4K phone screens: madness, or clearly the next big thing?

There's other reasons to dislike higher-resolution screens, rather than just cost. The more pixels a phone has to generate, the harder its processor has to work, which means a hotter, slower phone that has worse battery life – not exactly a recipe for commercial success.

Oculus Rift

It's essential Oculus Rift has a high-res screen as the lens is closer to the eye

There are, however, a few beacons of hope for the 4K smartphone screen. The first, and most often-quoted, is the rise of the phablet. Phablets have significantly larger screens than your average run-of-the-mill smartphone, so the 4K screen has more room to work its magic.

More importantly, a hi-res screen offers companies a useful selling point: the LG G3 does technically have a sharper, crisper and clearer display than the Galaxy S5; it's just the no-one would ever be able to tell the difference.

That's not to say that all small 4K displays are useless, however. The evolution of devices like the Oculus Rift have moved screens radically closer to our eyes, which means that a much higher-res screen is necessary (compared to a smartphone) to be able to get all pixels blurred into one.

Pixel density: is the interest finally dying?

There is, however, one small glimmer of hope that manufacturers will shy away from building 4K phones in favour of better battery life and cheaper component prices: the phone-buying public seems to be getting over its obsession with pixel density.

Google Trends, a tool that lets you track a subject's popularity on the internet, shows that interest in 'pixel density' has spiked over the last few years, but is slowly falling back to pre-iPhone 4-levels as PPI stops being a major selling point.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S

Samsung has hinted at 4K screens in the future

Where does that leave 4K phones, then? Samsung and LG, two of the powerhouses of hi-def smartphones, have hinted in the past that 4K phone screens are a possibility, but have shied away from expressly stating they're in the works.

Most likely, then, 4K phones will be a reality in the next few years – but whether or not they'll be a hit lies with the phone-buying public.