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A Guide to Choosing the Best Type of Smartphone Display Screen

Updated on March 29, 2015
Today's smartphones boast a variety of different display types.
Today's smartphones boast a variety of different display types. | Source

You might be surprised to learn that today’s major smartphones often contain widely varying technology in their display screens. While most people pay little attention to the tech behind a screen’s brightness, clarity and the like, quite a few different details impact these factors. While you likely will never need to become an expert in the various types of smartphone display screen technology, learning at least their major differences can help ensure that you pick the best smartphone to meet your needs.

Retina Display

Apple has heavily promoted the Retina display found in its latest iPhones. The screens received their name due to the fact that the pixels they contain cannot be detected by the human eye, leading to very high image quality. However, this clarity does come at the cost of battery life.

The Retina Display introduced in the iPhone 4 was significantly sharper than that in any previous Apple products.
The Retina Display introduced in the iPhone 4 was significantly sharper than that in any previous Apple products. | Source

AMOLED Screens

AMOLED displays are designed to generate light when an electrical current is applied to them. Short for Active Matrix Organic Light Emitting Diodes, AMOLED displays use less power than most other display types. They also tend to provide a better viewing experience from a variety of angles, although they can be difficult to view in bright light.

The Samsung Galaxy S5 introduced the AMOLED display to many consumers.
The Samsung Galaxy S5 introduced the AMOLED display to many consumers. | Source

TFT LCDs

TFT LCDs, or Thin Film Transistor Liquid Crystal Displays, are popular due to the fact that they are reasonably affordable, but can generate very high-quality images; the thin film transistor boosts the quality beyond that of an ordinary LCD screen. The downside, however, is that these types of screens tend to distort quickly when viewed from an angle. They also tend to drain the phone’s battery more quickly than other types of screen, which means the battery must be recharged more frequently.

TFT LCD screens boast impressive visual quality,but will drain a smartphone's battery more quickly than some other screen types.
TFT LCD screens boast impressive visual quality,but will drain a smartphone's battery more quickly than some other screen types. | Source

IPS Screens

IPS, or In-Plane Switching, screens are another type of LCD. They produce an even higher quality image than TFT LCDs, while draining less power from the battery. However, they tend to be quite expensive.

IPS screens are generally more expensive than TFT LCDs, but they do not drain the smartphone;s battery as quickly.
IPS screens are generally more expensive than TFT LCDs, but they do not drain the smartphone;s battery as quickly. | Source

Gorilla Glass

Regardless of which display type you prefer, before buying a new phone, you may also want to find out whether a particular model contains Gorilla Glass in its display. Most new models from most major manufacturers contain this type of glass due to its unique ability to resist breakage, scratches and other damage. A phone containing Gorilla Glass will tend to look much nicer for a longer period of time than a phone containing some other type of glass.

Smartphone display screens made with Gorilla Glass will tend to last much longer than those made with some other type of glass.
Smartphone display screens made with Gorilla Glass will tend to last much longer than those made with some other type of glass. | Source

Touch Screen Variations

Most smartphones today contain built-in touchscreens, rather than traditional physical keyboards. That is not to say, however, that all touchscreens are created equal. There are two primary categories of touchscreen technology: capacitive and resistive. Both offer the same basic functions – the ability to touch different points on the screen to trigger different functions – but with certain significant differences.

Capacitive touchscreens are the most commonly available option in today’s smartphones. They are designed to detect the charge conducted by the touch of a finger, making them very sensitive and responsive. However, they generally do not work with a stylus or glove.

Resistive touchscreens, on the other hand, require physical pressure through several thin layers. This means that they can detect input from any surface, including a glove or stylus. However, they tend to be less responsive than capacitive touchscreens, and they include a more limited array of control options.

Smartphone touchscreens can be created using different types of technology.
Smartphone touchscreens can be created using different types of technology. | Source

Do you miss old, non-touchscreen smartphones?

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