By Stephen Schenck | November 13, 2012 7:52 PM
With Verizon and HTC’s announcement of the Droid DNA earlier today, the era of the 1080p smartphone has really begun. HTC won’t be going it alone, and we expect to see similar 1080p Androids start arriving from a number of other manufacturers over the coming months. For as impressive as the idea of 1080p phone sounds, we’re still far from convinced that it’s necessarily a good idea. Issues like power consumption and effects on performance continue to weigh heavy on out minds, let alone concerns that these pixels are simply too small to even appreciate in the first place. While I’m hopeful that handsets like the Droid DNA will eventually find their home in the market, even with those limitations, I’m just as intrigued by the idea of what this same kind of pixel-dense screen could mean for other, smaller smartphones.
Five-inch (and larger) devices are great; I loved the first Galaxy Note with its 5.3-inch display, but there’s a time and a place for phones like that. If you’ve got a jacket pocket or bag the phone can live in, that’s fantastic, but something that size can be positively unwieldy to carry around shoved in a pocket. I’m not even a big fan of toting four-to-five inch smartphones in cramped pockets, either. For me, the ideal phone size, so far as portability is concerned, is well below the four-inch mark.
The problem is, as we’ve already discussed, options start flying out the window when it comes to smaller smartphones. God forbid you want a handset with the latest-and-greatest processor, storage options, and screen tech while not being a fan of something with a screen pushing 4.5 inches.
Since the Galaxy Nexus arrived, we’ve seen 720p fast become the standard for respectable Androids. While largely confined to the bigger Android handsets, we’ve seen 720p make some efforts at squeezing its way onto smaller screens. As hard as I try, though, I can’t think of any released 720p handset that’s managed to end up with a screen smaller than 4.3 inches. RIM might actually be the one to break that mark, if the phone codenamed London actually manages to arrive with a 4.2-inch 720p component.
I would absolutely love to see some Android manufacturer take advantage of the fabrication techniques being used to produce these five-inch 1080p displays, with their 440 pixels-per-inch density, and release phones with 720p screens in the three-to-four inch range. They don’t even need to push things quite that small; a 3.5-inch 720p display would have a density of around 420ppi, while a 3.7-incher is closer to 400ppi.
Now sure, there’s still the question of whether or not your eyes can appreciate detail that fine, but this solves a number of problems. For one, we’re talking about less than half as many pixels as with 1080p, so our performance and power concerns just seriously got mitigated. Personally, I tend to hold devices closer to my eyes the smaller they are, and between that and the slightly-larger-than-440ppi pixels we’re now talking about, even the perception issue starts to sound less important.
All the needed components feel like they’re finally available to create a really high-end, yet fantastically compact smartphone. In fact, this is exactly the sort of thing I was getting at last month when I was complaining about how Samsung completely missed the mark with the Galaxy S III Mini.
Come on; give it a shot, somebody! Android manufacturers are an incredibly game bunch, and we’ve seen them take stabs at some pretty out-there phone designs. Compared to the likes of the Kyocera Echo or your 3D phone of choice, a high-end smaller handset with a beautiful, pixel-dense screen sounds positively sane. Let’s make it happen, already!