HDR and 5G smartphones - Everything you need to know

13 November 2020

High Dynamic Range

If you’ve paid any attention to recent 5G smartphone launch events, you’ve doubtless heard the term HDR bandied around. You may also have heard it used in conjunction with TV and camera technology.

It’s one of those terms that can be applied in a variety of scenarios, which can be a little confusing. Allow us to explain exactly what HDR means, how it applies to smartphones, and which 5G phones support HDR.

What does HDR stand for?

HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. It’s a term that’s used in relation to digital image reproduction, describing a heightened degree of contrast and a broader use of the colour spectrum than ordinary.

It isn’t so much a set technology or standard as it is an ideal. As such, you’ll find the term HDR applied quite broadly across photography, display technology, and even software like video streaming apps and video games.

As if to heighten the confusion, all of these different fields are represented in our smartphones. This means that you’ll see HDR used multiple times to mean quite different things.

Here’s a rough breakdown of what HDR actually means when you see it on your phone.

HDR in smartphone photography

Almost all smartphone cameras have an HDR function built in. As a very general rule of thumb, the more capable and expensive the phone, the more automated and effective the HDR mode will be.

An HDR shot will quickly take multiple photos at different exposures, then seamlessly combine these shots into a single image. In doing so, and HDR shot can successfully capture high contrast scenarios, such as a sunny sky above a shady forest, without the bright bits being too glaring and the dark bits being too murky.

In a similar way, HDR video captured on a smartphone camera will record at multiple exposures and combine for balanced contrast.

HDR in smartphone apps

You’ll also see HDR used in relation to media content apps like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and in many games. The intention is the same as when capturing HDR photos - to present you with a high-contrast image, where blacks are deep black, whites are pure white, and where there are many visible gradations of colour in between.

A moving HDR image will quite simply look more realistic than a non-HDR image, and will prove more immersive as a result.

HDR in smartphone screens

Scan down the spec list of an half-decent phone from recent years, and you’ll note that HDR is often listed in amongst the display statistics.

In order to output those aforementioned HDR-ready applications and images, it stands to reason that your phone’s screen must be able to display the appropriate range of colours. An HDR-certified screen (there are multiple HDR standards) can output a much broader spectrum of colours than a non-HDR screen.

This is one of the main reasons why OLED displays are preferable to LCD displays. OLEDs have the innate ability to run the gamut between deep black and pure white, and to pump out far more shades of colour in between. It’s much tougher for LCDs to do so, as their backlit nature compromises dark shades.

HDR standards

We’ve already made mention of the fact that there are multiple HDR standards out there. HDR10 and Dolby Vision are the two that are most relevant to smartphone users, while HLG is a standard adopted for TV broadcasts

Dolby Vision is the more advanced HDR standard out there. Compared to HDR10, it has a higher peak brightness (10,000 nits versus 4,000), greater colour depth (12-bit rather than 10-bit), and the ability to use frame-by-frame metadata optimise your current picture.

However, HDR10 is an open-source standard that’s far more widely supported than the proprietary Dolby Vision. You’ll find that virtually all modern HDR-ready phones proclaim HDR10 or HDR10+ compatibility, while only some will speak of Dolby Vision.

Which 5G phones support HDR?

As we hope we’ve made clear already, HDR support is innate in most modern smartphones, certainly beyond a certain price point. A safe way to ensure this, if HDR is a priority, is to choose a phone with an OLED display. There are LCDs that support HDR, but OLEDs are much better suited in general.

If you see the term Mobile HDR Premium used in conjunction with a phone, it simply means that it will give you a good HDR experience.

For the sake of clarity, here is a list of some of the more high profile 5G-ready phones that are guaranteed to give you a strong HDR experience.

Phone

Display size and type

Display Resolution

Galaxy S20 Ultra

6.9 inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X

1440 x 3200

Galaxy S20 Plus

6.7 inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X

1440 x 3200

Galaxy S20

6.2 inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X

1440 x 3200

Galaxy Z Flip 5G

6.7 inch Dynamic AMOLED

1080 x 2636

Galaxy Z Fold2 5G

7.6 inch Foldable Dynamic AMOLED 2X

1768 x 2208

Galaxy Fold 5G

7.3 inch Dynamic AMOLED

1536 x 2152

Galaxy S10 5G

6.7 inch Dynamic AMOLED

1440 x 3040

Galaxy Note 20 Ultra

6.9 inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X

1440 x 3088

Galaxy Note 20

6.7 inch Super AMOLED Plus

1080 x 2400

Galaxy Note 10 Plus 5G

6.8 inch Dynamic AMOLED

1440 x 3040

OnePlus 8T

6.55 inch Fluid AMOLED

1080 x 2400

OnePlus 8 Pro

6.78 inch Fluid AMOLED

1440 x 3168

OnePlus 8

6.55 inch Fluid AMOLED

1080 x 2400

OnePlus Nord

6.44 inch Fluid AMOLED

1080 x 2400

iPhone 12

6.1 inch Super Retina XDR OLED

1170 x 2532

iPhone 12 Pro

6.1 inch Super Retina XDR OLED

1170 x 2532

iPhone 12 Pro Max

6.7 inch Super Retina XDR OLED

1284 x 2778

iPhone 12 Mini

5.4 inch Super Retina XDR OLED

1080 x 2340

Huawei P40 Pro

6.58 inch OLED

1200 x 2640

Huawei P40 Pro Plus

6.58 inch OLED

1200 x 2640

Huawei P40

6.1 inch OLED

1080 x 2340

Huawei Mate 40 Pro

6.76 inch OLED

1344 x 2772

Huawei Mate 40 Pro Plus

6.76 inch OLED

1344 x 2772

Huawei Mate 40

6.5 inch OLED

1080 x 2376

Huawei Mate 30 Pro 5G

6.53 inch OLED

1176 x 2400

Huawei Mate 20 X 5G

7.2 inch OLED

1080 x 2244

Google Pixel 5

6 inch OLED

1080 x 2340

Google Pixel 4a 5G

6.2 inch OLED

1080 x 2340

LG Wing 5G

6.8 inch P-OLED

1080 x 2460

LG V60 ThinQ 5G

6.8 inch P-OLED

1080 x 2460

LG V50 ThinQ 5G

6.4 inch P-OLED

1440 x 3120

Xperia 1 II

6.5 inch OLED

1644 x 3840

Xperia 5 II

6.1 inch OLED

1080 x 2520

Xiaomi Mi 10T Pro 5G

 6.67 inch IPS LCD

1080 x 2400

Xiaomi Mi 10T Lite 5G

 6.67 inch IPS LCD

1080 x 2400

Xiaomi Mi 10T 5G

 6.67 inch IPS LCD

1080 x 2400

Xiaomi Mi 10 5G

6.67 inch Super AMOLED

1080 x 2340

Xiaomi Mi 10 Lite 5G

6.57 inch AMOLED

1080 x 2400

Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro 5G

6.67 inch Super AMOLED

1080 x 2340

Asus ROG Phone 3

6.59 inch AMOLED

1080 x 2340

Realme X50 Pro

6.44 inch Super AMOLED

1080 x 2400

Oppo Find X2 Pro

6.7 inch AMOLED

1440 x 3168

Oppo Find X2

6.7 inch AMOLED

1440 x 3168

Oppo Find X2 Neo

6.5 inch AMOLED

1080 x 2400

Oppo Find X2 Lite

6.4 inch AMOLED

1080 x 2400

FAQs

How do I watch HDR video on my phone?

The likes of Netflix, Amazon Video, iTunes and YouTube all support HDR playback, so there’s a good chance you’ll simply be able to hit play on your current service.

How do I identify HDR content?

On Netflix, look for the Dolby Vision sign next to content. Be sure to sign up for the Premium Plan.

On Amazon Prime Video, look for the HDR symbol. Similarly, YouTube content should carry an HDR badge next to the player controls.

If these giveaway symbols aren’t displaying, there’s a chance your device doesn’t support HDR content.

How does 5G help with HDR?

Streaming HDR content consumes more data, due to there being more visual information to process. As a result, HDR really benefits from the faster and more stable connection that 5G provides.

Does it matter which network I go with for HDR?

No. As stated, the most important factor for streaming HDR content is a fast, stable network, so try and choose the best 5G (or 4G LTE) service for your particular area.

Jon Mundy
About Jon Mundy

Technical Writer at 5G.co.uk

Jon has nine years experience of writing and editing copy for leading publications, as well as attending technology shows and events and conducting interviews. Currently working with 5G.co.uk, TechRadar, Trusted Reviews, T3, Digital Spy, What Mobile, Pocket Gamer, and The Gadget Show.

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