updated 06:53 am EST, Wed December 19, 2012
2013 to be the year of high-res mobile displays
A new report by Digitimes Research examing developments in the flat panel market shows that a major trend expected in 2013 will be a shift towards much higher resolution displays for mobile devices. The report estimates that smartphone panels with 400 pixels per inch and higher, which only began in this quarter, will reach around 78 million units by this time next year. Conversely, panels with 150ppi and less will start to decline as users demand better displays on their devices, a trend started by Apple with the iPhone 4 in 2010 that featured a display with a pixel density of 326ppi.
However, where the Retina display in the iPhone 4, 4S and iPhone 5 sport a pixel density of 326ppi, Apple has started to be left behind by manufacturers who have started shipping devices with 5-inch displays with 440ppi. Devices shipping with the new 5-inch 1080p displays include the HTC Droid DNA and the Oppo Find 5. The vaunted 9.7-inch 264ppi Retina display in the third and fourth-generation iPads has also been leapfrogged by the Google Nexus 10 that packs a 10-inch display with 300ppi.
While the fragmented Android app and device ecosystem has learnt to accommodate devices with a wide array of varying specifications, Apple has worked hard to ensure as much consistency as possible with shifts to higher pixel densities being carefully managed through a doubling of display resolution. This has made it easy for developers to adapt their apps for the higher resolution changes, although this trend ended with the 4-inch 16:9 widescreen display used in the iPhone 5. However, if Apple continues with its traditional approach to doubling display resolution, it could put it at a specification disadvantage if it maints this approach moving forward; Android OEM's, in contrast, will not feel the yoke of any such contraints.
For lovers of high-resolution displays, 2013 is shaping up to be a watershed year for smartphones. In terms of other larger mobile displays, Apple is once again setting the pace with its new MacBook Pros with Retina displays, where it currently remains unchallenged. However, if the pattern in the smartphone and tablet space is repeated, a high pixel density display battle in the notebook segment could be set to emerge in the near future as well.