Mobile phones with the ability to shoot 4K ultra HD video have been around commercially since 2013, when the chipmaker Qualcomm launched their powerful Snapdragon 800 chipsets and gave phone makers the processing ability to create 4K ultra HD video inside a device as tiny and highly versatile as a phone.
In 2015/2016, 4K video recording has gone from being a deeply exotic feature to something that pretty much every truly high-end flagship smartphone from a name brand “must have”.
And the recording specs of these 4K UHD cameras in the smartphones we’ll be covering in just a bit are no slouch either: While 4K resolution technically refers to “True 4K” at 4096 x 2160 pixels, its more practical manifestation comes in the form of what is called 4K ultra HD, at 3840 x 2160 pixels. This is the most common recording resolution for even many high-end 4K cameras and it’s also the same resolution at which all current smartphones with 4K cameras record. What’s even more impressive is that these phone cameras manage to capture ultra HD video at frame rates comparable to those of many great 4K DSLRs, camcorders and prosumer video recorders. Please check our list of smartphones with best 4K cameras.
As for 4K display in smartphones. We can safely say that the technology does indeed have a future, but as a current consumer feature of smartphones, it’s far less developed than 4K video recording in these devices.
What 4K means in a smartphone: current pros and cons
This is in fact where the main catch of 4K video recording and even more-so, 4K phone display lies: The processing power and consequently battery capacity needed to render and capture all those 8.29 million pixels of 4K video are not light and phone makers have to look at innovative new chip technologies and processer architectures in order to make either UHD display or video shooting work in a consumer-friendly way in their phones.
This is an issue that’s obviously still being resolved and while it’s come a long way for 4K video shooting in particular, problems for both 4K cameras and display still exist, along with the benefits of so much power. Here’s a breakdown:
- Exquisite video quality from a device that you can carry everywhere in your pocket or purse
- Bragging power
- 4K video can be disabled while the phone still runs with all the processing technology needed for it
- You can even produce professional video with just a phone (the iPhone 6S Plus has been used to film documentaries already)
- Extraordinary levels of detail in photos and video
- 4K display creates razor-perfect video and image quality
- Both display and video recording technologies in phones are still expensive
- Some phone models can quickly overheat when filming UHD video
- Battery life can be seriously affected
- 4K display visually indistinguishable from Full HD display in a tiny 5 to 6 inch screen
- A serious lack of 4K UHD video content which can be viewed on a 4K smartphone display
As you can see, while 4K smartphones definitely come with their benefits, there are still plenty of kinks to work out in them before the technology becomes easy enough to build that phone makers include it as an afterthought. However, we’re virtually certain that this is exactly what will eventually happen; phones with both 4K recording and display will absolutely become as common as HD-equipped smartphones are today.
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