Differences between an IPS, AMOLED or Super AMOLED mobile screen

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When we talk about the technical specifications of a mobile one of the first things we look at is the screen. Although we look more at resolution, the type of panel is also important. Surely you have seen more than once the acronym IPS or AMOLED. But what do these acronyms actually mean? Do they affect the daily use of the mobile phone? Sometimes it is difficult to know what kind of screen is better. And more when manufacturers tend to vary the technologies and put them ‘rare names’. So we are going to see what kind of screens we find on the current mobiles and what differences there are between them.

mobile screen

LCD

If we created a table and we compared the technical characteristics of 6 or 7 mobile, we would see acronyms like IPS, LCD, AMOLED, Super AMOLED, Retina and maybe some more. It is the same thing that happens with televisions, between the commercial names and the different variations of a technology we can end up completely bundled. However, in reality, there are only two types of panels for mobile screens: LCD and OLED.

LCD panels (Liquid Crystal Display) are the most common on mobile devices. Even so, it is rare to see that in the characteristics of a mobile we put ‘LCD screen’. And it is that inside the LCD panels we have multiple variants with different names.

TFT LCD
TFT (Thin Film Transistor) panels were for many years the type of LCD most used for mobile screens. Still today it can be seen in some terminals of very low range, although it has fallen into disuse.

In TFT technology, each pixel is a small capacitor. This allows very fast response times with acceptable contrast. In addition, the manufacture of this type of panels is very economical.

However, it has a big problem to use on mobile phones. And is that its energy consumption is very high. Before it could be used because the screens were very small, but a screen more than 5 inches with this technology would be unworkable.

IPS LCD
IPS technology is what we find today in the vast majority of mobiles. IPS (In-Plane Switching) was developed to improve the viewing angles and color reproduction of TFT panels. But what really made the mobile industry stand out for these panels was the drastic reduction of energy consumption.

That is, the IPS panels offer:

  • Reduced energy consumption compared to TFT
  • Clear images
  • Consistent colors
  • Good levels of brightness and contrast
  • Wide viewing angles

For all these reasons the IPS panels are the most widespread in the mobile industry. We find them on all types of mobiles.

Surely you have ever heard of “Retina Display”. Well, this is nothing more than an IPS LCD panel with a higher pixel density. By increasing the pixel density (what we commonly see as “ppp”) the images look sharper and better defined.

How to increase the pixel density? Using a higher resolution. For example, the iPhone 7 has a 4.7 inch screen. With this screen size it would have been normal to use an HD resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels. However, Apple’s mobile has a resolution of 1,334 x 750 pixels. With this data its screen density is 326 dpi. That is to say, superior to that of most terminals with this diagonal.

Of course, other factors also come into play to make Apple screens look ‘better’, such as brightness or contrast.

OLED

At first we commented that there are only two types of panels for mobile screens: LCD and OLED. OLED (Organic Light-Emitting Diode) is a self-luminous technology, based on carbon-based semiconductors. That is, each sub-pixel emits its own light without filters or backlighting. This means that each pixel will light up or shine on its own.

Among the advantages that OLED technology brings to mobile screens are:

  • Greater energy efficiency. This is because it do not need energy to reproduce the black color, simply turn off that pixel
  • Deeper blacks
  • Higher contrast level
  • Better viewing angles

However, it is very rare to see a mobile with OLED panel. The most common is to find one of its variants: AMOLED and Super AMOLED.

AMOLED (Active Matrix Organic Light-Emitting Diode) screens improve energy consumption, show clearer images and have higher contrast and brightness. However, its biggest drawback is that it can sometimes show over-saturated colors.

Samsung evolved these panels to create the Super AMOLED. These allow a higher pixel density, resulting in a sharper and sharper image. It also improves contrast and brightness, showing a clear image even in full sun. In addition it allows reducing the thickness of the panels. And, of course, it further reduces power consumption, which is key to a mobile terminal.

Currently almost all Samsung mobile has Super AMOLED screen, such as 2017 Samsung Galaxy S7 or Samsung Galaxy A5.

Another variant of the OLED panels are the new flexible panels. Known as POLED (plastic OLED) allow to create curved screens, like the one we see in the Samsung Galaxy S8+.