By Brandon Miniman | August 18, 2011 8:39 AM
And you thought the iPhone 4′s display was hot? Wait until you see the clarity afforded by true HD resolution (1280×720) on the upcoming generation of Android hardware. While OEMs like to bill their displays as “high definition”, none are truly worthy of that title because they don’t display enough pixels to be true 720p. The iPhone 4 still has the highest resolution, at 960×640, granting it a stunning 330 pixels per inch (ppi), compared to your typical WVGA 800×480 4.3″ display which provides a mere 217ppi. Even the recent wave of quarter-HD displays, which have 960×540 pixels, come in at 256ppi when used on a 4.3″ display.
There are a handful of unconfirmed devices that will bring this new 1280×720 resolution to our smartphones such as the HTC Vigor. With a 4.3″ display and 1280×720, the pixel density is a remarkable 342ppi. If you make the screen just a bit smaller at 4.0″, the ppi jumps to 367ppi.
Why would you want a display with such high resolution? Beyond the obvious bump in clarity (e.g. if the operating system takes advantage of the increased resolution, text, icons, and other UI elements become ultra crisp), you’ll get to watch HD video in true high definition.
But we also need the software to take advantage of this higher resolutions, which is likely to come with Ice Cream Sandwich. If you’re using a device with a qHD screen like the HTC Sensation, you’ll notice that items on the screen are smaller, and not necessarily sharper. That’s because Android isn’t properly tuned for resolutions above WVGA. Compare that to iOS, where the bump from HVGA resolution (on the iPhone 3GS and below) to 960×640 resolution on the iPhone 4 doesn’t decrease the size of screen elements; instead, every UI element is comprised of exactly two-times the number of pixels, making them appear extremely crisp.
A big downside to having a 720p display on a phone is the power requirements, both in terms of processing power and battery capacity. Fortunately, both should be addressed with higher-clocking multi-core CPUs (the 1.5GHz dual-core Snapdragon is just around the corner) and larger batteries.