A History Of Smartphone Screens And How Modern Displays Came To Light

Phones screens have come a long way since the 90s. Learn about their evolution and how to pick a screen that’s right for you.

Over the past 20 years, cell phones have evolved from simple devices made for mobile calling to smartphones that serve as mini computers. As phones got smarter, so did their screens. Take a journey back in time to see how modern phone displays came to be.

Woman holding smartphone with screen notch

The first smartphone

In 1992, 8 years before the new millennium, IBM debuted the first smartphone: the Simon Personal Communicator. It featured a black-and-white 160 x 293 LCD touchscreen measuring 4.5 inches by 1.4 inches. In fact, Simon is believed to be the first commercially available phone with a touchscreen, and it came with a stylus for streamlined navigation.

For the rest of the 1990s and into the 2000s, black-and-white passive matrix screens were the norm. The rows and columns combined to create text, giving off a blocky appearance.

Introducing color

In 2001, Nokia released the first smartphone to feature a monochromatic display. The Nokia 8250 allowed users to change the background from gray to a bright blue. That same year, the Sony Ericsson T68m and Mitsubishi Trium Eclipse were released, offering 256 colors.

A new age

Released in June 2007, the iPhone introduced many firsts. It was the first phone with an operating system, responsive touchscreen, and touch interface that replaced the traditional QWERTY keyboard. The phone screen itself comprised a video graphic array (VGA) display and offered a resolution of 320 x 480 – far exceeding other phones at the time.

Released in June 2007, the iPhone introduced many firsts.

In the next few years, phone manufacturers followed iPhone’s example and began making devices with multi-touch interfaces, higher screen resolutions, and larger phone screen sizes. In 2011, Samsung unveiled the Samsung Galaxy S2, which featured a 480 x 800 resolution. Then, in 2013, Motorola’s Moto X was thrust onto the scene with a screen size of 720 x 1280 pixels.

Today’s smartphones

Currently, there are six main display types used in mobile phones: TFT LCD, IPS-LCD, Capacitive Touchscreen LCD, OLED, AMOLED, and Super AMOLED.

Let’s start with LCDs. TFT LCD displays are considered the most common. They deliver quality images and higher resolutions. IPS LCDs, which are mainly found in higher-end smartphones, offer improved battery life and deliver wider viewing angles. These types of displays are often found in iPhones, but by Apple’s proprietary names, “Retina,” or “Super Retina.” Then, there are capacitive touchscreen LCDs, which rely on the touch of a human finger for input.

OLEDs are considered an up-and-coming display technology – they don’t require any backlighting to display pixels. Fundamentally, each pixel emits it own light, allowing for darker blacks and brighter whites. AMOLEDs combine a TFT display with an OLED display for energy savings, while Super AMOLED displays deliver even brighter screens and more power savings.

Picking a new device

When choosing a new Net10 phone, you may feel overwhelmed with all the display options available. First, consider the phone screen size. The bigger the phone screen, the bigger the phone. If you’d like to be able to slip your phone easily inside a pocket or purse, opt for a smaller phone size, such as 4-inch, 4.7-inch, or 5-inch. If you’d prefer a bigger screen size for gaming or watching videos, you’ll benefit from choosing a phone with a 5.5-inch, 6.4-inch, or similar size.

Next, you’ll need to consider the display technology. OLED screens are known for their faster response times, better contrast, and longer battery lives. LCD screens, on the other hand, are better for outdoor viewing, deliver a natural color reproduction, and offer sharper images.

Last up? Resolution. If you’re looking for a phone with higher levels of pixel detail, you’ll want a screen resolution of at least 1920 x 1080, or full HD. If picture quality isn’t on the top of your must-have list, you should be safe choosing a lower screen resolution.

Shop Net10 devices

<pull quote> Make sure you receive nationwide coverage on one of America’s largest and most dependable 4G LTE networks.

After you’ve chosen the right device for your needs, make sure you receive nationwide coverage on one of America’s largest and most dependable 4G LTE† networks – pick out a Net10 service plan.

† To get 4G LTE speed, you must have a 4G LTE capable device and 4G LTE SIM. Actual availability, coverage and speed may vary. LTE is a trademark of ETSI.