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Quick Guide to Mobile Phone displays

Mobile phone manufacturers tend to use confusing words in regards to describing their displays. Fancy words like AMOLED display, RETINA display can be quite disorienting to the typical consumer. So here is all you need to know about mobile phone displays.

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First some key terminologies:

Pixels: Pixels are basically the tiny dots that make up your entire display.

LCD pixel VS AMOLED pixel
LCD pixel VS AMOLED pixel

Resolution: It is the number of horizontal pixels and the number of vertical pixels. Often expressed as 1080X1920(where 1080 being the number of pixels horizontally and 1920 being the number of pixels vertically). Full HD resolution means a resolution of 1080X1920. But more resolution does not always mean better display which brings me to the next item on the list.


PPI (pixels per inch) : As the name suggests, it is the number of pixels present in an inch of the display. To make it simple, just remember this: the more PPI the sharper the display. For example, a 5.5’’ display will be sharper at 402ppi rather than 296ppi.

The more PPI the sharper the display
The more PPI the sharper the display

Now that we know the basic terms, we can talk about the different display technologies:

LCD Displays:

One of the most common displays is the LCD’s (Liquid Crystal Display). These displays consist of an LCD backlight. There are mostly two types of LCD displays used in smartphones:

1) TFT-LCD (Thin-film Transistor Liquid Crystal Display)

TFT displays are mostly used in cheaper smartphones as they are the cheapest LCDs to manufacture. However, a disadvantage to TFT-LCD’s is that they consume more power and easily drains your battery. Samsung is still using a TFT LCD display on its latest Mid-range smartphones like Samsung Galaxy J7 Prime and Galaxy J5 Prime.

2) IPS-LCD (In-Plane Switching Liquid Crystal Display)

Used mostly in the midrange and high-end smartphones nowadays even seen in budget smartphones like the InFocus M370i, it is superior to the TFT variant as it provides better color reproduction, viewing angles and consumes less battery power.


Unlike the LCD’s, these displays work without an LCD backlight and use LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) which allow for better color reproduction. True blacks can be experienced and better viewing angles compared to LCDs.

Another advantage of OLED display is it can be flexible that’s why so many brands have incorporated the OLEDs to offer consumers with the luxury of bendable screens. Xiaomi has used OLED display for their Mi Note 2 and the Mi Mix. But at the same time it’s quite expensive that’s why Xiaomi, a company for offering high-end specs devices at groundbreaking prices couldn’t keep the price low this time.

OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) and AMOLED(Active-Matrix Organic Light-Emitting Diodes) are mostly similar in terms of display properties. However, the Samsung manufactured ‘Super AMOLED’ displays have slightly faster pixel reproduction. Super AMOLED screens have been used in Samsung’s recent Galaxy S7 Edge.

RETINA displays:

Just to be clear, the RETINA display is not an entirely new technology. It is simply a term used by Apple to market its products with displays with such high pixel density that show no pixelation at normal viewing distance.

Iphone 6 with RETINA display
iPhone 6 with RETINA display

The term ‘Retina display‘ has been used by Apple to market iPhones as well as iPad’s and MacBooks. Ironically, Apple’s rival, Samsung is the company that manufactures the Retina display.

These are some of the different displays you might see in the specs sheet of a mobile phone. Hopefully, this article helped you better understand displays and perhaps it might help in choosing your next smartphone.

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