2017’s Flagship Smartphone 18:9 Screen Aspect Ratios Explored
At least two of 2017’s flagship smartphones have been released with a slightly different aspect ratio to the normal. The LG G6 and Samsung Galaxy S8 models come with an 18:9 aspect ratio rather than the more-normal 16:9 aspect ratio. Why is this? And why are manufacturers calling the aspect ratio 18:9 rather than 2:1? Manufacturers tell us that it means we can do more with our devices, which sounds too good to be true. Let’s take a look as to why suddenly an 18:9 display is a “must have” feature for some manufacturers.
One of the common ways to compare smartphones is the screen size, and here the industry is used to a single number being used, which is the length of the diagonal of the display size. One example is the HTC One M8, which has 5.0-inch display. The device dimensions are 5.7-inch tall and 2.74-inch wide.
The new LG G6 has a display described as “FullVision 5.7-inch Quad HD+ (1440×2880) 18:9 ratio” by LG’s website. The handset is 5.9-inch tall by 2.8-inch wide. This means the LG G6 is only 0.1-inch wider than the HTC One M9 despite having a much larger quoted screen. The LG G6 is of course taller (and the HTC One M9 is already a tall device), but this isn’t properly explained in the quoted screen size. As consumers, a device that has a 5.7-inch display size sounds like quite a handful, but when we hold the LG G6 we are pleasantly surprised to discover that the display is barely wider than a handset with a quoted 5.0-inch screen size. It’s a clever trick, especially combined with thin bezels.
Yes; the 18:9 aspect ratio means that with Android Nougat’s split-screen feature, we can put two applications side by side and each runs in its own perfect square shaped box. I don’t see the productivity advantage in having an application filling a square compared to a rectangle when I am running it in split screen mode, as we see here with the LG Nexus 5X. However, both LG and Samsung are using 18:9 for their device display’s aspect ratio because this is supposed to make it clear, as consumers can compare the 18:9 to a more traditional 16:9 aspect ratio.
Aren’t most customers going to go “huh?” at this, but see that 18 is a bigger number than 16, so an 18:9 screen is better than a 16:9 display. I see what LG could be thinking here… Perhaps they’re hoping customers are drawn to bigger numbers and shiny, bright, colorful, and big screens and will buy the LG G6 (and the Samsung Galaxy S8) in preference to smartphones that are sticking to the 16:9 aspect ratio? Both these flagships have gorgeous displays and don’t need the aspect ratio difference to be explained other than it’s a way of keeping a bigger screen comfortable to hold.
Meanwhile, the smartphone arms race is showing no signs of easing up. Some specification numbers matter more than others, such as storage capacity. Other metrics are difficult to precisely measure like battery life and some are open to interpretation, such as System-on-Chip (or processor) specifications.