What you need to know about smartphone screens, part 2 (video)

In our last episode we talked about the glass that covers our smartphone screens. Today we’re diving into the types of displays under that glass, the pros and cons of both types, and which you’ll want in your next smartphone or tablet.

Touch Screens

Screens recognize touch by one of two technologies: resistive or capacitive. Resistive touch screens all but require a stylus or similar device be used to register accurate touches. These are the types of screens that we had back in the Palm, Newton, and Windows Mobile days. They’re not terribly expensive to manufacture, but they aren’t that finger-friendly.

Capacitive screens are much faster, are easier to use with fingers, but are a bit more expensive than resistive technologies. You’ll be hard pressed to find anything but capacitive screens these days.


Liquid Crystal Displays (LCDs) have been used for a very long time. Take a look at that old wrist-watch that you wore in grade school. That’s an LCD. Electricity passes through a screen and toggles an area of liquid crystals from transparent to opaque. To see these, you’ve got to either have a backlight, or panel to reflect the ambient light back through it.

Today, we’ve applied that technology to flat panels, and even added color. Think of this sort of like a stained glass window. To see the beautiful picture, the image has to be backlit. Such is the case with LCD displays.

LCD displays come in two major varieties: TFT (thin-film transistor) and IPS (in-place switching). TFT is less expensive than IPS, but doesn’t have as many features, like better viewing angles.


The large screen at your local sporting event is likely an LED panel. This is the same sort of technology that powers many smartphone screens today — only much, much smaller. Unlike LCDs that require an external light source, LEDs emit their own light — and it’s colored, too! This can result in significant battery savings, especially if the phone’s manufacturer has customized its theme for the strengths of the particular LED technology.

OLED (organic LED) uses carbon rather than silica in the construction of the panel. This is a really cool technology that is showing significant improvement in our mobile devices. AMOLED (active matrix OLED) is the leading technology.

Blacks are generally deeper than those found on LCDs, but LCDs usually have more vibrant colors than LEDs.

Various manufacturers are trying to combine the display, touch screen, and protective panel into one component rather than individual parts. Some are doing better than others. In addition to reducing cost, this approach helps make devices stronger and thinner.


So which is best for you? There are pros and cons to both types of display, not to mention each subset. Each one is going to look better to one person than it does to another. Ultimately, use your own eyes. Whenever possible, take a look at the display a device uses before you drop the cash for it.

You’re the best person to determine what looks best to you!

Share This Post

Watch the Latest Pocketnow Videos

About The Author
Joe Levi
Joe graduated from Weber State University with two degrees in Information Systems and Technologies. He has carried mobile devices with him for more than a decade, including Apple's Newton, Microsoft's Handheld and Palm Sized PCs, and is Pocketnow's "Android Guy". By day you'll find Joe coding web pages, tweaking for SEO, and leveraging social media to spread the word. By night you'll probably find him writing technology and "prepping" articles, as well as shooting video. Read more about Joe Levi here.