Sunday debate: Classic 16:9 vs. Taller screen ratios

Remember when LG G6 and Samsung Galaxy S8 arrived with an unusually tall screen? Fast forward one year later and now its the norm. Yordan & Ivan discuss if a classic 16:9 ratio display or a tall solution is better?

Yordan: If it aint broken, dont fix it.

First there was the Motorola DynaTAC – a massive mobile phone that wasnt attached to a cord going in the wall. From then on phones started getting smaller and smaller while getting smarter. But with great media availability came great responsibility, so screens started growing in size.

Manufacturers tried to find the perfect standard for many years. After the 3:2 ratio in the first few iPhones and the 5:3 panel on the Galaxy S II, everyone settled on 16:9 by the end of 2012.

For the past several years developers, media producers and sensor manufacturers worked hard to create content and entertainment in the 16:9 golden ratio. Everything was fine – videos were looking good on all types of screens and filled the whole display. Until product marketing and public relations started meddling in product innovation.

We wanted less bezels, but instead of giving us a 100% screen-to-body experience, manufacturers decided to make the phone longer!? It doesnt have to be that way, especially when a flagship like the Huawei Mate 10 proves that we can have both minuscule bezels and a normal 16:9 screen.

Tall devices like Honor 10 or Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 AI Dual Camera are long and provide a row or two more when browsing texts and social media. Sadly, these giraffes become 100% more frustrating when in horizontal mode with the ugly black bars on the side. YouTube may have implemented pinch-to-zoom, but not all devices support the feature. That’s how youre left with dead space on the sides that keeps wasting battery but does not provide more immersive experience.

Phones with tall screens might be more comfortable than their classic ratio peers, but they are hardly more useful. Instead of blindly pursuing numbers, I prefer better performance and media consumption.

Ivan: Embrace the future – it makes more sense.

I have two points to make in this debate – tall-aspect screens make more sense and tall-aspect screens are the future.

Let’s start with the first one. When phone makers settled on 16:9 aspect screens it was because phones were focused on video content and that was the most popular video aspect. It meant you’d have to hold a phone in landscape to get the most out of its screen when playing a game or watching a video.

Nowadays we mostly use our phones in portrait orientation, browsing the web or sliding up and down a Facebook or Instagram feed, or chatting away in a messaging app. When you use one of those tall-aspect “giraffes” as Yordan calls them, you get much more content in portrait orientation compared to conventional 16:9 screens. And those black bars on sides aren’t an issue if you’re watching a true 2:1 widescreen video and disappear if you zoom in slightly into a 16:9 video.

If you look at a comparison between the OnePlus 5 and OnePlus 5T you’ll notice that a 1.9mm difference in height has lead to an increase of 10cm2 in screen surface. I’d say that’s worth it.

It made sense for screens to become taller, instead of wider. Making a screen taller only ate up bezel from the top and bottom of a phone and as time passed, these bezels became thinner and thinner. Notches have enabled screens to stretch even further towards the edge.

Manufacturers aren’t dumb. Tall aspect screens aren’t a trend, they are a deliberate choice by makers, because they make more sense. There were a few squarish phones in the past – you may remember the LG Optimus Vu series. They weren’t a success because people don’t want to use wider phones.

I know a lot of people liked the Huawei Mate 10, because it uses the conventional aspect ratio of the past. But Huawei knows that’s behind us – that’s why they made the better 18:9 Mate 10 Pro. And a quick glance at the midrange lineups of 2018 will tell you that tall-aspect phones are here to stay and 16:9 ones are on their way out – so there’s no point in fighting a lost cause.

Finally, we don’t need to live in a “one aspect fits all” world. Phones can have 18:9 and 19:9 screens, laptops can have 3:2 and 16:9 screens while PC monitors can be 16:9 and the cinema screens can be 21:9. Your phone is the most versatile tool you use in your daily life and it’s constantly evolving. If you look back at the progress of smartphones, you’ll see that they’ve gotten better over time. Tall aspect screens make more sense and they are the future.


Where do you stand? Do you think Yordan has the right of it and we need to go back to conventional 16:9 screens or do you agree with Ivan that tall-aspect screens make more sense?

What screen ratio do you prefer?