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Understanding Smartphone Displays So You Don't Go OMG: Retina, Super AMOLED, TFT, Haptic, And More

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Smartphones are now an important part of our daily lives and most of them use touchscreens with various tech that renders different levels of quality.

Several display types are currently used in smartphones, and the most popular touchscreen displays are LCD, TFT, IPS, OLED, AMOLED, Super AMOLED and Retina.

Touchscreen LCDs fall into two categories: resistive or capacitive. Resistive touchscreens react to pressure from a finger, fingernail, stylus or other hard objects. The lack of multi-touch functionality, however, has limited resistive displays mostly to lower-end devices. Capacitive touchscreens, meanwhile, support multi-touch and are designed to react to the touch of a bare finger. This technology can be found in most mid-range to high-end smartphone and tablet displays, and users generally appreciate the smooth swiping motions and intuitive interface.

Thin Film Transistor, aka TFT LCD displays are superior to previous LCDs, delivering higher resolution and better image quality. On the other hand, TFT displays deliver poor visibility in bright light and have narrow viewing angles. This technology is typically found in budget phones or low-end smartphones.

In Plane Switching, aka IPS LCD technology delivers better viewing angles compared with TFT, while also drawing less power to allow for more battery efficiency. IPS displays typically cost more to make, however, and that's why they're typically used in higher-quality smartphones that come with a price to match. On the plus side, IPS is the most advanced type of LCD display tech and delivers notably wider viewing angles, extremely accurate color reproduction.

Organic Light-Emitting Diode, aka OLED displays involve a carbon-based material placed in between two conductive sheets, with class plates encasings at the top and bottom. OLED display technology delivers accurate colors, good viewing angles and a rapid response, while also allowing for lightweight and compact designs.

AMOLED, meanwhile, stands for Active-Matrix Organic Light-Emitting Diode. AMOLED and Super AMOLED technology is more expensive and is used only in high-end flagships, offering a number of benefits. This display technology delivers bright and vivid colors, great battery efficiency and wide viewing angles, while also allowing for lighter displays.

LCD and AMOLED are the most commonly used display types in current smartphones and tablets. LCDs are backlit, battery efficient, very bright, and extremely precise in displaying the entire color spectrum, which contributed to its wide popularity. AMOLED, however, eliminates the need for backlighting because each sub-pixel creates its own light. Compared to LCD, AMOLED may at times deliver less accurate colors and less visibility in direct sunlight.

Retina displays are also well-known on the market, partly because Apple is behind this technology. Apple developed and deployed Retina displays in a number of its devices, using this technology in conjunction with capacitive touchscreens. Retina displays have stirred lots of waves over the past few years due to their sharp resolution, clear and bright colors, and great accuracy.

Lastly, haptic touchscreens have their place as well on the display market. Nokia and BlackBerry have used haptic technology for some of their enterprise-oriented touchscreen smartphones and generally received positive reviews. Haptic technology basically provides tactile feedback on touch, thus confirming that it registered the touch input. Based on reviews, haptic technology can notably improve user performance and accuracy when typing on a touchscreen.

In addition to the various types of display technology, many smartphones also use Gorilla Glass protection to increase their durability. Gorilla Glass is a tough, protective glass sheet that's highly resistant to damage. Used on many smartphones from Samsung, Motorola, Nokia and others, Gorilla Glass can provide good protection against scratches, bumps and drops, thus increasing the device's durability.

Knowing the different types of display technology available can help users make an informed decision when purchasing a smartphone, choosing the one that best suits their needs, budgets and preferences.

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