Flagship Phones Get New Aspect Ratio

Samsung and LG are head-to-head again. Not only are they the only two fully vertically integrated electronics companies on planet Earth, but they're also the companies with the hottest spring 2017 phone releases. Blackberry and Windows phones are bygone dinosaurs in the current mobile world, and with exciting Android flagships such as these, Apple may want to come out hitting hard with the iPhone 8 sooner than expected or Apple's relevance--and their less than 18% market share--will be in question as well.

Samsung's Galaxy S8 is available for pre-order and will begin shipping on 28 April 2017.

LG's G6 is also available for pre-order and will start shipping 7 April 2017.

Of course, Samsung is receiving far more press coverage of their new device, and that's warranted. Samsung consistently out performs LG in the smartphone space, but both Samsung and LG have made interesting adjustments to their flagship devices. They've modified the screen's aspect ratio and given their screens rounded corners. That latter modification is virtually irrelevant and merely aesthetic, but the former change tells us the current state of mobile computing. What we can't determine is what aspect ratio is perceived to be best for this purpose. Samsung opted for an obscure 18.5:9 ratio, while LG chose a more simplistic 2:1 (but markets it as 18:9).

For a full spec writeup, see this great article at Digital Trends.

Why make a change from the standard 16:9 widescreen format that smartphones have enjoyed for years? Mainly to signal an increased importance of side-by-side app multitasking on mobile devices. Despite Samsung's introduction of DeX (their horribly named Microsoft Continuum clone), smartphones are increasingly the productivity device of choice for not only a new generation of business professionals, but also for existing professionals. People increasingly turn to their phones to accomplish even complex work tasks, and they expect that phone manufacturers and app developers can keep up with the demand for full-scale solutions in a small-scale device.

If you're not a flagship smartphone type of person, do I think your next phone is likely to move on from standard widescreen into something else? It is important to remember that Apple tried this previously with the iPhone 5 to relatively poor reviews. With that said, however, it appears as if Samsung and LG have finally cracked the code required to make alternate aspect ratios accepted, and even welcomed, by end users. Furthermore, the next phone you have can have any aspect ratio the manufacturer wants and my prediction is that you won't even care or notice. If OEMs keep within reason, modern applications and websites--if built properly--can adjust to accommodate everything from IoT screens, to phones and tablets, and can scale all the way up to computers and TVs with gargantuan displays.

I think, in the future, we'll still have common aspect ratios, but our devices will be increasingly varied based on their intended purpose. For video consumption, we'll see widescreen (16:9) and theatrical (2.4:1). For reading and content creation we'll see widescreen, paper (3:2 or slightly more narrow), and even the occasional return of what can only be called "standard TV" (4:3). Despite having all of these ratios, you'll begin to notice them less as devices are able to exchange information in real time across screens. Then, only those of us with multi-monitor stationary computers for production purposes will even care about selecting devices based upon their aspect ratios.

After all, maybe it is time to end the conversation on aspect ratio. We've apparently experimented with enough of them.

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