Apparently, the next lot of smartphones might just come with 2K screens—these are displays with a resolution of 2560x1440 pixels. A company named Vivo has already demoed such a phone, while rumours are flying around that Samsung's next flagship might have it too. To me, it's all a little ridiculous.
Good Displays Aren't Only About Pixels
Ever since Apple came out with a "Retina Display" and touted its "ppi" (pixels per inch), everyone has been going nuts trying to cram more pixels into a screen. And generally, yes, the more pixels in a given space, the sharper the image will look. But pixels or resolution aren't the only things that go into making a good screen. I've seen many phones that have qVGA (960x540) resolution look better than an HD (1280x720) screen. And the same goes for HD displays that look better than FullHD (1920x1080) screens.
A mobile phone's display depends on various factors apart from the pixels. There's the type of panel used—you've probably heard of jargon like AMOLED, LCD, IPS and more being thrown around. There's the image processor, like Sony's touted Mobile Bravia Engine. Even the type of scratch-resistant glass coating has an effect on the quality of the display. Several factors have to come together to make for a good-looking display and just amping up one—like the resolution—isn't going to help.
So Why Are Pixels Talked About So Much
There's a pretty simple explanation for why resolution becomes the most talked-about factor: it has cold numbers where bigger is better. It's really that simple. In cameras, the technology behind producing a good image is much more than what your megapixel count is, but we have reached a point where most people mistakenly believe "more megapixels = better camera."
Similarly, in displays, the rest of the technology involved isn't easy to understand or explain—even in the course of research for this article, I haven't got a grasp on all aspects yet. But a simple measure of numbers, where bigger is better, is something anyone can easily digest and hence this is the point which companies like to boast.
The Real-World Test
I have long maintained that for phones around 5 inches, it is difficult to tell an HD screen apart from a FullHD one unless you are going to be inspecting it very closely. Most people would hold the phone at the level of their elbow or perhaps a few inches closer. At that