LG has confirmed that it's going to be using a bleedingly sharp screen in its upcoming LG G3 smartphone, and that's caused an outcry.
'It's pointless pixels and it's going to kill my battery!' the panicked smartphone buyers are lamenting, before realising there are more important things to worry about.
The fear is that plugging 1.8x more pixels into a 5.5-inch panel (compared to a current Full HD display) will make the LG G3 all glitz and no substance, a phone that can't last three hours on a single charge and has a horrendous viewing experience.
While some might question the need for such a high-resolution display (Apple wasn't far wrong when it said its Retina Display in the iPhone 4 was as sharp as the eye could realistically discern) there are other benefits to the new screen technology.
The problems LG is facing are huge: integrating a QHD (2560x1440 pixel) display isn't a case of just stuffing in more pixels and hoping for the best, as you've got myriad issues of brightness, battery life and general performance to think about.
With that level of pixel density (538PPI compared to around 420 in modern Full HD phones), getting the light out of the phone is hard, as essentially each pixel is a tiny window - and those windows need frames, which block light. More frames leads to a darker display.
LG reckons it's cracked this problem, a benefit of being the producer of both the screen and the smartphone it's going to be thrust into. It's redesigned the pixel structure to allow more light through - essentially making the frames thinner, which it reckons offers a brightness equivalent to the LG G2.
Given that was one of, if not the, best screens on the market in 2013, that's no mean claim - and LG is also stating that it will offer improved colour reproduction and sharpness in viewing text too.
Back(plane) to the future
Another element needed to make the screen bright enough is improving the backplane. This piece of technology sits behind any display and provides all the connections, allowing the phone to tell the screen what to show and how to show it.
The current trend is to use something called low temperature polysilicon (LTPS), which is still a relatively new technology to the smartphone world - although widely used, it's a technology that's coming into its own as higher density and larger displays are being used.
It allows electrons to flow more efficiently through to the panel, as well as more compact packaging of the components.
This technology has been mooted as a good way of improving OLED performance for years, but it's only now starting to be used in high volumes in the smartphone market due to the higher cost of production (and the lack of a need for such a solution in most handsets) and is being used in LCD screens too now.
The good news is that this tech will also allow for improved battery efficiency - it will need to be combined with a next generation graphics processor to properly push the battery hard, but it's not a foregone conclusion that LG could pull this off and not make consumers choose between a beautiful screen and a phone that powers down three seconds after you've turned it on.
If you look at the battery tests in our in-depth mobile phone reviews, LG consistently comes out on top, showing that its handsets are reliably among the most efficient while offering market-leading performance (in the case of the LG G2) or innovation (such as the LG G Flex, with its bendable screen).
Heading off the competition
There's a sub-plot at work here to complement the technological advancement: making sure it wins against arch-rival Samsung. It's no secret that the two firms are both pushing hard in the QHD (and even 4K) space for mobile devices, so both want to be first to market with a device.
It looks like LG will get the jump with the G3, which launches on 27 May, but Samsung is heavily rumoured to be creating a premium version of the Galaxy S5 to launch in June as it attempts to stay the pace of innovation.
It's also worth noting that LG has announced the Isai, a Japan-only handset that features the same screen technology to be used on the LG G3, and other firms (Vivo and Oppo) have released QHD handsets already. However, with the G3, LG will be bringing a next-gen screen to the world, which comes with issues around manufacturing in the required volumes too.
There's more than bragging rights available here though, as both firms also manufacture these displays for other brands, so being first to market (with a decent screen) will enhance the bottom line in other ways beyond selling more smartphones.
Of course, all the above could turn out to be moot if the display on the LG G3 isn't up to the required standard. Time and again we've seen manufacturers implement technology for the sake of it, just to be seen as a leader, and that product fail to ignite sales due to poor performance, and only the second or third generation of the technology getting the required level of performance (if there's enough interest in continuing it at all).
With all the difficulty involved in making the screens (one of the heavily-rumoured reasons the Samsung Galaxy S5 Prime wasn't launched earlier in the year), LG will either need to have solved this issue or not really care about selling many high-end phones.
Given this is a flagship product, LG must be confident it's worked out a way to make a QHD display work in the G3, otherwise it's gambling pretty stupidly on a technology that could make or break the company's fortunes in the smartphone industry this year.
- Want to know more about the LG G3? Here's everything we know so far.
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