5-Inch Smartphone Displays To Be Standard In 2013

Jan 19, 2013 (04:01 AM EST)

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2013 is shaping up to be a good year for smartphones. We need only look at the latest leak from LG to see what's in store from handset makers for the remainder of the year.

LG today accidentally revealed the LG Optimus G Pro, an update to its existing smartphone, the Optimus G (sold in the U.S. by AT&T and Sprint). According to the leaked slide, which was first published by Engadget, the G Pro will feature a 1.7 GHz Snapdragon S4 Pro processor with 2GB RAM and 32GB of built-in storage. It will also offer LTE and a massive 3,000 mAh battery. But the defining characteristic of the G Pro will be a 5-inch high-definition display with 1920 x 1080 pixels. Sounds juicy, right?

What's interesting about the Optimus G Pro is that we've seen this display before, and we'll probably see it again. For example, the HTC Droid DNA, sold by Verizon Wireless, has a 5-inch display with 1920 x 1080 pixels.

[ Check out some of the latest smartphones from CES: CES 2013: New Smartphones On Deck. ]

During CES, Huawei announced the Ascend D2, which has a 5-inch 1920 x 1080p full HD screen. Huawei calls the D2's display "Super Retina" with its 443 pixels per inch. The pixel density matches the HTC DNA and easily beats Apple's iPhones. Other devices announced at CES with this same 5-inch panel include the Sony Xperia Z and the ZTE Grand S.

Another leaked handset, the HTC M7, purports to have a 5-inch full HD display as well.

It's pretty clear that handset makers are moving to 5-inch panels for their leading devices. In 2012, the leading devices had screens measuring 4.7 or 4.8 inches. In 2011, the leading devices had screens measuring 4.3 or 4.5 inches. While many smartphones are still shipping with 880 x 400, 940 x 560, and 1280 x 720 pixel displays, full high-definition will set the benchmark in 2013.

This begs the question: what will happen to screen sizes in 2014?

Well, they can't get much bigger. Today's phablets are shipping with screens measuring between 5 and 6 inches. The problem with phablets is they are unwieldy to use day in and day out as regular phones. It makes sense that the best devices that still qualify as smartphones have screens that max out at the 5-inch mark. Any bigger than that, and they'll cross into phablet territory.

There's not much point in shooting for higher resolutions, either. The best video content available is shot in 1080p HD, which matches exactly the resolution of the 5-inch panel to be used in many of this year's devices. Further, most mobile processors support 1080p video, but not video at resolutions higher than that.

Now that smartphones offer huge, high-def displays, smartphone makers will need to come up with other ways to make their products impressive.

Tech spending is looking up, but IT must focus more on customers and less on internal systems. Also in the all-digital Outlook 2013 issue of InformationWeek: Five painless rules for encryption. (Free registration required.)