Display Wars: HD Super AMOLED vs. Retina Display 1

Two of the biggest electronics companies today – Samsung and Apple – are battling it out in the smartphone arena. When Apple entered the smartphone market in 2007 with the original iPhone, it did so with much fanfare. From then on, it has built up its brand successfully with subsequent iPhone versions, including the latest model, 4S, selling by tens of millions.

Samsung only made significant headway in 2010 with the release of the Galaxy S, but it has since taken the lead of the smartphone market share, thanks to the breakout successes of the Galaxy SII and most recently, the Galaxy SIII.

Although Samsung has recently won the battle for the fastest selling gadget of all time (the SIII’s 9 million preorders before its release beat the 4S’ 4 million units sold in three days), the battle for screen supremacy is still up in the air. The SIII has the latest in Samsung screen technology, the “HD Super AMOLED”, while the iPhone 4S carries over Apple’s cutting-edge “Retina Display” from the iPhone 4.

Before getting into the details, there must first be some clarification regarding these two fancy technological terms.

HD Super AMOLED – AMOLED or Active Matrix Organic Light-Emitting Diodes, at its most basic definition, means that the pixels do not need a backlight to produce colors and whites (OLED); and the pixels can change colors fast enough to keep up with quick animations (AM).

Source: LeadingWay

Because of the OLED, less energy is used for extra light and blacks keep their richness. The “Super” tag refers to the integration of the capacitive touchscreen layer to the actual display screen for less reflection, less energy used, and an even thinner screen.

As for the HD, the screen can display 1280×720 resolution for high-definition image and video quality.

Retina Display – According to Apple, there is a maximum number of pixels that the human eye can process when looking at something that’s about 11 inches away from the eyes: 300ppi (pixels per inch). Through their research, they have managed to surpass this number with 326ppi while packing it all into the 3.5 inch screens of the iPhone 4 and 4S, looking glorious even with a standard 960×640 resolution.

Source: ytsutano

The difference between this and the previous LCD screens of the iPhone 3G and 3GS is quite noticeable upon close inspection, as it has no apparent pixelation. Text, pictures and videos are definitely sharper, while blacks, whites and colors are brighter. Apple also implemented IPS (in-plane switching) which keeps the crystal clear quality of the display no matter what angle the phone’s screen is being viewed.

The 4 and 4S also boast of automatic brightness adjustment to maximize the viewing experience, and to save power. The glass is also extra durable and scratch resistant, keeping owners from repeatedly needing iPhone repair services.

So how do these impressive-sounding specs actually perform in the activities that matter most to consumers?


With the 1.4GHz quad-core processor and the Mali-400MP GPU (graphics processing unit) of the SIII, playing graphics-intensive games is a blast. The colors pop out, the image quality is smooth, and there is no slowdown even when things get hectic on the screen.

The iPhone 4S also has a powerful processor– the A5 dual-core processor—that can load graphics seven times faster than the iPhone 4. The performance upgrade from 4 to 4S is instantly clear, as games load much faster and play seamlessly. Just like the SIII, there is no slowdown in gaming performance no matter how many objects are displayed.

The SIII has a couple of advantages compared to the 4S in this department. The wider resolution of the SIII simply allows more action on screen. The AMOLED display also brings more vibrancy in its colors without draining too much of the battery.

If there’s one thing the iPhone 4S has over the SIII, it’s that the 4S has a bigger library of good-looking games considering its age. However, bigger and better games will definitely start showing up in the SIII’s currently barren Google Play game store soon enough.

Watching Video

Both smartphones can record and play videos up to full 1080p, playing them back in slick 30fps (frames per second). Nevertheless, there are a couple of differences that should be obvious to anyone comparing both phones’ cameras when recording at the same time.

The SIII’s AMOLED technology makes videos more fluid even when moving the camera quickly, whereas the iPhone 4S shows noticeable blurring when it is being moved around. Colors are lush and blacks are deep in the SIII, making the iPhone 4S’ display of trees, flowers and black objects look a little washed out in comparison.

On the other hand, the iPhone 4S handles brightness much better by controlling the level of light absorbed by the camera. The SIII ends up obscuring things in direct sunlight, and gives off a yellowish tint in bright indoor areas. Dark areas also look much clearer with the iPhone 4S.

Viewing Images

The SIII and the 4S both have 8MP (megapixel) rear cameras with LED flash for high-quality picture taking. Much of what has been said about their video capabilities also apply to their image viewing. Colorful things look more alive in the SIII, while the 4S processes light sources better for controlled brightness. The SIII does have a much brighter flash to help illuminating pictures taken in the dark, and it also has zero shutter lag, which means that the photos taken are automatically registered in the phone.

The SIII’s front camera trumps that of the 4S. At 1.9MP with no shutter lag and the ability to also record videos in 720p, the SIII has more flexibility in the image department than the 4S, which only has a 0.3MP front camera that can only record up to 480.

Faces can be recognized by each camera for picture-taking, but the SIII has a new feature which also recognizes faces once the picture has already been taken, making sharing photos to friends and family even easier.

Display Wars: HD Super AMOLED vs. Retina Display 2The Verdict

Considering each of the three categories, Samsung wins this clash of the titans but not in an utterly dominating fashion. Games look and play well for both phones, but the SIII can offer more in terms of size. When it comes to videos and pictures, the SIII does colors better and it has more options. The only thing holding the SIII back is its problems with brightness.

Although the SIII does seem to have this battle won, there are other features to consider that the most rabid Samsung and Apple fans can argue over with endlessly. And to be fair, the SIII did just get released unlike the 4S which has been out for months.

Samsung will have to watch out for the next iPhone, anticipated to be launched within the coming months. Apple will be hungry to regain its place on top, and another battle is sure to begin.


About the author: Jay Manangan is a online marketing strategist for Repair Labs and Fix-iphones, An industry-recognized specialist in computer and gadget repair. He spends most of his time on the internet, reading technology and computer blogs. He's the axeman of a band called “ManMinusMachine”.

Display Wars: HD Super AMOLED vs. Retina Display 3

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