Understanding Android Screen Densities and Terminology
This article provides an overview of Android screen densities and the various acronyms that occur when dealing with a device’s screen. Android’s popularity as a mobile device Operating System has resulted in a proliferation of hardware on the market. This has provided great choice for the consumer and forced continuous innovation from the manufacturers. In a few short years there has been rapid innovation in all areas: CPU capabilities, memory size, form factors, keypads, cameras, sensors, batteries, power consumption and screen technologies. The screens have been getting bigger, thinner, sharper, tougher and more responsive to touch. This has forced the Android SDK to move rapidly with the hardware technology (and the hardware to feed upon Android ideas). Explained here is how the variety of screen sizes are handled by the OS, finishing with a summary table of the acronyms covered.
What makes up an Android Screen
For those of you new to technology here’s how a device screen works. The screen is made of thousands of small dots called pixels arranged in a grid. The pixels running from left to right are known as the X pixels or X-axis. The pixels running from top to bottom are known as Y pixels or Y-axis. The resolution of the display is the number of pixels in X-axis multipled by the number of pixels in the Y-axis. A 320 by 480 display will have 320 pixels in the X-axis and 480 pixels in the Y-axis, this will also be stated simply as 320×480 (and in this case x is the multiplication, or times, sign and not the X-axis!).
To show an image on the display the color of the pixels are set by a program running on the device. Look at the article How Computer Screens and Printers Show Images for more details on how dots make up an image. Because the Android coordinate system runs left to right and top to bottom then plotting a line from 0,0 to 100,100 results in a line that slopes down from the top left of the screen, compared to one that slopes up from bottom left on a normal maths chart.
To get a idea of the variety of screens seen on Android devices look at the article Example List of Android Device Screen Resolutions and Sizes (which also shows that the various screen resolutions are given names). Continue reading