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Qualcomm predicts 4K phones are the next big thing

Luke Johnson


Qualcomm 4K phones
Qualcomm suggests 4K phones are the future

Chipset manufacturer Qualcomm has suggested that 4K phones will be the industry’s next big area of progression, a move that is closer than you might expect.

With handsets having progressed through having 720p HD and 1080p Full HD displays in less than 18 months, Qualcomm has predicted that it won’t be long until 4K phones are the dominant force of the high-end mobile scene.

I think 4K is one of the primary things you are seeing from us,” Tim McDonough, Qualcomm’s Vice President of Marketing said speaking with TrustedReviews on the future of smartphones.

“4K is pretty cool because it means that not only can you do 4K video, but once you can push that number of pixels and the chip has the ability to do 4K video, anything that is multimedia related – think about gaming – that gets better too.”

With chipsets set to be at the heart of the introduction of true 4K phones, McDonough has teased that the first 4K handsets might not be too far off, despite 4K TVs still being in their infancy.

“In November we announced Snapdragon 805, the next-generation of 800. Our shorthand for that is that it is the Ultra HD mobile processor and it runs Ultra HD. It will shoot it with video, it will play it back, it will play it back with surround sound and it will run an Ultra HD UI,” he said.

“It has already sampled and we said the first half of 2014 [for devices to launch].”

Detailing the move to 4K he added: “When you think of how many pixels it is running on screen, it is an incredibly competent processor. If you can put Ultra HD in a phone, you can basically put it in anything as this is the most challenging environment to design a chip for.”

While recent Samsung Galaxy S5 rumours have claimed the phone will land with a 2K resolution display in tow, last year the Korean manufacturer bestowed its latest phablet with the ability to shoot 4K video.

Discussing this breakthrough moment towards truly 4K phones, McDonough stated: “The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 today has a Snapdragon in it and shoots in 4K because of that Snapdragon. That is the first toe in the water and I think you will see a lot more of it.”

Highlighting the rapid progression the smartphone industry has made to 4K, the Qualcomm VP added: “As soon as you think it is going to slow down, you are generally proven wrong.

“I once said that ‘now we’ve got 720p on our smartphone screens isn’t that good enough?’ I was so wrong. 720p was the standard for what, six, nine months.

“If they can do 4K you kind of get to the point where it is ‘what can’t they do’. What I think will be interesting is will your phone go from 4K to 8K.”

Next, read all the latest iPhone 6 news and rumours


January 24, 2014, 2:35 pm

Sersiously, 2K on a phone, let alone 4k? Or 8k? What's he smoking? 1080p on a (5") phone is high enough.

It's hard enough to make out pixels on a 720p screen on a phone, let alone 1080p. Now I understand Qualcomm are all about mobiles, but until 4k gains proper adoption for tvs and monitors (laptops and pcs) at a reasonable price, 4k on phones is serious overkill.

I wish they would concentrate on better battery tech, a 4k screen will need better hardware to run, reducing battery life for minimal gain.


January 24, 2014, 2:40 pm

So the 1080p that you say is more than enough, isn't it almost the same as 2K that you say is too much? Unless you don't know the difference between K and p.
I assume you meant: 720p is enough, 1440p is too much.

Tim Sutton

January 24, 2014, 11:14 pm

I'd be interested if my phone could output 4k, because then I could use it to drive a 4k display. That I don't actually have yet, but y'know.

But I thought that we were exceeding the maximum level of perceivable detail in sub 5" displays already? What benefit does going above 1080p on a small screen actually have?

M Walton

January 25, 2014, 9:31 am

On a 5" phone screen a 1080p display is absolutely fine. Improve the speed and efficiency of the processors, more ram and BATTERY LIFE by all means, but we do not need higher def screens at this size thank you, swallowing up any efficiencies gained from the improvements mentioned! However having the ability to SHOOT 4k I do not have a problem with. You'd have the option to use 1080p if you wanted, but for future-proofing your video for the not to distant 4k multimedia bombardment then it's a no brainer for them to include it in any new phones spec.


January 25, 2014, 11:30 am

Seems like a waste of effort to me. As others have said, pixels are virtually invisible on today's 1080p screens, so what's the point in going to a higher resolution still? The other problem is driving that many pixels; today's graphics cards with power requirements of hundreds of Watts are struggling to produce fast enough frame-rates in games at 4K, so how will it be achieved on a mobile platform? Why don't Qualcomm concentrate their efforts on something that's actually *useful* to their customers, for example, a smartphone which can go more than 12 hours of use without needing to be recharged?


January 25, 2014, 2:30 pm

I think he's saying 1080p is more than enough as it is, who can honestly notice the difference between 720p and 1080p on a tiny screen.


January 25, 2014, 9:09 pm

Do you really think people shooting 4K are not going to watch their 4K videos on their 4K UHD TVs and only watch them on their smartphones ? If all you care for is battery life then get a Droid Maxx.

Tim Sutton

January 25, 2014, 11:37 pm

I'm not entirely sure what you're saying, but if you're talking about people taking videos on their phones and then using the phone as a media player to output those videos on to an external 4k screen then woohoo, I'd imagine most people would be happy with that capability.

What I think people (well, me) are unsure about is the need to have a screen on their top end phone that's 4 times more detailed than the screens we have now.

It would add huge expense and drain battery four times faster than a 1080p screen... a 1080p screen that is already too detailed for the human eye to make out on a sub 5 inch screen.

So if our eyes genuinely are not capable of seeing the difference between 1080p and 4K on our phone, why is this an advance worth paying for?


January 26, 2014, 1:21 am

Forget a 4K display on a 5" screen, a 4K smartphone will be like any other 4K camera, it will record a 4K video to be viewed on a large 4K display. Why do you people have a hard time understanding this ? Do you think a 5K RED EPIC camera has a 5K display attached to it ?

Tim Sutton

January 26, 2014, 9:22 am

Joe, you haven't understood the article.

It is talking about screens on the handset.

Phone cameras are already capable of 4K filming. 4k is only about 8.1 megapixels.

You need to calm down and stop thinking you're in some way smarter than other people.


January 26, 2014, 2:50 pm

Exactly, 1080p on a screen is more than enough as it is. Apologies if I wasn't clear on my point. I tend to think of 2K being double 1080p than 720p - but that's a different discussion. Would say that 1440p is still too much on such small screens.

I'd prefer companies would concentrate on larger screens where upping the resolution would make more of a difference.

I'm sure it's something to do with profile margins being higher on smaller screens - maybe also to do with yield rates as you'd get a lot 4-5" screens for the same space as a 24" monitor, let alone 50"+ tvs.

Prem Desai

January 27, 2014, 9:43 am

To achieve higher resolutions, manufacturers are using existing technology - just more of it.

Existing technology uses more power and produce more heat.

This means even shorter battery life.

Pointless except maybe for niche markets.

Give us a longer battery life and case/screen materials that don't need bulky protectors.

Gernot Ottowitz

January 27, 2014, 10:26 am

lol.. something's funny here..
my 46" tv is 1080p, my 27" monitor is 2k but my 5" phone will be 4k! something seems a bit off here..
well - i don't have to understand the world - do i? someone will surely explain to me why i need it..


January 27, 2014, 12:10 pm

Marketing people obviously :)

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