The upcoming Samsung Galaxy S8 has a 5.8-inch screen. That’s misleading.
For years now, we’ve been assuming that all mobile phone screens come in a 16:9 aspect ratio. So when we consider screen sizes, we discuss diagonals, which make sense intuitively.
This year Samsung, LG, and maybe Apple are screwing all of that up. They’re doing it with good cause: by building taller, narrower screens, they give you more screen real estate in a hand-friendly form factor.
But that means the tall, narrow Galaxy S8, LG G6, and (maybe) iPhone 8 “diagonals” don’t represent the same amount of screen area as they would on a 16:9 phone. That makes comparisons misleading.
So I propose a new phone screen measurement: square inches of display, or SQUID. Aside from having an awesome acronym, SQUID tells you how much display you’re really getting, whether it’s on a 16:9, 18:9, 21:9, or 4:3 screen.
You can calculate SQUID given a screen’s diagonal measurement and aspect ratio. Here’s the basic formula:
SQUID = (diag^2)*xratio*yratio ----------------------
(xratio^2) + (yratio^2)
Using SQUID, we find that the Galaxy S8’s 5.8-inch screen actually has less area than the Galaxy Note 7’s 5.7-inch screen did. And if Apple goes to an 18:9 ratio for its rumored 5.15-inch iPhone 8, well, that will be a similar size to 5-inch, 16:9 phones.
SQUID makes an even bigger difference on bigger screens, like laptops, tablets, and monitors. You’ll find those in 16:9, 16:10, 4:3, 3:2, and even 21:9 aspect ratios. Watch how the SQUID changes for a “14-inch” screen in each of those aspect ratios. Between the two most popular, 16:9 and 16:10, you lose five square inches of screen space. And wow, do those “cinema-wide” 21:9 displays have to be wider on the diagonal to give you the same real estate you’d get with another aspect ratio.
Listen, I can’t make SQUID happen. But the way we measure things does change. Carriers moved away from two-year contracts, and now we actually talk about full phone prices—that’s been a big, positive change with time. And I like to think that as processor megahertz have become less relevant, we discuss them less often, although foolish folk still seem to be attached to nearly meaningless core counts and megahertz numbers.
SQUID might catch on if I can convince other leading journalists, though. Do you want to see SQUID in upcoming product reviews? Tell us—and tell our competitors—in the comments.