Nano-IPS is a new, improved pixel layout designed by Sharp to increase the amount of light transmitted through the panel. To put it as simply as possible: the red, blue, and green sub-pixels which make up each individual pixel on an LCD screen are slightly enlarged in Nano IPS panels. Now, when combined with the improvements in Quantum Dots which were covered recently in our article about TV color accuracy, these larger subpixels transmit much more light through the panel, improving the overall brightness of the screen.
Nano-IPS is Sharp’s response to LG’s “Nano Cell” tech, which LG uses to increase color gamut – it’s fair to say that Nano IPS and Nano Cell are very similar technologies for increasing brightness (and therefore battery life) and color gamut respectively. This makes sense; since LCD technology for smartphones is in its relative infancy, it makes sense to increase the color gamut by increasing the number of sub-pixels through which light can pass. Since smaller screens are less power-intensive than larger ones (due to fewer pixels requiring backlighting), improving brightness is more important than increasing color accuracy on a smartphone screen.
Why Aren’t All Screens Already Nano IPS?
The idea behind smaller pixels is a simple one: if each pixel has a greater surface area, it will emit more light and appear brighter. This technology has been present in smaller screens for years: the pixel densities of phones like the iPhone 10 and 11 were high enough that it would’ve made very little difference to increase their size even further, and no one wanted a phone with an absurdly high pixel density (it’d be like looking at individual ants on a sidewalk from 5 meters away). Now that the pixel densities of smartphones have increased to a level where they’re no longer required, manufacturers are looking for ways to improve on the technology which has been stagnating since its invention.
Why Does This Matter?
So what difference does Nano IPS or Nano Cell make in practice? Well… none, if you’re looking at the screen head-on. But if you view the phone from an angle, either vertical or horizontal – especially in low light conditions – you’ll notice a significant difference.
Vertical viewing angles are awful on every smartphone screen so far because of their poor contrast ratio (the ratio of luminance between black and white), but with Nano IPS and other technologies like it (such as the curved AMOLED Pebble Alpha has), we may see a reversal of that trend. The colors remain accurate even at very steep angles, which is great news for watching movies on your phone – you won’t have to worry about losing color accuracy or brightness as you stare down at your device.
Nano Cell vs. Nano IPS
So what’s the difference between LG’s “Nano Cell” technology and Sharp’s “Nano IPS”? The name. Manufacturers can claim that their panels have all kinds of new technologies to improve brightness or color gamut, but in practice, it usually just boils down to a marketing term for slightly enlarged pixels – i.e. Nano IPS vs. LG’s “Nano Cell”.