Samsung Galaxy S II: Bigger Is Not Better

Samsung has a new ad. It’s about the Galaxy S II smartphone. No, it’s more about people who stand in line to get iPhones. Actually, it’s a bit of both.

Maybe it’s because it was only yesterday, but I can’t help but compare Samsung’s ad to Apple’s iPad 2 ad titled ‘Love’. The iPad ad made me feel good; the Samsung ad frustrated me enough to write this post.

John Gruber gets to the heart of the problem:

This one from Samsung is more “people who buy iPhones are image-conscious fad-following idiots”.

The part that gets me is around the 30 second mark when the Apple guys are looking at someone’s Galaxy S II side by side with an iPhone 4:

A guy: Oooh.
Second guy: Check out this screen; this thing is huge.
Third guy: It’s pretty massive.

What Samsung wants you to believe is that bigger is better when it comes to a smartphone. The 3.5-inch 960×640 IPS LCD used in the iPhone 4 and the iPhone 4S is small and therefore not as good.

The Galaxy S II packs a 4.3-inch Super AMOLED Plus display that uses RGB sub-pixels in its 800×480 pixel format. So it definitely is bigger, by 0.8 inches.

When it comes to display specs one of the most important indicators of how good your visual experience will be is resolution. Resolution as in pixel density, the proper definition. Apple kicked up the relevance of resolution several notches when it introduced the iPhone 4. Along with it came the 3.5-inch 960×640 IPS LCD with a resolution of 326 ppi or Retina Display.

The Samsung Galaxy S II has a bigger display, certainly, but the resolution is 217 ppi. That is significantly lower than 326. And that means everything is less crisp. You get more of less.

Here are some other things to consider. OLEDs die sooner than LCDs. If you are ever in Seoul, South Korea keep your eyes open for bluish tinted smartphones. Those are smartphones with OLEDs that have circuitry that compensates for the blue OLED phosphor that dies out quicker than the red and green. Sure most of you don’t want to keep your smartphone more than the two year contract, but wouldn’t it be better to be able to sell your smartphone to get some money back?

Then there’s power consumption. Some people seem to think that OLED displays consume less power than LCDs. Well, that’s generally not true. OLED displays consume more power than LCDs with one exception: When you’re watching videos. Because the overall brightness levels are on average darker than anything else you do on your smartphone OLED displays consume less power than LCDs. The brighter the display the more power OLED consumes.

To conclude, yes the Samsung Galaxy S II has a bigger display than the iPhone. But bigger in this case means, well, bigger and that’s about it. The iPhone’s Retina Display has a significantly higher resolution, which I consider to be one of the most important specs in determining whether you’ll be getting a fantastic visual experience, or not. And this is not to say that the Galaxy S II doesn’t look good; it does. But what I am saying is the iPhone 4/4S with the smaller but higher resolution display looks better.