Sharp develops 4K smartphone display

15 Apr 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Sharp announces a 5.5-inch IGZO display with 4K resolution.

There’s little question Sharp’s small ultra-high resolution IGZO displays will wind up in smartphones someday; the size fits snugly with increasingly popular phablet devices like the iPhone 6 Plus. (Sharp reportedly is one of the companies supplying Apple with displays).

After Samsung, which is expected to fit its upcoming Galaxy Note 5 with a 4K AMOLED display, Sharp will be the second display maker to attain the feat. Raymond Soneira, president of DisplayMate Technologies. “In many/most cases the additional sharpness and resolution are lost for most people, most applications, and most viewing conditions” he said in an email. Considering that Sharp says it won’t mass-produce the display until 2016, this sounds like a tease to get some publicity for its efforts rather than a presentation of a working model. That’s not to say you should dismiss a 4K smartphone display altogether; it’ll have ancillary benefits, Soneira says, not the least of which is making it easier to rescale the Full HD content that will become standard as content creators fully embrace 4K. Considering that 4K is only now starting to hit the mainstream in televisions, there has to be a lot of work still to do to ensure a screen like that doesn’t destroy a phone’s battery life.

And those gifted with peregrine-esque eyesight will be able to discern subtle differences in detailed graphics and tiny text if they want to blow an afternoon doing so. Why this matters: There’s really no need for smartphone display to offer a density greater than 500 pixels per inch—that’s already well beyond what your eyes can resolve at the distance one typically uses a smartphone. None of which seems particularly worth it, especially when you consider the battery-hoovering required to keep all those pixels lit. 4K smartphone displays will look great on signage (Ultra Retina HD, anyone?) but would be a giant shrug in practice for everyone but companies making battery cases. If you haven’t tried a virtual reality headset like the Oculus Rift or HTV Vive yet, the first thing to know is that you’re in the vast majority; despite years of promising demos, there’s no high-end, head-mounted virtual reality display on the market yet. Brian Blau, an analyst with Gartner who focuses on consumer technology, including virtual reality, says the VR benefit of putting ultra-high resolution in virtual reality head-mounted displays will be immediate and obvious. “If the display resolution isn’t high enough, you tend to see the individual pixels,” explains Blau.

All these things will certainly add into the cost and phones sporting the 4K panel will certainly be sold at a premium, unless makers are willing to take a price cut to get the first mover advantage. They also require two separate images to create the illusion of depth, fuzzing up the resulting image even more. “So having a high resolution display means the difference between the individual pixels goes away,” says Blau. “And all of a sudden you start to see a smoother virtual world … It gives you that feeling of suspension of disbelief.” While that applies to everything from smartphone-based headsets like Google Cardboard to fully integrated devices like Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, it’s the standalone head-mounted displays that are more likely to benefit. They tend to be wired, meaning battery life isn’t an issue, and Blau notes they can take advantage of the powerful processors of a tethered computer. Smartphones will have made plenty of advances by the time the new Sharp display reaches mass production next year, but being able to sustain a high-quality 4K VR experience for any amount of time—if it all—isn’t likely to be one of them. So while you’re right not to care much about a 5.5-inch smartphone display stuffed with more pixels than you could ever hope to see, if you care at all about virtual reality your excitement is justified.

Sharp’s 4K mighty mite, and those that will surely follow, will be what finally makes the goofy headsets of the future more like looking through a window than a screen door.

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