Should you worry about 4K video on your phone?

Today’s phone screens are an insane miracle. Let’s not even talk for a second about how they can sense the slightest touch with incredible accuracy, using wires so thin they’re literally invisible. I’m talking about the fact that screens today have the same detail level as a laser printer, in full color and with sharp, clear refresh rates. It was unthinkable just a generation ago, the stuff of science fiction.

The iPhone 13 Pro Max has a screen resolution of 2778 x 1284. The Samsung S22 Ultra is similar. These numbers are very close to the 3840×2160 required for true 4K, but they’re not “quite” there. Should you be worried that you’re missing out on quality when you watch content on your phone?

Here’s the simple truth: no.

While I do expect phones to cross that 4K barrier eventually, you don’t need to worry that you’re missing out on quality just because you’re not watching in true 4K. There are two good reasons for that, and once you read them, you’ll understand. Let’s dive right in.

First thing to know: you can’t see 4K that small (probably.)

Like a monitor or a camera, your eyes do have a fixed resolution. For most people, that equates out to a resolution of about 250 pixels per inch at a distance of under 1 foot. Details smaller than that don’t really appear in your field of vision. That’s why you don’t see the wires in the phone screen, or the big empty spaces between the individual picture elements that make up its colors. Today’s screens are generally at that level or higher, so even if there was more detail, you wouldn’t see it.

Second thing to know: You’re probably not watching 4K.

Here’s the dirty little secret that most cell companies don’t want you to know. If you’re watching on your phone, you’re probably watching something a lot closer to standard definition than you realize. All carriers use technology that they refer to as “Stream Saver” or something like that. It intercepts high-quality video and turns it into lower quality on the fly. This was originally sold as a way to keep you from running out of data. Today, with unlimited plans, it’s really a way for the carriers to keep their own costs down by using their radio spectrum more effectively.

Unless you’ve turned this feature off, and they tend to make it hard to turn off, you’re not watching 4K or even HD. And yet, because the screen is so small, you’ve never noticed. And you’re not likely to.

Want to talk 4K? Let’s talk 4K

If you are ready to see real 4K from your home theater system, let’s talk! Solid Signal is a DISH and DIRECTV dealer and that means you’ll get the best possible quality 4K, and you’ll really see the difference! Give us a call during East Coast business hours at 888-233-7563 or fill out the form below and we’ll get back to you, usually within one business day!

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.