pixel density this year. The Acer Iconia Tab A700 was recently spotted in Russia boasting a full HD screen (1920 x 1200 pixels).
Now it’s up to content providers and app developers to make the most of all of this extra eye candy.