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A closer look at Samsung’s Analyst Day 2013: Do we really want smartphones with 560 ppi displays?

Enjoy your battery life while it lasts, folks: Samsung has announced that AMOLED smartphone displays with 2560 x 1440 resolution – 560 ppi on a 5.2in display – will arrive sometime in 2014. This is almost double the number of pixels found in current 1080p smartphones such as the Nexus 5 or Galaxy S4. If that wasn’t enough, Samsung says we should prepare for Ultra HD 3840 x 2160 smartphone displays in 2015, and probably foldable displays in 2016.

This information comes from Samsung's Analyst Day 2013, which was held yesterday. It's the company's first Analyst Day in eight years – and only the second analyst meeting in its history. The reason for holding the Analyst Day is probably Samsung’s fluctuating stock value given the slowing down of the top end of the smartphone market.

In short, it looks like Samsung wanted to hold a meeting to show everyone that it has a lot of exciting tech in the pipeline, and that you should keep on believing, investing, and holding onto that feeling.

The craziest announcement was that 5.2in 560 ppi AMOLED smartphone displays are due in 2014, with 3840 x 2160 displays following in 2015. Assuming a screen size of around 5in, 3840 x 2160 (4K) works out to be around 880 pixels per inch.

By virtue of being based on OLED tech rather than LCD, Samsung says that the next few years will see lots of flexible displays being used in curved and bent devices, with foldable devices arriving around 2016.

Samsung also spoke a little about its ARM SoC efforts. There will of course be an Exynos SoC based on the 64-bit ARM CPU core, but – and this is the interesting bit – Samsung also says that it’s working on its own 64-bit CPU core.

We have very few details at this point, but presumably we’re talking about something similar to Qualcomm’s Krait or Apple’s Swift and Cyclone – CPU cores that are based on ARM, but with lots of in-house modifications. Building its own SoC should give Samsung the ability to better compete with Apple and Qualcomm in terms of performance, features, and battery life.

But back to those stupidly high resolution displays: Is it really beneficial to keep pushing pixel densities as quickly as Moore’s law allows? The higher the pixel count, the more energy a display consumes. Considering our eyes have a tough time seeing the difference between 200 and 300 ppi, let alone 441 (current 5in smartphones) and next year’s 560 ppi, it seems a little counterintuitive to intentionally reduce battery life for negligible gain. Yes, Samsung and its users get to wave their huge pixel densities in the face of the Apple opposition – but is that really what the smartphone market has come to?

There is an upshot of these technological advances, though: It looks like 2014 will finally be the year that we get high resolution desktop displays. That miraculous, life-changing 24in UHD 4K monitor is just around the corner – I can taste it!