Samsung Galaxy S8 display: What's the deal with the new aspect ratio?

The Samsung Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ are almost upon us. And, among their many unique features, the most notable one has to be the aspect ratio of their screens. After the LG G6 and its 9:18 aspect ratio, Samsung announced their flagships with an even stranger one – 9:18.5.

According to the South Korean behemoth, this provides a large screen in a body that fits in your hand. So, combined with the extremely slim bezels, making for a screen-to-body ratio of 84.26%, the “unboxed” Galaxy phones should provide a phablet-worthy display in a smartphone body, right?

Well, if you judge by diagonals alone, yes. The Galaxy S8 comes with a 5.8” screen diagonal, and the Galaxy S8+ boasts a 6.2” one. But this doesn't matter one bit anymore. Not now, when the South Korean manufacturers shattered the molds.

But if our favorite screen size measurement is on the way out, how can we judge the display size of future handsets? Well, thankfully smartphones are still sort of rectangular. And rectangles have an easy-to-calculate surface area. And if you do that for the Galaxy S8, you will see that not only is the screen not as big as advertised, but its weird aspect ratio is actually just a clever marketing trick.

5.7 inches are not what they used to be

Changing the aspect ratio of a rectangular display, obviously changes the proportion of its diagonal, compared to the two sides. What doesn't change, though, is the shape. A rectangle, no matter of its aspect ratio, can still be seen as two right triangles, conjoined at their hypotenuses.

So, using the same method Paul used in his article about the LG G6's screen, I applied the Pythagorean theorem to calculate the sides of the Galaxy S8's rectangular display. The long side turned out to be approximately 5.22”, and the short one – 2.54”. Therefore, the surface area of the display was approximately 13.26 in2.

Now, we'll take that surface area and convert it to a 9:16 display, and see what sides we get for it. After some more calculations, I concluded that the long side would be 4.9”, and the short one – 2.7”.

Having the two sides of the 9:16 rectangle, I went back to our good old friend Pythagoras. I applied what I had learned so far, in order to find the diagonal of said rectangle. I will spare you the boring numbers and formulas, since the conclusion is what we're here for.

It turns out that if the Galaxy S8 display used the conventional aspect ratio, its diagonal would be nearly as conventional – 5.57 inches. Almost the same as that of the Galaxy S7 edge. The difference between the two would be that the Galaxy S8 would have a somewhat smaller footprint, thanks to its smaller top and bottom bezels.

What about the Galaxy S8+, though? Using the same method described above, I found out that the 9:16 equivalent of the bigger Galaxy would sport a diagonal of approximately 5.95 inches. That's 0.28” more than the Galaxy Note 5 and Note 7. Therefore, the Samsung Galaxy S8+ is not a phablet screen in a smartphone body, it's simply a tall phablet, that's just as wide as the Note 7.

16:9 video on a 18.5:9 screen – how much display area will you sacrifice?

Most of the video content you will watch on your fancy tall Samsung will be 16:9, at least for the time being. Therefore, if you decide to set the content to fill the entire screen, a portion of it will be cropped from the top and bottom, and you will not be seeing it the way it was intended to be seen.

Therefore, you will have to resort to watching “letterboxed” videos with two large chunks of solid black on each side. But how large, exactly?

In order to answer this, we will turn to Pythagoras again. And once we do, we find that the diagonal of a 16:9 video on your Galaxy S8 would be merely 5.18”, and on the S8+ - 5.54”. In terms of surface area, about 13.5% of your screen will be employed by nothing but black pixels on the left and right of the video.

Needless to say, if Samsung had stuck with the normal 9:16 aspect ratio, you'd be able to employ the full display area at all times, instead of just 86.5% of it.

How would the Galaxy S8 look with a conventional aspect ratio?

A mighty fine question. But since we're not very good with producing imaginary phones out of thin air, we'll take a page of Samsung's PR book, and work with silhouettes. By carefully creating something that resembles the “Unbox your phone” campaign by Samsung, we modified it to have two versions – one with the S8 aspect ratio, and the other – with the regular 9:16.

Both images have the same display and body surface area, and the same screen-to-body ratio. Both of them have the same curvature on the screen and the body, and lack side bezels whatsoever. They're not perfectly identical with the Galaxy S8, but are still close enough.

What's the conclusion? A 9:16 Galaxy S8 or Galaxy S8+ would be somewhat wider, but it would also be much shorter. This would allow for easier access to the top portions of the interface, without making the width too big to handle.

Pros and cons of the 9:18.5

People already have a hard time reaching the top of their phones in order to pull down the notification shade. They do not have problems reaching the bottom of their devices, opposite their thumbs, though. So, why make a taller display, that's even further away from the base of your users' thumbs?

Quite honestly, such a decision raises some questions. Same goes for LG's 9:18 screen. Some might argue that there are some shows and movies shot in this aspect ratio, and they would be right. But the majority of them are still filmed in 16:9. So, what users would do with such unorthodox screens would be to hinder the majority of the video they will consume, along with a big portion of the user experience, in order for 1% of their movies to look better.

Admittedly, there are benefits to these new aspect ratios. When it comes to reading books, working with documents or exploring the web, an extra-tall screen could come in handy, provided it is also just as wide as its predecessor. Considering this is not the case with the new Galaxy phones though, we can't help but to wonder, whether the transition to the new aspect ratio was really the best move.

Related phones

Galaxy S8
  • Display 5.8" 1440 x 2960 pixels
  • Camera 12 MP / 8 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, Octa-core, 2350 MHz
  • Storage 64 GB + microSDXC
  • Battery 3000 mAh(30h talk time)
Galaxy S8+
  • Display 6.2" 1440 x 2960 pixels
  • Camera 12 MP / 8 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, Octa-core, 2450 MHz
  • Storage 64 GB + microSDXC
  • Battery 3500 mAh(24h 3G talk time)



1. ibend

Posts: 6747; Member since: Sep 30, 2014

"The area, marked in red, would be filled with black pixels on either side of the 16 by 9 content" and that area will be perfectly black and just looks like normal bezels on other phone.. and I'd rather have that virtual border that only appear in videos, than useless physical border

7. Settings

Posts: 2943; Member since: Jul 02, 2014

Why not just buy a regular 16:9 phone? It's not like Samsung gonna supply you with 2:1 content.

9. kiko007

Posts: 7521; Member since: Feb 17, 2016

Those 16:9 phones aren't as pretty. Didn't you know... Form>Function in the tech game right now. Tall and skinny phones are coming... be prepared.

13. darkkjedii

Posts: 31748; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

Samsung, LG, and when Apple does it, it's good night.

25. bayfisher

Posts: 5; Member since: Apr 07, 2017

apple will use samsung displays for next device..........any questions

30. kiko007

Posts: 7521; Member since: Feb 17, 2016

Reading comprehension isn't your strong suit , is it?

14. willard12 unregistered

Yes, they are coming. Maybe there is a reason and that reason is actually Function>Form..... "The writing is already on the wall - blockbuster TV shows aimed at binging and streaming like Netflix's House of Cards or Amazon's Transparent are already done in the 2:1 format, and we just peeped to check how was the newest Netflix series Frontier shot - yep, in beautiful 4K, depicting the raw detail of Canadian nature, and, surprise, surprise, in 2:1 ratio. " --Daniel P. , Phonearena

17. kiko007

Posts: 7521; Member since: Feb 17, 2016

I was referring more to hand maneuverability and pocketability than aspect ratio. But I get your point nonetheless.

35. willard12 unregistered

I'm not sure if any reviewer has tested pocketablility. But, considering the devices, including the 8+, are actually smaller than several other mainstream devices, I don't see how this could be a problem.

19. Tech_fan

Posts: 94; Member since: Mar 28, 2017

stupid kiko has come early... look that useless iphone7+ height, its the same as S8+

49. Stef23

Posts: 5; Member since: Mar 03, 2016

Much prettier actually:​ofic/-728/gsmarena_001.jpg Probably the prettiest phone I've ever owned. So the only thing that remains is that Samsung wanted to dazzle and create a conversation topic... they achieved that thus far ... don't know about the long term though.

50. Stef23

Posts: 5; Member since: Mar 03, 2016

Much prettier actually: Probably the prettiest phone I've ever owned. So the only thing that remains is that Samsung wanted to dazzle and create a conversation topic... they achieved that thus far ... don't know about the long term though.

60. omnitech

Posts: 1131; Member since: Sep 28, 2016

They are called "mobile" phones and people want big displays that which are not inherently mobile nor not inherently operable with one hand. Bang! 2:1 ratio. Kill all birds with one stone. I wouldn't exactly call that form over function, this is all about function actually. but of course you are just an isheep so I am not sure why I am explaining this to you. lol

59. omnitech

Posts: 1131; Member since: Sep 28, 2016

Because they are bigger with less screen real estate..duh.

15. Macready

Posts: 1830; Member since: Dec 08, 2014

Not to mention the fact that it allows to zoom for videos, removing all black bars.

33. Joshua9007

Posts: 94; Member since: Jun 08, 2012

So even if we're going with the theory that the 2:1 aspect ratio will catch on for content creators... why did samsung add the extra .5 to the hight? It might have been b/c it would've made it closer to the G6's 5.7 and they wanted to 1-up LG. Or possibly b/c when they still were considering the fingerprint sensor under the glass, it was going to have a dedicated area always on & they had already manufactured the displays. No matter what, I would've preferred at least to go no taller than the 18:9, as it looks that this will make reaching the top notification shade much harder & just adding extra pillar boxing with videos.

41. Mixkhata1

Posts: 162; Member since: Feb 26, 2017

And i'd rather have an infinity display with minimal bezels but in 16:9 format. Getting rid of the physical buttons is a good thing. However, having 18:9 does no one favors. I binge watch tv shows on the move and i really don't like letterboxing in vids.

61. omnitech

Posts: 1131; Member since: Sep 28, 2016

16:9 with no bezels would probably look like a Tyrion style midget. I am all for it though on say a GS8 mini. but I think both paths have their strengths. I personally like the idea of a 5.8 inch display in the form factor of a 4.7 inch phone. I honestly don't think you can do that with a 16:9 aspect ratio. Maybe a 5.5 inch display? Variety is always good.

43. chbanks512

Posts: 81; Member since: Mar 07, 2017

I simply could not agree more

2. talon95

Posts: 1007; Member since: Jul 31, 2012

People don't want a wider phone, so what they did is give them a taller screen that allows for more content in most cases without making it wider. You lose nothing compared to an S7e when watching video, but you gain 13% when browsing a web page, or using split screen. So if you really prefer bezel to having pixels being turned off, go ahead and get something else.

5. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

Its wider in landscape mode.

40. marorun

Posts: 5029; Member since: Mar 30, 2015

Yes tested both LG and S8 and when you look at a webpage in landscape everything is indeed bigger. got to scroll a bit more up and down but damn thats one thing i like of those new screen ratio.

57. ebilcake

Posts: 1231; Member since: Jul 16, 2016

Websites are not really optimised for widescreen displays, advertisers like them because they can fill all the empty space with advertisements. So all you're going to get is more adverts or a slightly zoomed in experience which isn't necessarily a good thing unless you have poor eye-sight.

51. Stef23

Posts: 5; Member since: Mar 03, 2016

Taller phones also kill one handed use, so I don't see the point them neither. Also bezeless with proper aspect ratio IMO looks better:

65. Furkan

Posts: 552; Member since: Feb 25, 2017

S8 sold more than 20 millon so...

3. 23nikki1 unregistered

I don't see a point here. On other phones, this area will be filled with bezels which might be black. Had they released a 16:9 phones like mentioned above, people would have complained about wider phones which are hard to hold using a single hand. I've seen many reviews and honestly this is the first time I'm hearing something wrong about 18.5:9 aspect ratio. Even google put a word out to optimize applications for this aspect ratio. If apple decides to make the same move, I would be interested in hearing your thoughts.

20. Tech_fan

Posts: 94; Member since: Mar 28, 2017

this is IPhoneArena, dont ask these kind of questions!!!

42. ramnkc

Posts: 4; Member since: May 14, 2012

Exactly.... I read this article 2 times and I am not sure what this article for? Because I felt this is really misleading like arguing a rectangular and a square rectangular equality.

4. Arashmahmoodi25

Posts: 132; Member since: Apr 07, 2017

The thing is at the end we all want something useful, this screen​ size is not so useful for human hands. And its not so easy to use. I agree its a bit beautiful but that won't matter if its not good in hand. They didn't make a good choice I think. The thing is the designers of phones don't know s**t about designing. I admire apple for its design (not talking about os), the screen is more usable.

6. kerginaldo17 unregistered

The size has not increased practically anything (the usable area). Now you just know if the new format is good to handle, only using it.

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