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Samsung moves touchscreen goalposts, may woo Apple back

It’s been the app store, the processor speed, even the number of megapixels – but at the moment, the touchscreen technology is taking center stage as

By CAROLINE GABRIEL

Published: 18 May, 2011

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It’s been the app store, the processor speed, even the number of megapixels – but at the moment, the touchscreen technology is taking center stage as a competitive weapon in smartphones and tablets. Apple and Samsung, once close allies in displays, are increasingly fighting for the upper ground, but this week the latter made a breakthrough in ultra-high resolution technology, which could even win Apple back to its fold.

Apple claimed the highest resolution in the mobile market for iPhone 4’s RetinaDisplay (made by LG), as it looked to reduce its reliance on Samsung and on the AMOLED superbright technology the Korean firm virtually controls. Samsung Mobile has used its sister company’s AMOLED lead to its own advantage in pushing Galaxy S, and by taking priority when supplies of the screens have been limited, it has wrongfooted competitors like HTC, which has turned to a SuperLCD alternative for some smartphones.


But all these advances have so far been confined to handsets, while the iPad, Galaxy Tab and other early tablets have had less impressive displays. Now Samsung promises to move those goalposts, as insiders indicate it is investing “unprecedented sums” in small and medium touchscreen panels. This week it is showing off its latest innovation, promising an ultra-high resolution LCD screen for 10-inch tablets as well as HDTVs.

The screen, which uses the PenTile technology from Samsung’s affiliate Nouvoyance, promises the highest resolution and pixel density available on the market for 10.1-inch devices. It supports 2560 x 1600 pixels – a maximum resolution usually associated with very large displays. It also achieves 300dpi density while using 65% fewer sub-pixels to improve the visual effect. Samsung says the technology delivers twice the full HD performance at 40% less power, compared to current ‘RGB Stripe’ LCD screens.

The WQXGA display will be commercially available later this year and its first customer is almost certain to be Samsung Display’s sister firm, Samsung Mobile, for its next generation of Galaxy Tab tablets. The screen could provide a significant differentiator for a large-sized ‘Tab 2’, which could even turn up in time for the holiday season. To date, tablets have not boasted the cutting edge display appearance seen on high end smartphones – Samsung has not enlarged the Super AMOLED of its Galaxy S for the tablet models, nor has Apple adapted the iPhone 4’s RetinaDisplay for the iPad.

Samsung will certainly be pitching PenTile at Apple to try to build new business with the iPad maker, at a time when Apple is reducing its reliance on the Korean giant for chips and screens. The US firm is clearly reluctant to boost a company that is becoming an increasingly dangerous handset competitor, but PenTile is so far ahead of current touchscreen display options that – unless it has its own breakthrough up its sleeve – it may not be able to pass up on the Samsung product for a future iPad. The iPad 2’s 9.7-inch screen has a resolution of 1024 x 768, less than half of the Samsung launch, using LCD/IPS technology.

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