Jun 6th, 2017

One of the biggest and most important parts of any smartphone is the display. The display is something you interact with dozens of times every day. It’s your window into the apps and tools that make up a smartphone. Displays have gotten ridiculously good over the years, but they still fall under two types.

Every smartphone today has one of two displays types: AMOLED or LCD. These displays are very different, but both have advantages. AMOLED is what you’ll find main on Samsung phones and a few other random devices. The majority of smartphones, including the iPhone, have LCD displays. So what’s the difference between the two? Let’s dig in.

AMOLED

AMOLED stands for “Active Matrix Organic Light Emitting Diode.” These displays are made up from a very thin layer of polymers that light up when given an electric current. There are two main benefits to AMOLED. Due to the design, AMOLED panels can be very thin and they don’t require a backlight.

You’ve probably heard people say that AMOLED displays have “pure blacks.” This is because the black pixels are not lit up by a backlight. There is literally no light coming from black pixels. The result is vivid colors with high contrast. AMOLED displays can be more energy efficient, since not all of the pixels are lit up.

LCD

LCD stands for “Liquid Crystal Display.” These displays are far more common to have. Your TV and laptop probably have LCD displays. As the name implies, LCD is literally made from liquid crystals. But that means it requires dual glass panels and a backlight. LCD displays are not as thin as AMOLED.

Since LCD displays have a backlight, even black pixels are slightly illuminated. Colors are not as vibrant and the contrast isn’t as high. The advantage to LCD is that colors generally look more realistic. You don’t see “pure black” colors a lot in the real world.

A common term that goes with LCD displays on phones is “IPS,” which stands for “in-plane switching.” IPS offers wider viewing angles than other types of LCD displays, which is why it’s preferred for smartphones.

Pros & Cons

Pic from image search

AMOLED and LCD both have their respective advantages and disadvantages. A lot of people prefer the vivid colors and pure blacks of AMOLED displays. The pure black is especially nice if you look at your phone at night a lot. However, the color on AMOLED displays (especially Samsung phones) is not realistic.

LCD displays often look more dull and muted compared to AMOLED because they don’t have the same level of contrast. This is actually a good thing if you want colors to appear more true-to-life. Another thing to compare is power consumption. AMOLED displays don’t require a backlight. LCD displays do. This makes AMOLED displays slightly more energy efficient. You can use a pure black wallpaper to save energy because the pixels aren’t lit up.

LCD displays tend to look more blue, while AMOLED displays tend to look more yellow. This is another reason why AMOLED is generally better on your eyes. Blue light is what keeps you up at night. LCD displays usually have color temperature settings to filter out the blue, but you’ll never be able to get the pure blacks.

Which is better?

It’s impossible to say one display is better than the other. Not all LCD displays look the same, just like not all AMOLED displays look the same. Ultimately, it comes down to user preference. Some people love the punchy color of AMOLED, other people hate. The same can be said for LCD.

People will argue about what technology is superior, but at the end of the day, all that matters is what looks better to your eyes. The good news is there are excellent options for both. Samsung makes excellent AMOLED displays. LG and HTC have phones with great LCD displays. Android is all about choice, so decide which you like best and enjoy.

Do you prefer AMOLED or LCD? Why?

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