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Smartphone display technologies dissected

Posted: 19 Nov 2013 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:smartphone? display? AMOLED? LCD?

The highly competitive smartphone landscape has pushed mobile phone companies to invest heavily in display design and technology. This is also one of the driving factors influencing consumer behaviour in terms of making their decision as to which phone to buy.

The continued integration of increased functionality into smartphones has put pressure on designers to find ways to use the available space more efficiently. As some of the largest electrical components in a phone or tablet, the display and touchscreen are now targets in the effort to reduce the overall device thickness while increasing the overall quality of the display.

To gain insight into their design choices and tradeoffs, TechInsights took a look at the display technology used in the flagship smartphones from five of the leading OEMs.

smartphone display tech

Not surprisingly, TechInsights discovered that these phones contain three of the most popular display technologies found in the market today: thin film transistor liquid crystal displays (TFT LCDs); in-plane switching LCD (IPS LCD) Retina displays (and LCD with higher pixel density); and active matrix organic light emitting diode (AMOLED) displays.

The TechInsights teardown team compared power dissipation, display thickness and pixel density versus cost to identify relationships between form factor and the costs different systems manufacturers incurred. It was found that display pricing was far from elastic, and that a larger size or higher pixel density did not necessarily align with increased procurement costs.

LCDs are considered a higher-power option than AMOLED displays because LCDs use more power and thus have a negative correlation to battery life. Many users continue to base satisfaction on a combination of both display quality and the time between charging. Poorer battery life for LCDs is often due the 8-12 LCD-backlight LEDs that are continuously on at various stages of brightness, compared with the million (or so) LEDs in AMOLED displays that are only on (also at various stages of brightness) when they are in use. While it is true that typically AMOLED displays will dissipate less power, it should be noted that they can actually dissipate more power when the display is bright and mostly white.

Z-height comparison

The selection of AMOLED by Samsung was also likely driven by a focus on durability and improved video and photo rendering. Samsung in particular is also basing its PenTile technology on AMOLED and is deploying this across its flagship devices.

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