Insanely high 2098PPI OLED display from Sony makes your 1080p smartphone weep at night

by: Darcy LaCouveeAugust 8, 2013


Sony has just announced that they are finally putting to use what many industry experts are considering the highest PPI display ever created. This 0.7-inch (18.0mm diagonal) OLED panel (1280 x 720), is the product of “Sony’s unique OLED and semiconductor silicon drive technologies.” It provides extremely high contrast, and offers excellent color reproduction and a very fast refresh rate, which OLED displays are known for. Why is this a big deal? Read on!

Sony is a big company. While they don’t actually make any real money off their Xperia line of devices,  they do have a wide variety of other businesses that do, in fact, make them a lot of money.

One area Sony has traditionally excelled in is in image sensors and displays. Long considered a pioneer of display technology, Sony is now the world record holder of the highest PPI display ever created. That cherished iPhone, the ‘world’s most popular camera’? Yep, that’s a Sony image sensor. Nearly all the current flagships are sporting Sony image sensors from everything I can see here, which undoubtedly serves as a testament to their acumen and expertise in this area.

How high, you say?

Sony has created a display that is very impressive. It is a 1280 x 720 OLED display that is 0.7 inches. In terms of PPI, it’s the highest I’ve ever seen. How high? High. High like 2098 PPI kind of high. To put this into perspective, let’s see how leading smartphones and other mobile devices fair in our PPI density chart of pain!

PPI density is an often debated topic, and was really popularized when Apple began it’s ‘retina’ messaging. Most industry experts say that anything above 300 PPI is closing in on the maximum of what our eyes can delineate and differentiate.

Look how much thinner the bezel is on the Galaxy S4 (right) relative to the Note 2 (left)

720p Note 2 [left] VS 1080p Galaxy S4 [right]

So, where does this bring us to today? Everyone (meaning nerds like you and me) knows that getting a smartphone with anything less than a 1080p display on it is considered well, technological regression. Motorola’s new flagship, the Moto X features a high caliber AMOLED panel, likely made by Samsung, which is 720p and has a true RGB pattern custom that they claim gives “true[r] color reproduction without wasting battery life.”

But it’s still not 1080p, and, as a result, won’t appeal to spec hungry mobile technology aficionados who aspire to have the latest technology packed into the most intimate device they own – their smartphone. For an interesting Q&A with an engineer from Motorola, on why they chose the hardware they chose, check out this piece, here.

Looking Forward

Sony Head Mounted Display

Technological innovation is truly an amazing thing. Looking at how far we’ve come in terms of mobile technology, it’s difficult to fully predict the future. What’s on the horizon is higher resolution displays, like the 2560 x 1600 6.1 inch one created by JDI, with strong backing, collaboration and research from two of the leading display manufacturers in the world: Toshiba and Sharp. I predict that we will be seeing 1600p 5 inch+ devices hit the market within 15-18 months from now. Anything beyond this level (500 +/- PPI) starts to get a bit, well, ridiculous. 

Sony 720p OLED display Medical

The Sony OLED display with a 2000+ PPI, at 0.7 inches and with a resolution of 1280×720 is destined for medical and military applications, but will still trickle its way into other consumer electronics. Likely quite expensive, it will get cheaper as more are produced. Currently, this display will be debuted in a mounted display worn by surgeons who perform endoscopy and need a truly life like display in order to make the correct incisions and so forth. So this display, in a way, has the potential to save lives, which is a very novel feat, indeed.

Samsung Smartwatch Concept

Samsung Smartwatch Concept

A display of this density and size would be perfect for a few different applications. Imagine photographers who need a high quality HD view finder, or imagine for later variants of smartwatches, that have the capability to do more.

In terms of how this relates to Android, it’s really quite simple. Apple’s iPhone used to be the technological darling of the press, but looking at the technological landscape today, it’s a very different picture. Android devices are the first ones to receive the latest technologies these days, and, from a purely technological perspective, are much more advanced than Apple’s current iPhone 5. While this doesn’t necessarily make any Android device better, it still serves as a testament to how rapidly things change in the world of mobile technology. In other words, if this display ever comes over to consumer devices, cameras, displays, etc — odds are it would arrive in an Android powered device long before anything that comes out of Cupertino.

LG's latest 5.2 inch display claims to pack more than 6 million pixels into it, making it one of the most advanced displays out there.

LG’s latest 5.2 inch display claims to pack more than 6 million subpixels into it, making it one of the most advanced displays out there.

What sort of applications / devices do you think would be well suited for this kind of display? Are you satisfied with the current crop of high end smartphones packing 1080p displays? Do you think we’re heading into overkill territory at this point or are you holding out for a 4K Android powered smartphone? Let us know down below, we love your comments!

  • n900mixalot

    I can’t tell the difference but which is the Note and which is the S4?

    • YoungHermit

      The Note 2 is the device on the left. The Note 2 has larger bezels than the S4

    • Jonathan Franklin

      S4 is on the right (I can tell cuz the camera icon was slightly changed on 4.2.2 Touchwiz on the S4).

      Realistically, I’m completely fine with 720P especially on smaller than 5″ displays and one reason for that is GPU overhead. A high power GPU pushing 2.25x fewer pixels than a 1080P display just flat out equates to a smoother UI. The scrolling is better, the transitions and animations are better, and gaming is better too. One of Android’s biggest lag problems is the GPU not being able to handle the UI, particularly in applications that have a lot of overdraw or are really image heavy. Every single year as mobile GPUs become more powerful, we’ve pushed the pixel count higher and higher and made it into a lateral move. The S2 may not be as fast as an S4, but it’s just as smooth on jellybean. Smoother in a lot of areas, really. And that’s because the GPU in it can outrun the display by a huge margin.

      • Joshua Hill

        As a nerd still on the S2 with its lowly 480p screen I completely agree. I disagree with the claim nerds need 1080p. My favourite phone on the market is a 4.3″ 720p snapdragon 600 powered phone.

        • Grman Rodriguez

          Which one is that? Droid Mini?

          • Joshua Hill

            Xiami Mi2s. The 32gb version is orderable in my country for under $500 AU where as competing phones with the same capacity are around $800 AU.

            Only problem would be getting any problems resolved under warranty. Motorola doesn’t like Australia and Australians are getting fed up with their treatment of our nation

          • Grman Rodriguez

            Wow that Xiaomi looks really cool.

      • viaimages

        Nerd here *raising hand* i have an s2 as well.. i think it all depends on the type of user with Jelly Bean.. and whether it is the stock touchwiz version or a 3rd party rooted

  • Thomas Richard

    Why compare one of the largest 720p displays (note 2) with a standard 5″ 1080p display? It would be a better comparison if you compared the HTC One X and the HTC One since both are 4.7″ displays but at 720p and 1080p, respectively.

  • kstagg

    I love my 326 ppi Nexus 7. It’s gonna keep me happy for a loooong time.

    • The Black Hand

      Hah! Nexus 7 is GAAAYYAAAAAAYYYY!

  • Deondrae

    2098 ppi on a 0.7 inch screen loool dont make me laugh … now enlarge that screen to 5inch and youll still get the same exact ppi as the s4 depending on the resolution

    • jumbo3220

      “The Sony OLED display with a 2000+ PPI, at 0.7 inches and with a resolution of 1280×720 is destined for medical and military applications” not for mobiles mate :/

    • gere

      learn to read first or at least read what you’re writing. it’s alread 2089 PPI sir. that 2089 PPI vs the 441 PPI of most 5-inch 1080p displays. you don’t have to calculate anything. it’s already the number you need for comparison.

      PPI is a fixed value for a particular set of dimensions.

  • Cao Meo

    This is not for phones guys, wearable devices like Google glass needs such screen density or even higher.

    Well done Sony!

    • najiy91

      honestly,many users wants sony to use led on new phones.come on,battery saving and brighter display if use led.they have the technology!wake up sony!

  • Grman Rodriguez

    Hey Sony, really cool thing with the +2000ppi, and I also like that you used OLED, but please please would you not bring this to phones and feed the spec trolls? rather use OLED with 1080p or 720p for your next flagships and midrangers. Thank you

    • Trent Richards

      I don’t think there is much chance of this coming to smartphones in the near future. The price tag alone on a 2000 PPI screen around 5 inches would be far too high for the smartphone market.

      • najiy91

        what he meant was led screen.ppi does not matter.wake up sony!use oled!

  • BB BB

    Looks like next year will be Y2K all over again! then Y4K! Give me a damn TV with that many pixels never mind our phones. SWEET!

  • obionekenobi

    if sony make this … bye samsung… its amoled that keep me sticking..

  • Ruz

    Well such high ppi would mean we can comfortably watch our mobile phone screen closer than you expect, it also means its giving us more room to work on, it means that remote desktop applications are better suited here to work on

  • Trent Richards

    With as high res as displays are getting, I feel it is time for manufacturers to focus on battery life. I mean what good is a 500+ PPI if the phone dies in 4 hours? The industry has made huge leaps in processor speed, display quality, camera sensors, wifi and LTE radios, flash memory and mobile RAM, yet we are still using the same old battery technology. I know I would love to start seeing smartphones with up to a week between charges. I love that I can generally get 2 days of regular use out of my Nexus 10, but I would be beside myself if my next tablet could run a full week.

    • Andrew Hayes

      That is not going to happen any time soon. Battery tech is a matter of the basic laws of physics and learning how to control matter at the nano-scale, which is a whole field of science in itself. They are not going to improve at anything like Moore’s Law.

      Increasing GPU performance is partially a matter of die-shrinking, but mainly it’s from better and better engineering, which can proceed at the speed of imagination.

      In any event, for the battery fetishists, there’s always Motorola’s Maxx series of phones. Not that there’s anything wrong with that- I am one too.

      • Shamoy

        there can be more efficient chemical structures and arrangements of batteries and there are new battery technologies emerging from research but we wont see a replacement for lithium ion or lithium polymer batteries in about 3-4 years

  • Timmy

    This is why we needs higher resolution displays. Got my credit card ready…

  • Lil bit

    “I predict that we will be seeing 1600p 5 inch+ devices hit the market within 15-18 months from now.”

    We will see them sooner than that, but to keep the 16:9 AR it will be only 1440. I am sure Sharp and JDI already working on such 5 inch displays. What’s coming after 2560×1440 is hard to guess, it’s not likely they jump straight to 4k, I would expect an intermediate resolution (2880×1620 is a candidate) and maybe 4k will never make it to phones anyway, only tablets and big phablets.

    Btw, I dont see the GPU argument some are using as a valid reason to keep resolution low, advancements in GPU performance is much faster than resolution increases. Nokia N900 had a nice GPU for its time (released late 2009) and is a good example, pixel count has increased only 5.4x (WVGA to Full HD) but GPU performance has increased much more than that each year.

    • Hey Lil bit,

      I think you’re correct on all points.

      GPU and processor performance has continued to improve at a very rapid pace, and, without a doubt, battery life remains the greatest shortcoming.

      With reference to your points on displays, I’ll have to say I agree again. I don’t think we’ll see smartphones with a 4K display. I do, however, think they will be more than capable of recording 4K video, and in streaming it to your 4K television. Tablets are a likely candidate for displays of this caliber, as they are that much larger.

      I’m also very interested in watching the OLED space, particularly what LG, Sony, and JDI have been working on. OLEDs are the future of displays and lighting. By implementing a white OLED and using a true Full-HD RGBW sub-pixel arrangement, this new display will be able to hit the full color spectrum, be exceptionally white and clear, and much more. Basically there won’t be much left to criticize, unlike the previous generations of AMOLED. Anyway even this display is only slated for Spring 2014, so I think we’ll be in a 1080p ‘rut’ for a while. I’d be happy with a 5.4″ OLED 2560×1440 95% display device.

      Oh, but wait, isn’t the spec war over? Not for this guy.

  • roiji

    just related to a part of the article…
    it’s funny that the iPhone uses Sony image sensors yet, all of Sony’s flagship phone are subpar against the picture quality of the iPhone….

    • Alan

      I think the key difference is that Apple doesn’t scrimp on the image processor they have connected to the Sony camera.

      • roiji

        thank you for pointing out the image processor. i over looked that part.

  • Terry Dalton

    More on the
    Samsung Smartwatch Concept

    • Shamoy

      sony smartwatch 3 is much better.

  • Extirpator

    Wearable or camera EVF

  • Frédéric Lopez

    This display is nothing new, it’s been used in the Sony HMZ-T1 HMD since 2011 and in the Sony HMZ-T2 since 2012. Also it’s not the highest PPI available, SMD has been selling the ST1080 HMD in 2012 with 0.74″ 1920×1080 panels and they also presented a 0.82″ 4K2K prototype at the CES 2012.

  • Pathoth

    might barely be enough PPI for contact lenses as displays. much more likely to be used on glasses and projectors.

  • Dellsan

    High PPI screens are great for Virtual Reality headsets like the Oculus Rift. I hope we’ll be seeing 4K/8K screens :D

  • Brandon

    Bravo Sony, bravo

  • Triston adams

    i honestly just want to see apple crushed by samsung or sony, and this is just one step closer

  • tmale

    Any phone that has the best display a fast processor and a decent camera is the best phone to me regardless of who make it. Battery life seems like a lie anyway

  • John Ross

    This is awesome! Just needs to be 120hz now

  • Ansky01

    I have a samsung galaxy S4 and it has a default resolution of 1080×1920 at 480 PPI. After lowering it down to 540×960 at 240 PPI, I did not notice any difference in image quality. I did notice that the phone is faster and that the battery lasts much longer.