Why Higher-Resolution Displays in Phones are a Marketing Gimmick, Not a Functional Feature

Why Higher-Resolution Displays in Phones are a Marketing Gimmick, Not a Functional Feature

Jan 31, 2014

So, the rumor has it that the Galaxy S5 will have a 2560×1440 screen. Frankly, this is absolutely ridiculous. There’s no good reason for this to exist, because there’s such diminishing returns from a high-resolution screen. It’s time for Android manufacturers’ obsession with resolution to stop.

Now, getting up to 1080p was an acceptable idea, if not perhaps excessive in and of itself. After all, 1080p is a very standardized resolution in monitors, TVs, and entertainment, especially video content. Exceeding requires a particularly good reason. Monitors can make do of extra pixels in order to put more items on screen, and the “retina” movement hasn’t hit in a widespread way yet. As well, tablets going for “retina” resolutions often need to exceed 1080p.

But see, there’s a certain point where this all these extra pixels get to be too much. The push for 4K TVs are one example: for most people, even 1080p TVs are unnecessary because the eye can’t resolve detail beyond a certain point. Only in very, very large rooms will 4K TVs make a difference. For the average person or family, the TV they have right now is of high enough resolution. Doubling the vertical resolution won’t cause a noticeable quality bump. It’s all just a marketing push to sell new TVs because there was a successful push to get people to buy new TVs about 10–15 years ago. Of course, that worked out of necessity. 4K won’t because there won’t be any good reason for it.

This is a very similar situation with smartphones. Apple calls it a “Retina Display” because it’s said that the screen is at a pixel density where the human eye can’t resolve anything more detailed than that – at least for the expected use case of the device. For example, the iPhone, which is held closer than an iPad, has a higher pixel density than the tablet.

The iPhone 4's pixel doubling made sense - anything beyond that would likely be imperceptible.

The iPhone 4’s pixel doubling made sense – anything beyond that would likely be imperceptible.

What’s happened is that others have started making higher-resolution screens to match the Retina Display, but much like TVs, they’ve started making higher and higher resolution displays because hey, that’s a sexy bullet point. Now, stopping at 1080p makes sense. Again, 1080p is a very standard resolution. Advancing to 2560×1440 on a phone makes no sense. The human eye will only perceive a slight difference if any at all from 1080p at a 5" screen size.

As well, this will require even higher-resolution art assets from developers, which will bloat up app sizes and spend more data, which isn’t necessarily getting increased limits. Video content will now be upscaled on smartphones for no good reason. And games will particularly suffer: instead of being able to take full advantage of any power boost, now the games must also deal with pushing extra pixels. This can make a big difference, as anyone who plays PC games can tell you. Even small jumps can cause big performance hits.

And this is all isn’t for any good reason, either – it’s basically to get a sexy bullet point. OR to say that “we have twice the resolution fo the iPhone.”

While perhaps the march of false progress will continue unabated, consumers can make smart decisions. They can look beyond useless features for actual value, and realize that resolution isn’t everything. Just as a camera’s megapixels alone don’t determine quality, but the quality of the sensors plays a bigger role, consumers need to be smart and realize which numbers are important, and which are just there to seem more important.

KickStarter Spotlight: HabitRPG

KickStarter Spotlight: HabitRPG

Jan 16, 2013

I just wrote an app review about an app that really helps me keep my life organized called Catch Notes. In that post I talk about the struggles I – like millions of other people – have with remembering events and to-do items. Apps in this space are generally very similar and are just slightly different iterations of the same thing; the idea stays consistent and there is very little motivation to pay attention to them. This is most apparent when trying to work on bad habits or trying to start new good ones. This is not going to be a cheesy New Year’s post, but the best way to change for the better is to work on the small things instead of trying to make large drastic changes. Since the biggest problem with existing apps is that there is a lack of motivation to continue checking them, and the medium that has most mastered this addictive motivation are video games, it was only a matter of time before there was a hybrid love-child of the two. This chimera is one of the more creative KickStarter projects we have done here, and it is called HabitRPG.

For all those who are confused, do not worry, for it is a very strange concept at first. But after thinking about it for a while the concept is startlingly simple: give the user a RPG avatar who levels up and earns new gear based on how successful set habits or reminders are completed. My first reaction upon hearing this, however, was that it is kind of strange that people would be needing this. HabitRPG is like playing an objective based video game of real life but through an avatar.

This concept would probably lead many people to shake their heads and declare the end of the civilized world entirely, but I can really see a set of people that this project would work. In fact, HabitRPG has been a fully working website for quite some time now, but the bugs are starting to mount and demands for a mobile app are rising. To fulfill these needs, developer Tyler Renelle needs to make HabitRPG his full time job which means a steady source of income. That is why he is seeking out KickStarter like so many others to help offset the cost of making these apps. While I do not think that I need this much motivation, those who are having trouble making those small lifestyle adjustments might want to give Tyler and his very inventive app the funding it needs.