18:9 aspect ratio: Is bigger really better?


Before I go any further, I have to be very candid with you…..we are going to talk about inches. But get your mind out of the gutter, its more along the lines of how many are you wrapping around your hand….wait, that didn’t sound right. But you will get the point as we go through this article together.

Seems like everything has become bigger and bigger. But is bigger really better! Think back to a time when you could confidently hold your phone with one hand. Remember the comfort, the ease, the convenience. Now-a-days if it isn’t more than 5 inches, your screen that is, then do you even have a phone?

Now let’s dive in to the details.

Before we get to understand the need for the 18:9 aspect ratio big screens, let’s dig into the reason behind the bigger screens on our mobile phones. Saying that we have an attachment to our phones is an understatement.




Our phones have become our daily drivers allowing us to stay in touch with friends, family and work colleagues. We do this by calling, chatting, writing emails and checking social media. With all this tasks being required of our mobile phones, the demands on our phones to perform better and faster have increased. From faster processors, to better cameras and bigger screens, our phones are evolving to keep up with our insatiable demand. Sounds a bit too familiar! 

The 18:9 aspect ratio (18 by 9) on our screens aims to increase what we can do with our phones. It is slowly but surely replacing the 16:9 aspect ratio that is most common in our phones. Many of the leading smartphone manufacturers tend to be leaning towards this trend.

This could be partly because this aspect ratio allows for a taller but narrower screen. In addition to that, mobile phone manufacturers can make their phones almost bezel-less. The likes of Apple with their iPhone X (19.5 by 9), Samsung galaxy S9 (18.5 by 9), LG V30 and LG G6 (18 by 9), google pixel 2 XL (18 by 9), OnePlus 5 (18 by 9), Oppo F5 (18 by 9), Tecno Camon CM and Tecno Camon X (18 by 9) and Huawei honor 9i (18 by 9). Check out the comprehensive list of phones here.













Another reason to watch out for the 18:9 aspect ratio, is the massive support from chipset makers like mediatek and qualcom. This means that all this modification have been done in the chipset to support the trend. Additionally, the required drivers for making all this work seamlessly is in built and readily available. In addition, smartphone manufacturers want the future phones to have bezel-less screens and 18:9 aspect ratios.

What is the difference between screen size and aspect ratio?

Screen size implies the Pythagorean relationship between any two sides of a rectangular shaped screen. Yes, geek talk! Let’s elaborate. Let’s take for example a 5.7 inch display, this would mean that it is 4.9 inch high and 2.7 inch wide. When you do the square root of the sum of squares of the two sides, you end up with the number 5.7.




An example of phone screen size Photo courtesy of phone arena.
An example of phone screen size Photo courtesy of phone arena.

 

Aspect ratio relates to video. It is the ratio of the two sides, length and width, compared to each other. When it comes to aspect ratio, it doesn’t include the plastic or metal strips on either side of the display. Looking at the 18:9 aspect ratio, the height of the phones is twice that of its width (when viewed in portrait). This means it’s taller rather than being wide.

An example of how to measure aspect ratio courtesy of calculateaspectratio.com.

Advantages of a larger screen:

  • Big display, small size:

The 18:9 aspect ratio gives you a taller screen with slimmer bezels and it applies for the side, top and bottom bezels. This means that you can get phones with large 6 inch screens while the overall dimensions and size remain similar to a phone with a 16:9 aspect ratio 5.5 inch screen. One advantage that this brings is that people with smaller hands can carry big screens easily on devices that have an 18:9 screen.

Example of a phone with bigger display on a small form factor with the 18:9 screen ratio, courtesy of businessinsider.com




  • Improved multitasking

One of the most useful features in android starting from version 7.0 and above is the in-built split screen mode. This feature allows you to have two apps open at the same time allowing for multitasking. Since the 18:9 screen is two times taller than its width, it allows for the screen to be split into two perfect halves. What this means is that during split screen multitasking, each app takes up equal space.

  • Enhanced content consumption

Most content on websites and apps is meant to be scrolled vertically on a screen. With the 18:9 aspect ratio, you get a longer screen which allows you to view more content in the same frame. When using twitter, facebook or instagram feed, you will scroll less and get a superior experience for consuming content and using apps. Having this longer screen also makes it very handy when using your phone to read long articles and e-books.

Example of a phone consuming more content with the 18:9 screen ratio, courtesy of xda-developers.com

  • Optimised for virtual reality

Virtual Reality running on phones is a relatively new concept that is becoming popular. The 18:9 aspect ratio is ideal for use with Virtual Reality (VR) headsets. When using VR, the display on your phone is split in half for a side by side view. With this aspect ratio, the screen shows relatively more content in the same frame when compared to its longer existing 16:9 aspect ratio. Given the longer screen, a superior VR experience is delivered because of more screen real estate for each eye.

Disadvantage / shortcomings:

  • Annoying letter-boxing

Most games, apps and videos are not optimized for 18:9 aspect ratio screens. That is where letter boxing comes about. This is the two black bars on the side of the application or video that appear when viewing or using in landscape mode. If you have experienced these black bars, they can be very distracting. What happens to counter this effect is that, most of the time some phones will force the app or video to display in full screen. However the resulting effects are not always positive as you may end up with a cropped fit. In some cases, this leads to items towards the edges not displaying correctly.




Example of a phone with letter boxing with the 18:9 screen ratio, courtesy of androidauthority.com

  • Increased fragmentation

It is a well-known fact that screen resolutions can vary widely according to the price. Due to this, not every mobile phone manufacturer sticks to the same 18:9 aspect ratio. For example the Samsung S9 has a 18.5:9 aspect ratio while the apple X has a 19.5:9. Having increasingly differing aspect ratios brings about screen fragmentation in the mobile phone market. This in turn makes it difficult for mobile app developers because they have to tweak their apps to support this different aspect ratios. Screen fragmentation is a major reason why there are major delays in app compatibility updates.

  • Forced onscreen buttons

Due to the 18:9 aspect ratio, bezels on smart phones have decreased significantly. Often this means that there will not be enough space to fit it capacitive buttons. This in turn forces the use of onscreen buttons which take up a portion of the screen.

  • Camera resolution mismatch

The screen may be 18:9 but the camera on the device doesn’t capture in that aspect ratio by default. If you want to capture photos in 18:9 aspect ratio and have the image take up the entire screen, overall resolution will drop by a significant amount compared to the full potential of the camera sensor.

So what is your take on this! Is bigger really better? Share with us your thoughts below in the comment section below or reach us on social media with your take.

Post Author: Timothy

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