Triple-extra high definition: Android 4.3 supports 4K displays

July 26, 2013
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Hidden in the bowels of Android 4.3 lies a new feature: support for 4K displays. Because why the heck not?

4K-HDTV-relative-sizes

One of the technical concepts that almost every smartphone user knows is display resolution, and, in the case of savvier users, pixel density. The higher the resolution, the better the display, right?

Well, with modern Android devices reaching 1080p resolutions (full HD, 1920 x 1080 pixels), many argue that the race to cram as much pixels as possible on a smartphone display no longer provides enough benefits to justify the cost, GPU requirements, and power draw. In other words, Full HD is probably good enough already for a vast majority of users.

But a technology being “good enough” hasn’t ever stopped companies from trying to provide more. In case of display resolution, the next level is 4K, also known as UltraHD, which is a resolution of 4096 x 2160 pixels.

4K monitors and TVs are still a limited and expensive niche, but the folks creating Android have already baked support for 4K resolution in our favorite operating system.

As spotted by Android Police, Android 4.3 now contains a new DPI (dots per inch) category, called XXXHDPI, which will allow app developers to store assets and images destined for “Extra Extra Extra High Definition” displays, with pixel densities of up to 640 dpi.

Currently, this new density category should be useful for app developers making apps intended to run on 4K television sets. However, it’s not unreasonable to believe that Android smartphone and tablet manufacturers will try to equip their products with XXXHDPI displays in the future.

The current king of pixel density is the HTC One, with a 4.7-inch 468 ppi display, but in a year or two, we might be talking about 500-600 ppi displays. Would such high pixel densities provide an obvious benefit to the user? Probably not, but that’s another story.

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