Mobile Devices with 4K Screens Expected to Reach 478M Units by 2019

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2K or "Quad HD" screens currently occupy the premium end of the smartphone market while 2015 will see the launch of 4K Ultra HD devices. This resolution race, however, is more about marketing and differentiation than user experience given current content availability. Considering the relatively close proximity of the screen to the user it is possible for some consumers to see and benefit from these higher resolutions, but differences are incremental and not dramatic for most consumers.

ABI Research's Senior analyst Michael Inouye commented, "While some content owners and broadcasters have or are preparing to launch 4K programming, video resolution delivered to mobile devices will continue to lag behind screen pixel densities. While mobile device components, such as processor, memory and in some cases batteries, are gearing up to handle 4K, network and infrastructure elements remain challenging. Key video services like several under the UltraViolet umbrella, for instance, still largely distribute content to mobile devices in SD. Content protection and data utilization concerns are part of the issue, but consumers also have not demanded higher resolution video in adequate numbers for services to respond."

User-generated content (UGC) and productivity, however, could offer consumers additional ways to benefit from high resolution screens; the popularity of GoPro broadcasting, for example, shows the demand for high resolution UGC. Mobile device manufacturers are also considering LTE Broadcast as an outlet for next generation video broadcasting. These rely on HEVC, but are initially unlikely to push broadcast resolution.

Practice director Sam Rosen added, "OTT video services will carefully weigh the costs of 4K delivery, the impact on viewing on mobile devices, and the brand halo high resolution services can bring. OTT services will focus first on 4K delivery to Smart TVs, with HD to mobile devices. New connections like wired MHL 3.0 and wireless 802.11ad can help position mobile devices as a hub for streaming high quality video and gaming to TVs. Qualcomm's acquisition of Wilocity and push of 802.11ad could further encourage OTT companies and TV manufacturers to embrace the technology and bring high resolution video to TVs via mobile devices."

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