Did you know that the screen of your phone or tablet is actually the part that eats the most battery in daily use? While battery breakthroughs are hard to come by and seem to happen once in a century rather than a decade, there are a few technologies coming on a larger scale in 2014 that will help our phones and tablets last longer and look better. How do we know? We already got a taste of the future in 2013, and all chances are that small bite will finally turn into a feast in 2014.
The biggest advancement in screen technology is something we don't talk about that often - power consumption. Just a couple of years ago, nearly all mobile displays were made using amorphous silicon (a-Si) technology. Even the state of the art 2012 Nexus 10 with its extremely sharp screen uses it. In 2013, we finally got a bite of IGZO and LTPS. The cryptic acronyms (we explain them in more depth in the slideshow below) bring us huge power savings. IGZO is used in the iPad Air and draws just nearly 75% of the power a Nexus 10 display uses, while LTPS in tablets like the Amazon Kindle Fire HDX tops that and uses just a fraction of the power.
Along with that huge innovation come the now usual advancements in screen resolution as we move to QHD (2560 x 1440 pixels on a smartphone), a more resilient Gorilla Glass and more. Take a look at what this year will bring right below.
All eyes on 2014: what's next for mobile displays
All eyes on 2014: what's next for mobile displays
1. The new resolution: 2560 x 1440, QHD
First, let’s speak about the elephant in the room - QHD. Often referred to as 2K or WQHD, we have decided to use the QHD name that most display makers use for the 2560 x 1440-pixel screens that we’ll see on smartphones in 2014. Cramming even more pixels in our smartphones displays will make everything our screens look sharper, but the change will be most noticeable when looking at fine elements - for instance when reading text that will look very crisp and paper-like. We’re smitten by the quick advances in display resolutions. In a push driven by Apple with its “Retina” screen, the boom started happening around 2010 with the iPhone 4’s 640 x 960 pixel screen. 720p followed quickly after in devices like the Samsung Galaxy S III in 2012, and everyone moved to 1080p in 2013.
2. The big story: LTPS will bring us longer lasting phones and tablets
Resolution is just part of the story, though. The drive for more pixels brought us to the limits of the amorphous silicon (a-Si) technology. The limit was something called electron mobility that was too slow for our new pixel appetites. The saviour was talked about for years prior, and it was Sharp’s new indium gallium zinc oxide (IGZO) technology. IGZO promised more than 10x the electron mobility at only a fraction of the power budget. A true win-win situation. The technology finally arrived in the 2013 iPad Air and iPad mini with Retina, but meanwhile - a bit under the radars - an even more efficient technology called low-temperature polycrystalline silicon (LTPS) gained some traction in tablets like the Microsoft Surface 2 and the Amazon Kindle Fire HDX. These two became the longest lasting tablets out there for a reason, but we expect LTPS to gain even wider acceptance in 2014. This year might help us move from tablets lasting 10 hours on a single charge to a new generation of tablets lasting 15 hours on a single charge shift.
3. Gorilla Glass 4: antimicrobial, anti-reflective
Third in order, but not in importance, is the new Gorilla Glass 4 that will add microbe resistance, protection from reflections and more to our mobile displays. Corning has just confirmed it will be demoing an antimicrobial and antireflective new glass at CES 2014, so stay tuned for an actual product demo in just a few days.
4. Ahead of the curve: new form factors
Curved displays finally arrived in 2013, but the actual device they were in were not flexible. That was a bit of disappointment for the average user who expected a new form factor. Despite that slight setback from customers after the LG G Flex and Samsung Galaxy Round made the rounds, flexible display technology will only continue to evolve and gain scale in 2014. Leaked Samsung slides revealed the company actually plans to unleash flexible phones on us en masse only in 2015 and later. Patience is virtue, remember.
5. Better visibility: Apical’s Assertive Display
A software technology that helps a screen adjust to light just as a human eye would, Apical’s Assertive Display tech, made a quite debut in 2013, but it’s set to get more acceptance this year, in 2014. Right now in devices like the Nokia Lumia 1520 and the Amazon Kindle Fire HD series of tablets, it keeps pace with changing light much better than all others. The beauty of it all is that it’s a purely software-based solution that supports Qualcomm’s Snapdragon line of chips, so we can easily see it in many new devices.