An Overview of Cellphone Displays

Your cellphone's display affects how you use it

You may think all cellphone screens are the same, but that couldn't be further from the truth. Cellphone screens can vary greatly from phone to phone, and the type of screen your phone has affects how you use the device. Here's an overview of the most common types of screens.


A liquid crystal display (LCD) is a thin-panel display used in many computers, TVs, and mobile devices, but there are several different types of LCDs. Here are the kinds of LCDs you'll likely find on a cellphone.

  • LCD: An LCD requires a backlight, meaning an LCD display requires more power than other displays. This could be taxing on your phone's battery. LCDs are thin and light, though, and inexpensive to produce.
  • Thin-Film-Transistor (TFT): TFT-LCD displays improve the quality of older LCDs. The display delivers sharp images but offers poor viewing from an angle. This display is best viewed from straight on. 
  • In-Plane Switching (IPS): IPS-LCDs are an improvement over TFT-LCDs because they offer better color reproduction and wider viewing angles. They are used on midrange and high-end smartphones and portable devices. 

OLED Displays

Organic light-emitting diode (OLED) displays can deliver sharper and brighter images than LCDs while using less power. Like LCDs, OLED displays come in a variety of types. Here are the types of OLED displays you'll likely find on smartphones.

  • OLED Display: An OLED display doesn't require a backlight to light the display pixels. It uses organic hydrocarbon chains that emit light. Each pixel makes light. The contrast is high, which allows for dark blacks and bright whites. The lifetime of the display may be shorter than that of an LCD due to the organic nature of its components.
  • Active-Matrix OLED (AMOLED): AMOLED displays pair part of a TFT display with an OLED display for quick response times and power savings. 
  • Super AMOLED Display: Super AMOLED builds on AMOLED technology. It delivers a 20 percent brighter screen and uses 20 percent less power. Because it has substantially lower sunlight reflection than an AMOLED display, it is ideal for phones frequently used outdoors.

Touch Screens

A touchscreen is a visual display that acts as an input device by responding to the touch of a user's fingers, hand, or an input device such as a stylus. Not all differences are the same. Here are the touchscreen types you'll likely find on cell phones.

  • Touch Screen: The first touchscreens were resistive. They weren't sensitive to the touch of a human finger. They were sensitive to a stylus that applied pressure to the screen.
  • Capacitive Touch Screen: This display uses the conductive touch of a human finger or a specialized input device. 
  • Multi-Touch Screen: A multi-touch screen can simultaneously detect input from two or more points of contact.

Retina Display

Apple calls the display on its iPhone a Retina Display, saying it offers more pixels than the human eye can see. It isn't easy to pinpoint the exact specifications of a Retina display because the iPhone has changed size several times since the technology was introduced. However, a Retina Display delivers at least 326 pixels per inch.

With the release of the iPhone X, Apple introduced the Super Retina display, which has a resolution of 458 ppi, requires less power, and works better outdoors. Both Retina and Super Retina displays are only available on Apple iPhones.

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