Are bigger screens better?
Screens have taken over a large chunk of our society: displays are now built into almost every piece of tech. But does bigger mean better?
In 2000, Nokia launched its 3310, a feature phone that became widely adored. By today’s standards, the display was tiny: 2.4 inches with a resolution of 240x320 pixels.
Since then, of course, displays have got bigger and more colourful. They are packed with touch-sensitive tech, including in-display fingerprint readers. Soon they will even "bend to our will", as new foldable smartphones are released.
We are bombarded with displays beaming adverts, entertainment and information. If you were to teleport someone from the 1960s to today’s world they would be struck by the sheer mass of flickering displays that our society relies on to function.
Laptop screens, too, are evolving. Gaming computer maker Asus revealed its first true dual-display laptop, the ZenBook Pro Duo, at Computex in Taipei, Taiwan, this year. The main display is a 15.6-inch OLED that has 4K output and is a touchscreen.
Nowadays that is quite standard for a laptop, but there’s an additional fully functional 14-inch ultra-high-definition display above the keyboard. This means you can truly multitask, with more screen real estate at your fingertips.
The introduction of folding displays from smartphone makers is another advance in screen tech. Samsung will soon launch its Galaxy Fold device, giving users a canvas as large as 7.3 inches — and on its heels, Huawei will release its Mate X.
The question is, do we need all this?
Studies have been done to understand whether screen time has a negative effect on human development. Merely using displays won’t necessarily have adverse effects. But the type of media that we consume on a screen — and the amount of time we sit in front of it — could potentially be bad for us.
The benefits are tangible. The evolution of displays will bring about more capacity to support us in our daily lives. Screens display what we want them to and serve a vital purpose. The addition of more screens on a single "brain" or computer improves the functioning capability of the human using it.
Back to the Asus ZenBook Pro Duo — it seems unnecessary to need another display to supplement the conventional laptop. But in practice, the secondary display is a welcome addition.
The human capacity to multitask, especially when it comes to digital media, is awesome. That secondary display lets you run multiple applications side by side (use it to select your Spotify tracks, for example) or even extend full-screen applications from your primary display to the second screen.
Dual-display laptops are in their infancy and more research & development will produce more ergonomic and human-centric iterations. In the same way, folding displays may seem strange now — and manufacturers are having a hard time getting them right — but they’ll be the norm in a few years.
There wasn’t an exact moment in recent history when gadget designers decided that the world needed more screens. Every year they get bigger and better. Tech designers are building displays into everything from equipment and printers to watches, speakers and even cars.
Eventually even the recently launched Samsung Galaxy Note 10 may seem like the Nokia 3310 looks to us now: archaic. Until then, let’s just enjoy the extra screen real estate.