Report: Samsung and LG to pass on 4K smartphones in 2016

by: Matthew BensonDecember 17, 2015


Whereas last week brought a bounty of beautiful renders – allegedly – showing the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Plusthis week brings with it some news about the screen spec situation. According to a new report circulating around the internet, and purportedly based on Korean sources, both Samsung and LG will be forgoing 4K smartphone displays next year, instead focusing on the QHD panels already in production.

Despite the drive from both Korean companies to push both standard OLED displays and curved variants, it seems there are a few issues preventing the adoption of Ultra HD:

  1. Power-related problems: battery consumption (drain) as well as overheating related to the high resolution panels.
  2. A lack of readily available 4K media to take advantage of such a resolution.
  3. Insufficient orders from OEMs and other customers for the QHD panels.
  4. A claim that 4K display is intrinsically linked to 4K content, which will largely require 5G network infrastructure.

Please be aware that at the moment, this is all but speculation and should not be taken as factual nor suggested as a clear indication of what Samsung Display and LG Display will offer in the coming year. LG was the first major OEM to use a QHD panel with the release of its G3 last year, shortly followed-up by Samsung with its Korea-only Galaxy S5 Broadband LTE-Advanced handset.

4K display resolution

For reference, Quad HD (QHD) is defined as 2560 X 1440 pixels. 4K  is defined as 4096 X 2160 pixels. Smartphones and other consumer devices, however, have a slightly lower “4K” display resolution at 3840 X 2160 prompting some to refer to it instead as Ultra HD. Full HD is 1920 X 1280 resolution.

“Stuck” with QHD: Would it even matter?

A short while ago, we published a piece on the Sony Xperia Z5 Premium, the world’s first 4K smartphone. Despite clever marketing, the actual images produced by the phone are almost always running at standard Full HD (FHD) resolution. Sony itself has cited battery-related power consumption issues as reasoning, and many have argued that the Snapdragon 810 SoC simply could not handle running 4K resolution 24-7 given its propensity for getting toasty.

sony xperia z5 premium aa 11

Many OEMs are still content with using Full HD panels on their devices, and many consumers – and some tech writers – often argue that QHD on a 5.X-inch screen is almost superfluous given the purported limitations of the average human eye. With that said, when viewing a QHD smartphone display next to a Full HD display, the differences – while not egregiously dramatic for most people – are still noticeable.

If QHD is often cited as overkill, then 4K serves to go beyond that. While it is useful for purposes such as virtual reality headsets, the four points listed earlier are valid points in an argument to forgo such a high resolution. There would indeed by marketing benefits, but when considering battery life and actual ability to view 4K content the costs involved with implementing such panels don’t seem as clear cut as say, QHD or just plain Full HD.

Wrap Up

While today’s news is hardly a proven fact, it is nonetheless new food for thought. We want to hear what you think: would you be upset if Samsung or LG fail to deliver on 4K next year? Do you care? Leave us your comments below!

  • Good

  • ConCal

    Good, the repreve of the resolution race will allow battery life to get a lot better on this generation of smartphones.

  • dxYuYu

    Honestly I’d still prefer a 720p flagship in 2016 given that it’ll be better practically

    • Armaan Modi


    • teomor

      720p is just perfect for sub 5″ devices. I recently switched to a S5 mini, for the size and amazing battery life, after having pretty much all of the “flagship” devices for a few months each..

  • Ugnius Igaris

    I like how 4k works on the Z5 Premium. I, as a slow internet user benefit from upscaling only when watching video on youtube or in my gallery. My internet can’t handle 2k and sometimes even FHD. So 4k display on the Z5 premium is just perfect for me because I can watch 4k content without the need of fast internet. If Samsung and LG are going to create 4k display, I wish they would make it the same as in Z5P. If not I would say 4k isn’t beneficial at all because of the battery drain, laggs etc.

    • Hans Pedersen

      So, because 4k videos use too much bandwidth for you, all manufacturers should use faux-4k (faux-k?) like Sony with the regular 1080p streams? Or am I missing something here?

      • Ugnius Igaris

        I’m not saying all of them. For now, native 4k isn’t worth it but I believe it will be in the future. At the moment Xperia Z5Ps display technology fits me the best. I like to play demanding games on my phone, multitask and I couldn’t do that with native 4k. For other people, who are usually only surfing the web, using social media 4k wouldn’t do much bad (I believe it would be ok as long as the device doesn’t get warm and suffer from low battery time). There might be more 2nd type people I mentioned than the 1st one but for me faux – k, as you mentioned, would be better.

      • Ugnius Igaris

        I am not saying every manufacturer should do that. I play quite demanding games on my phone, use it heavily, I have a slow internet, so for me foux – k, as you mentioned, fits perfectly. For other kinds of users and probably majority of them, native 4k wouldn’t be a bad thing. They wouldn’t suffer from slower performance, faster battery drain that much. I belong to the first type of users I mentioned so I can say that 95% of the time FHD and 4k for videos is really good for me (4k could be used for such apps as Instagram though). This means that I vote for 4k phones that usually run FHD.

      • pseudo

        The one thing that is good is that as soon as android properly supports 4k, the z5 will be able to be updated and will no longer have the limitations present, or at least an option to remove them.

        • Hans Pedersen

          To an extent. A software update can’t fix underpowered hardware and a current mobile processor is definitely not enough for that.

        • Vitias R.

          Android properly supports 4K since Jelly Bean 4.3. The resources though for xxxxhdpi (4K density I guess) are available with Lollipop 5.0 through path drawables, which can be drawn for any density.
          So at the very moment the UI can be fully rendered at 4K software-wise, but hardware-wise, even animations in simple apps will be laggy as hell let alone 3D gaming, and the battery isn’t going to last more than 1 hour in a graphic intensive app/game.

  • Arman

    Polls say it all!

  • Diego

    Smart move for both of them.

  • My Galaxy Prime

    It would be nice but it will cause more problems than it solves

  • RG

    Thank EFF for that. 4K when it’s fit for purpose, please.

    Jeez – how much is that mp12 GPU gonna scream with a 2k panel in the international S7! Thought the 12 cores were being held to push 4k content.

    Put your seat belt on.

  • D13H4RD2L1V3

    4K on a phone is pointless. It’s all pure marketing, plain and simple. Plus, who straps a phone on their head for more than a few minutes??

    • hue

      Hello, Lee.

  • Joseph White

    That graphic is wrong. 2K is 1080×2160, you are showing 1440P or QHD.

    • jkteddy77

      2k is 2560x1600p
      1600p is exactly 4 million pixels, divide that by 2000 for the length and width, you have 2k as your result.
      1440p is about 3.6 million, meaning it’s 1.8k exactly 4 times that of 720p,(4 * 0.46k = 1.8k), hence QuadHD like you said.
      Now 1080p is 1k, and 2160p is 4k by similar conversions.
      You don’t know computers much do you? It’s cool, common mistake. like ya said, the article got it wrong too, trying to round up 1.8k and pass it off as 2k…
      Sorta helpful to know why resolutions are called what they’re called and how they come up with it.

  • I don’t get the 4K smartphone hype…. 1080p is plenty on a 5-6 inch screen.

    • cns2007

      This. I’ll take 1080 for the battery savings alone.

    • SteveJobs_TheWalkingDead

      For Virtual Reality, 4K does mean a lot in terms of fine details of images that are so close to the eye. For everyday usage, it means nothing at all.

    • Zach Chen

      Are you blind? 1080p is absolutely NOT plenty on a 5-6 in. screen. I can still see the pixels on my S6 Edge which is 2K…

  • sans

    The “Display Resolution Comparison” image erks me. 2K is not 1440p, 1440p is referred to as QHD. I really wish this misconception would end.


    If they need the 4K, buy the Sony Xperia phone

  • timekiller

    why would people even need 1440p screens in their mobiles?? i am shocked

    • James Childress

      For those who want to use their smartphones as VR devices too. 4k would be better for that, but 1440p strikes a balance between cost and practicality for now.

      • Joseph W.

        The VR point is valid. Even my QHD (1440p, NOT 2K) phone looks pretty crappy in VR. 4K isn’t really enough for cheap VR either though. If someone managed to make a phone with crazy high resolution that worked for VR and they advertised it as such then I might be up for that. But they would be wise to advertise it as such. I genuinely don’t know how many consumers buy just based on screen resolution though, could be a ton in which case it is a good move to use kind of watered down specs to get the best of both worlds. I guess we will see.

        • Marc Perrusquia

          Thank you so much. 1080p would be 2k, and 1440p would be closer to 2.5k, really irritates me when people call it 2k. Like MKBHD called the iPad pro 2.7k which is accurate but makes it sound much higher than a 1440p panel compared to what it actually is. I really hate when these tech “journalists” misinform the public.

  • 4K is overkill.

  • JMG

    2K is more than enough i want much better battery life.

  • Bsurfn

    If phone makers would focus on actual benefits such as call/voice quality and battery life as they have on video resolution, we could all enjoy conversations with 4 people at a time, each in a different country (or in space for that matter if left to the marketers), talk for hours, and have no dropped calls.

    Imagine a mobile phone that had the clarity of being in the same room.
    A phone that sounds clear, and would last more than a day! what a concept…

    4K really? Not to mention the hit we’ll have on data plans once 4K is a marketing must have.

  • Falenone

    1080p minimum, 1440p max. 720p is yesterday already. You can easily see pixels on 720p screen

  • Zach Chen

    All these people saying they can’t see a difference between 1080p and 2K on phones seriously need to get their eyes checked out LOL.

  • lance

    Just like 720p was once the shit then 1080p, I’ve had a 2k phone for two years nkw, and becasue tech advances I’m just alittle surprised, few yrs back

  • SamsaraGuru

    The human eye has physical limits to the its ability to resolve and appreciate detail beyond a certain point, beyond that the increased resolution cannot be perceived.

  • It is toasting the processor. So it’s not the time for it yet. I’m good enough with the QHD on my Note4. Give it at least a year more.