4K smartphone display: are they worth it?

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At the recent CES 2014, 4K was everywhere, including TVs, cameras, camcorders and more. Although smartphone flagships in 2014 are rumored to have 2K displays, we can expect 4K to come to smartphones in 2015. Upon hearing this, a question is framed in all our minds: “is it worth it?”

Note: Personally, I am neither for nor against 4K in smartphones. In this article, I will try to show you the whole picture, and whatever statement I make is from an objective point of view.

UHD Phone Concept Picture

A UHD smartphone concept.

The answer to this question is simple: yes. However, I want to show you both sides of the coin. Most of the argument against 4K is the same as it was for 1080p:

  1. HD is good enough: This is what a lot of people are saying all over the Internet. They mean to say that 1080p is great, and that there is no need to use 4K. Well, I actually don’t think this is a valid reason because technology is always advancing. Even though 1080p may be great, UHD is simply better than HD. If this logic was true, why did everyone upgrade to HD from SD? Wasn’t SD good enough? This also applies to people who say. “I can’t see the pixels in my 1080p smartphone, why should I go for UHD?”
  2. Framerates: This applies to 4K video on smartphones with a UHD display. When it comes to video, spacial resolution (measured in pixels) doesn’t necessarily mean better quality. Temporal resolution (framerates) also plays a key role. Keeping this in mind, 4K video may not be very different than 1080p video even in the ideal conditions. It’s kind of like deciding between two thermometers that can go to 200 and 250 degrees respectively, when most of your reading will be around the 100 degrees. Sadly, this is kind of true, but it applies only to video.
  3. Price: Let’s face it: today, the price of a 4K TV or monitor is very high. We can expect the same thing with smartphones, although it is kind of unclear. I do know that the prices of 4K panels will drop, but that may take a while.

Here is the argument for 4K. Yes, the most obvious thing to say is that more pixels produce a better image, but pixels aren’t the only thing that makes a good panel. So here’s what’s for UHD:

  1. 4K content is growing, and fast: Whether or not you will opt for a 4K panel, it looks like content creators are. Amazon and YouTube already have support for 4K, and more and more TV shows are switching to 4K technology as well.
  2. 4K detail cannot be matched: Now I have touched up upon this in the introduction to the pros of 4K, but when it comes to pixels, the more the merrier. 4K gives an extreme amount of detail, which cannot be matched by normal HD. For your smartphone, that means even if you hold your phone up to your face, 4K’s effect will come through.
  3. 4K is great for 3D: Yes, it is highly unlikely for smartphone manufacturers to boast about 3D in their phones in the near future, when the day comes, 4K will be ideal for 3D.
  4. 4K helps solve sports controversies: (easter egg; something unrelated but true…) If you are watching something like a live sports stream on YouTube, 4K will play a key role in determining controversial calls in several sports.

Coming to an end, I’d like to say that the scale tips more towards adopting 4K. The prices will come down, it will soon become a standard, battery technology will improve, etc. Ultimately, I recommend that everyone adopts 4K and enjoys their pixels.