There can be no greater equalizer in the battle to determine which smartphone display is superior than how it looks in the Sun. Our star equally crushes every screen, leaving people all over the world squinting and covering the display with their other hand to make out the text message they just got. Some folks defeat the Sun with polarized sunglasses, and in doing so find an all-new challenge with using a smartphone.
The polarized filter on your smartphone display lines up with the polarization pattern on your shades, so everything is ruined and you find yourself with even less visibility on your phone. Of the many things that were announced with Apple’s iPhone 6 and 6 Plus updates was an improved polarizer for the display. While that might not sound like much, it turns out this is actually a pretty big deal.
The image you see above is each of these phones trying to show you at maximum brightness. As you can see, all of them are equally terrible because none of them possess a backlight powered by a star. Maybe next year, right? It looks like you’re back to using shades when the Sun is out, and if you own a pair of polarized sunglasses where the filter lines up with these displays vertically, it means your phone is mostly unusable unless it is in portrait view.
Apple seems to think its new and improved method is the best way to go, so it seemed only fair to give it a shot against the Samsung Galaxy S5 and the HTC One M8.
As you can see here, vertical viewing is a challenge for the filter currently being used on this camera. The HTC One M8 is just about unusable in this condition, and while the Galaxy S5 got noticeably darker, it’s still usable. The iPhone 6 got a little darker, but instead of going to a dull grey, the filter shifted to a blue tint. This means your colors are inaccurate, but all of the text is still perfectly readable. It’s not appreciably better than the Galaxy S5, since with the Samsung display you get to keep your colors consistent, and reading either display is a mostly comfortable experience.
With the filter being used here, horizontal viewing should be fairly clear for each of the phones, and for the most part it is. Unsurprisingly, the opposite of what happens in vertical viewing for the Galaxy S5 and the HTC One M8 happens here: HTC’s display is perfectly usable, while the Galaxy S5 gets darker and more difficult to read. The iPhone 6 gets a lot brighter as well, and the blue tint is swapped out for a very nice-looking display. Colors are back to normal, and everything is as it should be.
You can take a closer look at the high-res versions of these photos in our gallery, but the end result is inescapable. Apple’s improved polarizer makes a noticeable difference in using the phone, and if you’re the type to wear polarized sunglasses on a regular basis, that’s something worth considering when choosing your next phone.