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UK supermarket trials e-ink price tags

Posted by Tom February - 19 - 2015 - Thursday Comments Off

In another leap into the future, a London branch of Sainsbury’s has swapped its paper price labels for e-ink displays.

Sainsbury’s supermarket in trendy Shoreditch has traded paper for the displays to get headlines, save paper and to allow a quick price change.

The displays are changed automatically over a wireless connection when prices adjust or offers are introduced. Pretty snazzy.

Now they just need to make their own smash hit series of Android tablets like Tesco’s managed to.

Via engadget

Smartphone Resolution Wars: 1440p and Beyond

Posted by wicked January - 12 - 2015 - Monday Comments Off


There’s been plenty of speculation surrounding Sony’s semesterly update to their flagship Xperia Z line. Some rumors are wildly different from each other and suggest radically different hardware. The next Xperia flagship has been rumored to have a 5.5 inch screen, but then also a 5.4 inch screen–and now they seem to be settling on a more traditional 5.2 inches. There’s also inconclusive speculation on chipset, with some claiming the device will use the Snapdragon 805 SoC, while the more optimistic rumors pointing towards the flagship-caliber Snapdragon 810. Now, we see a bigger debate–one that is perhaps more relevant than the others: Will this phone feature a Full HD display, or a Quad HD display?

The debate between FHD vs QHD has been strong within mobile enthusiast communities. While many people want to get their hands on the latest and greatest of display technology, others argue that QHD is simply not worth the downsides and that FHD is more than enough. So what should we look for in our phones? Let’s find out.

Some history

The first phone announced with a QHD screen was the Oppo Find 7, that sported a resolution of 3,686,400 pixels compressed on a 5.5 inch display – which makes for a huge 538 PPI pixel density. For comparison, most 5 inch phones of 2014 featured a 1080p resolution, which gave them a total PPI of 445, and the highest PPI of the 1080p phones was that of the HTC One M7, which had an impressive 469 PPI due to it’s modest 4.7 inch screen. And while some of the 2014 phones, in particular the M8, were praised for their beautiful screens despite being 1080p, obviously OEMs feel that consumers want more out of their handsets.

The Oppo saw two variants, one with a QHD display and one, named Find 7a, with FHD. While they had different specifications other than the resolution (namely the processor inside), I personally think this is something we should see more of, but perhaps with identical processing packages. More on this later.

Does QHD look better?

On equal, standardized and ideal conditions, the answer is always going to be yes. Leaving out the other display factors, such as color reproduction, contrast, brightness, and other technical bits such as light-bleed and burn-in, having a QHD screen is better, if ever so slightly, than a FHD one. But the other factors do exist in the real world, so resolution shouldn’t be the go-to advertisement number like it is now, because a high-resolution display can have very poor calibrations, or look worse than it should due to artificial oversharpening… rings a bell?

So let’s look at it from a more practical point of view. We know that the obvious improvement is that it’ll make a screen look sharper and clearer – you are theoretically able to make out more detail, and smaller details, out of your media. It also means sharper fonts that allow you to read smaller text, and improve the readability of CJK characters that depend on precise strokes to be interpreted easily

Apple introduced the “Retina” denomination for screens, touting it as the end-all magic number that would imply the point where an increase in PPI would yield high diminishing returns not noticeable by human vision – thus obviating the absolute necessity to pursue anything much higher than the appropriate configuration. When introducing the iPhone 4, Steve Jobs stated that about 300 PPI was sufficient for a device held 10 to 12 inches from one’s eye, This unit can be expressed as “pixels per degree” (PPD), which also takes into account the distance from which the device is viewed. The formula introduced for PPD is 2dr tan(0.5*), with d being the distance and r being the resolution in pixels per unit length. With the number 300 he mentioned, Retina starts at a value of 53 PPD, with the boundary stretching to 60 PPD.

Let’s assume that what he said was not a marketing stunt (which it most probably was) – that would mean that the Oppo Find 7, or the LG G3, or any Quad HD 5.5 inch phone would feature a massive 94 PPD. Now, like all exaggerations made by these OEMs, who face the scrutiny of the millions of experts that hear these comments, we can assume Job’s “Retina” holds a certain degree of validity. After all, the iPhone 4 has a crisp screen, and every phone after that which exceeds the magic PPD does look pretty crisp to me. But you can always go crisper, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Given the linearly increasing nature of the equation for Retina, though, I’m not sure if an increase of 77.35% is really something that we should crazily strive for. But I digress, seeing that there is probably no real magic number for PPI, PPD or what-have-you that these OEMs might never truthfully and rightfully spit out at us; marketing will always have a big importance in it. LG for example, likes to say that 550 PPI  is as far as you have to go to get people to squeeze detail out of an image… that’s remarkably close to their own pioneering LG G3’s 538 PPI, isn’t it?

I do think that the Retina measurement is a step in the right direction as to figuring out a nice methodology for finding out these thresholds, though, as viewing distance is a very big factor that simple PPI as a scalar unit doesn’t take into account. This is evident when you have a very nice TV that you see from afar and the vivid image surprises you – yet the closer you get to the edge of its glass, the more the image starts diffusing into little lightbulbs.

Retina and ideal viewing distance 

The human vision acuity is measured in terms of the minimum resolvable distance between features. The unit chosen for this distance is “arc minutes”, which is a 60th of a degree, for it is independent of length units

People with 20/20 vision can discern the detail of 1 arc minute, or the sixtieth part of a degree. This would be equal to discerning the detail present in 0.00462% of a circle. That’s as good as you can get. I personally have bad vision (I blame it on being a tech enthusiast) and this number blows my mind.

PhoneArena did an analysis on this, and the results of their calculations (and I stress on this word) were the following values at which someone with perfect vision would be able to start discerning pixels:

  • Typical 480p phone (4” display like Galaxy S III Mini): eye starts to notice pixels from 14.73” (37.4cm)
  • Typical 720p phone (4.7” display like Nexus 4): eye starts to notice pixels from 11” (28cm)
  • Typical 1080p phone (5” display like Galaxy S5): eye starts to notice pixels from 7.8” (19.8cm)
  • Typical 1440p phone (5.5” display like expected LG G3): eye starts to notice pixels from 6.44” (16.4cm)

So, what is interesting about those numbers? Well due to the way they are computed (and the reasonable commensurability between the mathematical model and reality), when you factor in the PPI of the “typical phones” and the distances obtained, and put them into the Retina equation, you obtain that they all tend towards a limit. So I grabbed the values of the distances obtained by the Phone Arena report and fed them into it:

  • Nexus 4 (typical 4.7” 720p phone): 61.053 PPD
  • Nexus 5 (typical 5” 1080p phone): 60.581 PPD
  • G3 (typical 5.5” 1440p phone): 60.472 PPD

Could 60 truly be the magic number? Something is certain, though. If you give Apple any credit for Retina, you must agree that these phones seem to beat that magic number of 53 PPD, and match the upper boundary of 60,  at the distances measured by Phone Arena. And these distances, for all resolutions, are lower than the proposed 12 inch distance proposed by Apple. These measurements also mean that unless you hold the G3 this close 20150108215417136(pictured) to your face, you won’t start to see the pixels, no matter how good your vision is presumed to be. But this is on a more theoretical side.

So this 60 upper bound for Retina (300 PPI at 10-12 inches) and the values calculated by Phone Arena are seemingly based on the arc-minute measurement of detail perception on humans. But there’s more to vision than that. According to a report by the Air Force Research laboratory, humans are able to discern the separation of two lines at around a half arcminute, which translates to 120 PPD. The ideal resolution of the eye is about 0.4 arcminutes – an even bigger result at 150 PPD. But if you think that’s reasonably achievable right now, there’s one more thing: the human vision is able to determine the allignment of two lines to a resolution of two arcseconds, or… 1800 PPD… Seemingly unattainable with current technology. So all of this seems to imply that, while we might have very nice looking screens, there’s a lot more ground to cover in the PPI race than just accounting for the immediately noticeable detail.

Back to phones, please

Alright, so we can argue for both sides of the PPI race. On one side, we constantly hit milestones with this Retina PPD, or the “magazine print” PPI, and there’s still more to cover. But on another note, there are technical constraints to the use of 1440p panels in phones. In short, we do notice that there are some things left to cover when it comes to arriving to that perfect, absolute pristine realer-than-life image that OEMs would love to advertise one day. We are hitting some nice milestones, and in technology there’s never a decisive reason to stop improving, especially if that would be mere consumer conformism.

But let’s look at the market right now: I remember CES 2013, and CES 2014 even, proudly displaying the 4K TV’s that are now arriving at our homes in great numbers. This year, we saw a lot of 8K TVs being showcased by many of the big fish in the display industry. Now let’s look at phones. In 2012 we saw 720p phones, then in 2013 we were already at 1080p, and shortly after 2014 started we already had the Find 7 being touted as the next big thing. And now we are expecting the first 4K phone to come out this year – resolution higher than most people’s TV’s, in a screen under 6 inches.

Analyzing whether battery life and performance, and even things like heat (let’s remember the G3 again), can keep up with these increases is a topic we’ll reserve for another, more in-depth article, but we can safely say that there have been tangible consequences with adopting these new technologies for now. Battery technology in particular hasn’t been able to keep up with the display race, and software optimization can only get you so far. A neat case of what seems to be “1440p done right” is the Note 4, which has a really power efficient display despite all the extra LEDs it has to power up. Whether the chips that are coming out can support these new resolutions efficiently still has to be decided, we know for a fact that the stress of such leaps in pixel count can be quite taxing on mobile GPUs.

I personally think that the display is one of the most important parts of a phone, as I see it as the hardware’s interface for the software’s interface. And this also implies a degree of symbiosis between them,  as the GUI, which everyone knows is a huge part of software nowadays, is directly dependent on the possibilities offered by the fidelity of the display.  And consequentially, so is the user experience. You wouldn’t find much use for Material Design on a gameboy’s screen, after all. And when I first saw the Note 4’s display, I was in absolute awe. I do think that 1440p does make a difference, albeit a much smaller one than 1080p did to 720p. It could be the previously mentioned diminishing returns threshold in action. Despite this – do I think that we need 1440p now? Not really, not until the rest of the technology can accommodate for it efficiently. I am fine with 1080p.

I don’t need a 1440p phone, what will do?

Well, rumors are now talking about this Z4 phone again, saying that Sony will offer both a FHD and QHD version. While these are just rumors, I think it could make for a very nice trend for consumers. More choice in the mobile world isn’t a bad thing (and it’s even become Android’s slogan, so why not?). Do you want that pristine 1440p image on your phone? Or would you rather have better battery life and performance (like the Z3 and Z3 compact did by sticking with lower-than-standard* resolutions) by conforming to the already-great resolution of the previous year, model, or segment? It’s definitely an interesting proposal, and I hope it gets noticed and adopted so that OEMs can address the demand for better battery life that the newer resolutions seem to directly plot against.

*standard: These change. 1080 is fantastic, but the “standard” for flagships is now at a weird stage between 1080p and 1440p, and I suspect it’ll only rise from here. So I am definitely not saying that FHD is bad, because it is not. But as technology advances, so does what is standardly provided.

The post Smartphone Resolution Wars: 1440p and Beyond appeared first on xda-developers.

The YotaPhone 2 gives you two working touchscreens, front and back

Posted by wicked December - 3 - 2014 - Wednesday Comments Off

If we had written this piece say in 2013, you could be forgiven for thinking that the makers of the YotaPhone had just complete lost all sanity. That is, of course, until the advent of Samsung’s Galaxy Note Edge, which had manufacturers thinking out-of-the-box on what they can do with another touchscreen surface. Granted, what the YotaPhone has is completely unexpected and unorthodox – but you can’t say it isn’t worth a look in these modern times.

Modern smartphone design conventions will say the screen goes on the front, the camera on the back. But what if you utilize both front AND back spaces as active touchscreens? There definitely would be more real estate now to do more – but do what? The YotaPhone, being manufactured by Yota Devices who are mostly based in Moscow, is a smartphone that has a secondary (or another primary, however you want to view it) screen on the back of the device where the camera is. That screen is a monochrome e-ink screen that functions pretty much like a normal touchscreen does, sans the color.


The YotaPhone 2, which has turned quite a few heads at in the Mobile World Congress 2014 in Barcelona early this year, is scheduled to finally launch this month, so we’re quietly anticipating that. The specs are pretty decent – it sports a 5-inch 1080p AMOLED screen as the main display. The back display is called the “Always On” display and it is a 4.7-inch 960×540 E-ink grayscale screen with full capacitive touch functions.


Under the hood, there’s a 2.2Ghz Snapdragon 800 quad-core processor backstopped by 2GB RAM and Adreno 330 graphics. The internal storage maxes out at 32GB and theres an 8MP/2.1MP camera combo with LED flash. Will this interest you? Tell us what you think in the comments section.

SIGN-UP: YotaPhone
VIA: [email protected]

Sharp’s new 4.1-inch IGZO display has 736ppi

Posted by wicked November - 12 - 2014 - Wednesday Comments Off

Sharp is one of the bigger makers of displays for smartphones and other devices on the market today. The company has announced that it has adopted IGZO technology and that adoption has resulted in a new display that is 4.1-inches in size and has a very high pixel density of 736ppi.

For comparison, the pixel density of the Galaxy Note Edge is 525ppi. Sharp is aiming to have 4K IGZO panels for smartphones on the market around 2016 using this same high pixel density technology. 4.1-inches is small for a smartphone screen these days, typical screen size hovers around the 4.7-inch mark.


Sharp is working to scale the size of the screen up and keep the high pixel density right now. The goal is to produce a 6-inch screen with 4K resolution and 736ppi in the future. That would be a very nice smartphone screen indeed.

Sharp plans to build a second factory for the production of 4K IGZO panels for smartphones and tablets in Kameyama. Exactly when that second factory will be ready to roll is unknown.

SOURCE: Impress

Sharp to debut 7-inch tablet with MEMS-IGZO screen in 2015

Posted by wicked October - 6 - 2014 - Monday Comments Off

Sharp is teasing a new tablet well ahead of its launch. The big feature of the new tablet is new display tech for the tablet market. This 7-inch tablet will use Qualcomm MEMS and Sharp IGZO technology, the result is a MEMS-IGZO display that should be very impressive.

The tablet has no name at this time. The technology used in the display will be able to provide a high-speed color display while having a mode that has nearly the same power saving technology of e-ink when in grayscale.

The Sharp IGZO screen is made from materials that differ from normal LCDs, this alternative material construction allows for thinner panels that can push pixels faster. Thinner LCDs mean thinner tablets; these screens have been used in some TVs and with same smartphones already.

Qualcomm’s MEMS tech is still very new and hasn’t been widely adopted at this time, about the only place the MEMS tech has been used is in the Qualcomm Toq smartwatch. Combined these technologies will allow for high color reproduction with less power consumption than screens in use today provide. Other than a fancy screen, the tablet is tipped to get a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, Android 4.4, and to be waterproof. LTE and WiFi models will be offered, pricing and availability are unannounced.

SOURCE: SlashGear

Pin-sharp: Sharp is developing a 7-inch tablet with a MEMS-IGZO display

Posted by Tom October - 6 - 2014 - Monday Comments Off

Sharp wants to wow you with colour reproduction – the company is working on a 7-inch tablet that combines Qualcomm’s MEMS tech with IGZO to produce a brilliant display that’s easy on battery life.

Coming early 2015, the tablet will have a WXGA display panel with a 1,280x 800 pixel resolution. It’ll run on a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor, have Android KitKat 4.4.4 OS and LTE/3G connectivity.

Via tablet-news

LG Display in mass production with plastic circular OLED display for wearables

Posted by wicked September - 4 - 2014 - Thursday Comments Off

LG Display has announced that it is in mass production with the world’s first circular plastic OLED screen. This little screen measures 1.3-inches in diameter and is the circular screen from the LG G Watch R that debuted late last month. This thin display will eventually turn up as the screen for other wearables on the smartwatch market.

While the round screen certainly looks good and makes smartwatches using it look more like a traditional watch, the main reason for the round screen is to get more viewable space in the same footprint. The round screen has a 57% larger viewing area than a square screen of the same size.

Resolution for the 1.3-inch circular screen is 320 x 320 and it has 100% color gamut, 300-nit peak luminance, and unlimited contrast ratio. One of the best features of the display for wearables is that it has the ability to use Power Save Mode so the screen can stay on at full resolution without power from the integrated circuit.

That means that wearables using the display will have longer battery life than others with screens lacking power save mode technology. LG Display is using new techniques to mass produce this circular screen with new processes to improve deposition efficiency and a highly precise laser cutting and processing technology is employed.

Is sapphire glass all it’s cracked up to be?

Posted by wicked September - 1 - 2014 - Monday Comments Off

With IFA 2014 set to start in a few days in Berlin, one of the buzzwords being bandied about is sapphire glass, particularly because it is rumored to be one of the features of the anticipated iPhone 6. Another OEM has beaten Apple to the punch as Kyocera recently announced the availability of its Brigadier with Sapphire Display through carrier Verizon. But as a supposedly scratch and drop resistant material, is sapphire glass all it’s, well, cracked up to be?

uBreakiFix, a tech repair company, released a video showing the results on tests that they conducted on sapphire glass, as compared to the Gorilla Glass, which is used by several devices from Motorola, ASUS, Samsung and Amazon. They did three “torture” tests to compare the two: a scratch resistance test using a tungsten drill bit, an impact test, and a four-point bend stress test. When it comes to being scratch resistant, sapphire glass more than impresses as it is indeed a good material to keep your device scratch free, since after all, it is ranked in the mohs hardness spectrum.

But while it is indeed harder than most of the smartphone glass materials used by OEMs, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will result in an unbreakable device. As the result of the other two tests showed, sapphire glass is brittle and so it is unable to bend and absorb the impact when dropped or stressed. Its failure strength is 25% higher than gorilla glass, but that’s not what will make it effective and may present a problem for engineers. How sapphire can make a gadget better is “clever engineering and protective features”, which may be something Apple has managed to overcome.

Kyocera, which has made a name for itself for smartphones that can survive rough terrain, released two videos showing off how the sapphire glass has made the Brigadier tougher than any of their previous products. Discovery Channel superstar Bear Grylls starred in one of the videos, putting the phone through various real-life tests while the other video put the phone through the ringer and it emerged virtually unscathed.

Sharp unveils “edge-to-edge display” of Aquos Crystal

Posted by wicked August - 19 - 2014 - Tuesday Comments Off

When Sharp announced that their upcoming Aquos Crystal phone would have “edge-to-edge display”, people’s expectations of what it would look like were heightened. As they have now unveiled the actual phones, it would seem to have met those expectations, as the front panel of the smartphone has super-thin bezels, giving justice to the original description.

The Aquos Crystal is a 5-inch, 1280×720 pixel HD phone with that will be running on Android 4.4 KitKat. But what has really caught the attention of people is the almost bezel-less front display of the smartphone. In the photos and videos from Buzzup in Japan, the phone is being shown off in all its edge to edge display glory.The previously released Droid Razr M from Motorola was the closest that we came to that kind of display, but compared to this one from Sharp, the borders now seem too big.

But aside from the beautiful display, the Aquos Crystal also has some relatively good specs to offer. It will run on a dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 1.2HGz processor with 1.5GB RAM and 8GB of internal memory. It will have an 8 megapixel main camera and a 1.2MP one for the front-facing camera. It will come out in white, black, pink and blue colors. There is a more powerful version of the Aquos Crystal called the Aquos Crystal X, with a 1920×1080 display running on Snapdragon 801 and having 2GB RAM and 16GB of internal memory. However this version will only be released for now in Japan and will have red, white and black colors.

Softbank will be releasing the Aquos Crystal in the US by the end of this month while the Crystal X will come out in Japan by end of this year. There is still no announced standard retail price for the smartphone, but here’s hoping we don’t have to break a bank to own this one.

Screenshot 2014-08-19 11.03.26
Screenshot 2014-08-19 10.57.18

VIA: SlashGear
SOURCE: SoftBank (1, 2)

Apple iPad Air 2 pic leaks and specs – includes glare-free display

Posted by Tom August - 12 - 2014 - Tuesday Comments Off

The iPad Air 2 has had a pictorial outing and will also be suitable for the great outdoors thanks to its glare-free screen.

An anti-reflection coating is slated to make it easier to read, combating the tablet use issues that we come up against in sunshine.

The iPad Air 2 is reportedly a 9.7-inch tablet and will be out at the end of this quarter.

According to the new leaked pictures, it will also have a Touch ID fingerprint sensor and will sport a single row of speakers along the bottom of the device.

Via gizmodo and tablet-news