Sony is trying to make 4K phone screens a thing, but who really needs one?

Sony is trying to make 4K phone screens a thing, but who really needs one?

At the ongoing Mobile World Congress expo in Barcelona today, Sony unveiled its Xperia XZ Premium flagship phone with a bevy of impressive-sounding features – the most notable of which is the 4K HDR display.

The Android 7.1-based handset has a lot going for it, including the all-new Snapdragon 835 chipset with a 1Gbps LTE for quick downloads, water and dust resistance, high-resolution audio playback and a 19-megapixel Motion Eye camera that’s said to be five times faster at snapping and shooting pictures, as well as capable of capturing 960fps super slow motion video. But what’s the need for 4K resolution on a 5.5-inch screen?

Watch Sony’s explanation for why it jammed an over-the-top display into its new phone (play it at 360p if you like, it doesn’t matter), and you’ll see little justification for the crazy-high resolution.

When Apple first began touting Retina displays back when its launched the iPhone 4 with the promise of making it impossible to distinguish between individual pixels on your screen, we were looking at pixel densities of about 326 ppi. With the XZ Premium, you’re at a whopping 801 ppi.

While it’s an impressive testimony to Sony’s engineering capabilities, there’s just no reason why anyone would need 4K resolution on a small screen that they’ll view from a few inches away. Plus, a higher resolution screen will chew through your battery life quicker than a lower resolution one.

It’s worth noting that this isn’t the world’s first 4K phone. Sony launched one back in 2015 – the Z5 Premium. Back then, there was far less 4K content than there is now (and there still isn’t a whole lot), and the company had to resort to switching to high-resolution mode only when it was absolutely necessary, in order to save on power consumption.

Most folks will have trouble discerning between 1080p and 2K resolution phone screens, so it’s likely that things aren’t going to be very different with a 4K display. Plus, it’ll drive up the cost of the device. Rivals to the Z5 Premium that had similar specifications, like the OnePlus 2, were available close to half the price of Sony’s model.

If anything, it’d be interesting to pit the XZ Premium’s HDR capabilities against other display technologies currently available, to see if Sony’s offering can truly deliver better contrast, detail and color. Other than that, it’s safe to say that 4K is overkill on a handheld device.

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