In an 18:9 world, we need a new way to quantify screen size
With the arrival of the 5.7-inch LG G6, we have entered the era of 18:9 smartphones. Taller displays are set to become a major trend in phones in 2017, with Samsung rumored to use an even taller "18.5:9" configuration in its upcoming Galaxy S8, which looks set to come in 5.8- and 6.2-inch flavors. Apple, too, may switch to a taller display with on-screen controls for its upcoming iPhones, which have also been rumored to use 5.8-inch panels.
In the smartphone world, we've become reliant on diagonal measurements of the screen as a way to quantify the size of a device — 4.7- to 5-inchers were small, 5.7 and up was "phablet" territory. For the most part, it worked, because we were dealing with the same aspect ratio across the board — standard 16:9, same as the majority of TVs.
But as phones with 18:9 panels start to ship, it's tempting to directly compare the diagonals with their 16:9 forerunners That can be misleading.
The size difference is hilarious here. pic.twitter.com/Lq4BtbaqHRThe size difference is hilarious here. pic.twitter.com/Lq4BtbaqHR— Andrew Martonik (@andrewmartonik) March 8, 2017March 8, 2017
Consider the two phones above, the HTC U Ultra and LG G6. Both have 5.7-inch screens, meaning, corner-to-corner, the active portion of the display measures around 5.7 inches (with whatever rounding up or down the manufacturer wants to factor in there.) But it's plain to see in the photo that the U Ultra has a way larger screen, and that's because of the basic geometry of the thing — its screen area is bigger.
After taking out a tape measure and taking some readings, here are the screen areas for these "5.7-inch" devices:
- LG G6: 86.5cm²
- HTC U Ultra: 90.2cm² (not including the second screen)
- (And for good measure let's throw in the Nexus 6P: 90.7cm²)
The diagonal measurement alone doesn't tell the full story. In this instance, the 16:9 phones have a larger display area. Of course they're also much wider, which may be undesirable for one-handed use. But the point is they aren't truly the same size.
By the same token, don't expect a 5.8-inch Galaxy S8 to offer the same phablet-class real estate as a Note 5 or GS6 edge+. It'll be taller, and you may see more emails or lines of web content at once, but the screen area will be substantially different. The same argument applies to the Galaxy S8 Plus, which is around the same physical size as a Note 7.
Things become even more confusing when you recall that the G6 has software keys eating into that 5.7-inch diagonal, whereas the U Ultra, with its capacitive buttons, does not. If you exclude the portion of the screen lost to soft keys, the G6's screen area is reduced to 80.5cm². (Though admittedly, many apps can clear away the soft keys and use the full display size.) This factor alone should make the 5.8-inch GS8 feel a lot like a 5.2- or 5.5-inch phone to Galaxy owners used to off-screen keys.
That's not to say talk of phones like the LG G6 (and its contemporaries) delivering more screen in a smaller form factor is total BS. The G6 is substantially smaller than the iPhone 7 Plus, while also managing to deliver a slightly larger screen area — 86.5cm² to the 5.5-inch iPhone's 84.5cm².
Bottom line: A 16:9 display at 5.7 inches is absolutely not the same as an 18:9 display at 5.7 inches, because geometry. Equating the two is misleading at best. Screen area is a much more accurate way to pin a number on how large a screen is. So until manufacturers start printing area measurements on device boxes, we'll just have to use common sense to cut through the marketing.
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Alex was with Android Central for over a decade, producing written and video content for the site, and served as global Executive Editor from 2016 to 2022.
CEO to the Marketing Department: "people, we need something new to push" Marketing: "umm...since smartphones mostly do the same basic things and are stuck in a rut we'll come up with some new BS and tout it's benefits while basically keeping what it does in a rut. How about tweaking the screen size?" CEO: "brilliant, we'll say how it can be one-handed and do everything it did before, but we won't tell them the last part" Marketing: "yes, then everyone will come on board and the tech media will jump all over it because it's the same new old thing" CEO: "yes, and people will pre-order and stare at them for hours thinking how great the new break-through is while doing the same old thing"
In LG's case, it would help them to say for example that the G6 is as tall as the G5 but the screen area is bigger. That conveys the message much better than the screen size and ratio mumbo-jumbo.
By mentioning how tall and wide it is, you cut the maths out of it. And it becomes simplified as you can simply pick up a ruler and see right away the size.
If you take the curve into account and see it from above, you get :
- a width of the display of 6.79 cm instead of 6.85 cm (a 1% difference);
- a usable area of 82.7 cm² instead of 83.4 cm² (a 1% difference);
- a 5.45-inch screen instead of a 5.5-inch screen (a 1% difference).
As for the screen-to-body ratio of the S7 Edge, it goes from 76.1% down to 75.4%. And that was with a really pessimistic approximation for the curvature of the display.
Imagine a display that needs 3mm of bezels on each side. If the display is curved with an angle of about 45 degrees on the side, like the S7 Edge, it means that the actual bezel will only add 1.7mm to the width of the phone instead of 3mm. The difference is significant.
Assuming a curved screen has a 3mm radius 4.7125mm of the screen is taken up by each curved side. This reduces the flat width of the screen. by 9.425mm and results in an overall reduction in the width of the screen by 3.425 mm (9.425 - 6mm). This gives an overall width of the screen as 6.0075cm when viewed from above. A screen of 6.0075cm x 11.29cm has a viewing area of 67.82 square cm which is 94.6% of the viewable area on the flat screen phone. The flat area if the screen is 5.4075 x 11.29cm giving a flat screen area of 61.05 square cm which is only 85.16% of the flat screen phone. I do not think this is a good trade off to save 3.4mm on the width of the phone.
The main mistake you made is that you considered that the extremity of the display was perpendicular to the flat part of the display. But that is not true. The side of the curved display makes an angle of up to 45 degrees only with the flat part of the display, not 90 degrees. See for yourself : i-cdn.phonearena.com/images/articles/261013-thumb/GalaxyNote7-Feature-Design-Main.jpg
That changes everything! (and makes the calculations more difficult) ;) And actually, the radius of the curve of the S7 Edge is about 3.7 mm according to my own measurements, in case you're interested.
As it seems there will not be a standard it will be better to compare with surface measures as square cm or mm plus the ratio 4:3, 16:9 or now 2:1 and others.
Do not expect any help from brands, from 4:3 (16:12) to 16:9 they did not change the diagonal measure and in PC monitors does matter, the 24" is now even less "big" screen that 21" (4:3) where As 21/5= 4.2 and 3x4.2=12.6 and 24 /18(.36)= 1.33 and 9x1.33=12 (11.77 with the calculator) so to achieve 12.6 (21" 4:3) high, you will need to solve this 9* (x/18.36)=12.6 so X= 12.6*18.36/9= 25.7 21" 4:3 high => 26" 16:9 high and almost nobody made those conversions at the time of that change.
Qualcomm Snapdragon 830
(i just made that up) It's like it's imperative to put what specific snapdragon the phone has - not because common people understand what it is but because geeks would want to know.
For instance, when you play a 16:9 movie on the LG G6, which has a 5.7 inch display, it's as if you were playing it on a 5.2 inch 16:9 screen. Which means that a movie would look bigger on the LG G5 (5.3 inch) than on the LG G6!
2. Screen area: sq.cm or sq. inches
3. Screen height: cm or inches
4. Screen ratio Screen diagonal makes no sense at all when comparing different ratios and can be very misleading. This simply seems to be a ploy to get the average consumer to fall for the marketing pitches of bigger is better where they may actually be getting smaller screen real estate in these so called 5.8" "large" screens. The behind the scenes story is not user convenience, it's better profit margins due to savings on screen cost.
So isn't the g5 like a taller 5.x inch 16:9 screen?
1. 6" diagonal - 16.9 ratio - 2K viewable flat screen without nav. buttons.
2. Design the web browsers so that the text flows within the frame when zooming in or contracting the page for reading purposes. I am tired of having to scroll left and right when reading articles.. - HTC's browser on the M8 was the last browser I am aware of with this functionality.