As Apple and Google duke it out in the smartphone arena, the two have raised the game for competitors when it comes to camera technology, according to research firm iSuppli.
With the HTC-made Nexus One, which debuted in January, Google set a new standard for smartphone cameras by including an AMOLED (active-matrix organic light emitting diode) screen-a move iSuppli expects others to follow. While LCD technology currently dominates, iSuppli analysts said in their June 10 report that they nonetheless expect to see the AMOLED market grow by a factor of nine from 2009 to 2014.
That said, with the iPhone 4, which was introduced June 7 and will go on sale June 24, Apple outdid even the Nexus One with its inclusion of retina display technology.
"Apple is really setting itself apart from the Google Android phones with the use of the 3.5-inch retina display in the iPhone 4," Vinita Jakhanwal, an iSuppli principal analyst, said in a statement. "The Nexus One smartphone, introduced in January, upped the ante in handset displays with its 3.7-inch AM-OLED to deliver stunning images. However, Apple raised the bar even further by offering an LCD display with advanced In-Plane Switch (IPS) technology."
IPS, Jakhanwal said, offers a wider viewing angle and "better picture quality, in terms of presentation of color," than a traditional LCD. Apple's retina display technology enhances an image by using teenier pixels and more of them. The pixels are so small that the human eye can't distinguish between them, making for a crisper look.
Apple's iPad likewsise makes use of IPS technology.
By contrast, "the high resolution on AMOLEDs is currently achieved using sub-pixel rendering, which accentuates the edges on text at high resolutions," states iSuppli. "OLEDs hold several advantages over LCDs, including a larger color gamut, faster response time, a thinner form factor and no requirement for backlighting, which reduces power consumption and extends battery life. On the other hand, the iPhone's retina display must make use of LED backlights to illuminate the display."
While Apple CEO Steve Jobs has said retina displays will be the new standard over the coming years, iSuppli expects a number of vendors running Android to follow Google's AMOLED adoption.
Worldwide LCD shipments reached 1.6 billion units in 2009, and iSuppli is forecasting a steady rise toward 2 billion units by 2014. AMOLED displays, even with "a factor of nine" growth, aren't expected to reach 500 million by 2014.