Do Phones Really Need a 4K Display?

on September 2, 2015, the Sony Xperia Z5 was announced by the BBC as a new smartphone with a 4K resolution display. Despite the many performance enhancements this particular mobile device brings to the table, this resolution was in itself a selling point that the phone boasted. This release has become the center of attention of various different publications, bringing with it a series of questions of just how far we should go with smartphone resolutions. Is 4K really a necessary resolution for a smartphone? And, more importantly, does this resolution even make a difference when placed side-to-side with previous high-end models?

So It Came…

In December of 2014, I wrote an article making some predictions about the mobile market in 2015, postulating that high-end mobile devices will end up having 4K screens. The release of the Xperia Z5 was not much of a surprise, considering that 1080p is a standard in most mid-range and high-end phones. Such is the evolution of the tech market, and wherever there are limits, there will always be a desire to break them.

The question now is whether the limit was meant to be broken.

How Far from Your Screen Are You?


There’s a reason why I recommended 4K resolutions for very large monitors, especially if you sit a small distance from them. Pixelation becomes more pronounced on larger screens when you view content at lower resolutions. The inverse happens when you are sitting farther away from a screen. On a 35-inch monitor, an image may appear slightly pixelated when you attempt to view it at a 1080p resolution. This will only get worse at the 720p or 480p resolutions. Having 4K here is actually quite useful.

One could argue that even a 10.1-inch tablet could benefit from 4K because of the seamless detail it presents (although battery life would suffer as a result of very high pixel densities).

But when you begin to talk about 4K resolution in smartphones with screens measuring just shy of 6 inches, you get reactions like Vlad Savov’s when he said that “Going 4K is just silly.”

Is 4K Really Necessary in a Smartphone?

Phones are small devices. As a result of this, they can achieve amazing pixel densities in a provided resolution when compared to PC displays and television sets. Whether a 4K resolution is necessary or not is a question that the market will answer on its own. Even if 4K isn’t important to most consumers, the Xperia Z5 has brought other improvements to the table that may entice people to buy the phone anyway. We may never know whether most people believe that this enormous resolution is really necessary on such a tiny platform. However, we can take a good guess from an objective standpoint and say that 4K is a gimmick that serves nary a purpose unless you are viewing an image on your phone with your eyes positioned closer than one centimeter from the screen. In such a case, it’s more likely a case of visual problems than a need for a higher resolution!

Would you be aching to buy a 4K phone, and – more importantly – do you believe it is really necessary? Tell us what you think in a comment!

Miguel Leiva-Gomez
Miguel Leiva-Gomez

Miguel has been a business growth and technology expert for more than a decade and has written software for even longer. From his little castle in Romania, he presents cold and analytical perspectives to things that affect the tech world.

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