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Best of 2017: Smartphones with widescreen displays have been this year's highlight

As smartphones with 18:9 wide-screen displays are getting popular, we look at how the trend started and where the technology is headed.

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Over the past five years, smartphone trends have been changing. If last year witnessed dual-camera setups on mid-range and flagship smartphones, this year’s trend was large screen displays with 18:9 aspect ratio. The Samsung Galaxy S6 edge that was launched in 2015 offered a glimpse at bezel-less smartphones. However, it was last year’s Xiaomi Mi MIX that came with slim bezels on all four sides and higher screen-to-body ratio.

The Mi MIX was just the beginning, and was followed by other smartphone manufacturers as well. We’ve heard this term all too often. But what exactly is a bezel-less display, and why the fuss around aspect ratios?

What’s in a display anyway?

Well, let’s take a step back to a few years ago when Samsung launched the Galaxy Note, followed by Galaxy Grand. These were the smartphones with 5.5-inch displays, and while the industry initially doubted, consumers loved large screen smartphones. Why? Simply because they are better for watching music and movies, surfing websites and playing games.

While some people love smartphones with large screen displays, others with small hands struggle in holding them, especially with single-handed usage. Now, this is where 18:9 display smartphones come into picture.

Large screen doesn’t mean big form factor

Today, smartphones with 5.5-inch displays have become standard. However, when we talk about smartphones such as Mi MIX, Galaxy Note 8 and Galaxy S8 with 5.8-inch display and above, the first thing that comes to the mind is – will it perfectly fit in my hand? Well, the answer is yes.

A lot of smartphones out there have thick bezels on the top and bottom, and also on the sides. So, you have a 5.5-inch display and the bezels that increase the form factor. But edge-to-edge displays cut down on the top, bottom and size bezels. This way, you have a taller display fitting in the same form factor as a 5.5-inch display smartphone. So, despite sporting a 5.8-inch display, the smartphone has a form factor of a 5.2-inch display, and so on.

Typically, lay users are confused between a phone’s aspect ratio and screen size.  The aspect ratio of a display is always measured in landscape mode. 18:9 aspect ratio basically means 2:1, which means width of the smartphone is twice the height. But as we hold the smartphone in portrait mode, you have a taller display packed in a compact form factor, rather than being wider. The screen size is the distance between two diagonal edges of the display.

Also, when we talk resolution, there are 18:9 display smartphones with HD (1,440 x 720 pixels), full HD (2,160 x 1,080 pixels) and QHD (1,440 x 2,880 pixels) resolutions. Samsung, on the other hand, uses slightly larger aspect ratio of 18.5:9, with resolution of 1,440 x 2,960 pixels.

Smartphones with 18:9 displays in India

Currently, there are over 10 smartphones with 18:9 aspect ratio in India, spread across various price segments. These include the Micromax Canvas Infinity which is priced under Rs 10,000, the Honor 7X, LG Q6, Honor 9i and Oppo F5 under Rs 20,000 price bracket. Then you have the LG G6, Xiaomi Mi MIX 2, OnePlus 5T, Samsung Galaxy S8, Galaxy Note 8, and Google Pixel 2 XL among others that go all the way up to Rs 65,000.

How 18:9 display smartphone segment performed

According to Counterpoint Research analyst Tarun Pathak, “As manufacturers try to distinguish their products from competitors, the trend of 18:9 display smartphones has increased in 2017. The segment contributed estimate of 2.2 percent market share in Q3 2017, whereas by Q4 2017, the market share of 18:9 display smartphones is expected to be somewhere around five percent,” Pathak said. In 2018, the number of smartphones with 18:9 displays is expected to rise further, he told BGR India.

Just like dual–cameras became mainstream, and no longer limited to high-end smartphones, an increasing number of next year’s affordable, mid-range and premium smartphones are likely to come with taller displays. But beyond displays, other factors will also play a key role such as design and build quality, cameras, technologies such as facial recognition, under display fingerprint and iris scanners.

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  • Published Date: December 13, 2017 2:29 PM IST