Saturday, June 12, 2010

Does the iPhone 4 Really Have a "Retina Display"?

Does the iPhone 4 really have a "Retina Display" as claimed? Dr. Raymond Soneira who runs DisplayMate Technologies, which makes software to test display quality, and has a PhD in Theoretical Physics from Princeton University, has his say.

A retina display is one whose resolution meets or exceeds the maximum resolution the human retina is capable of resolving, assuming perfect vision.

The iPhone 4 has an outstanding display... and I'm glad that Apple resisted the emotional rush to OLEDs because they still need lots of improvement before they will be ready to compete with the highly refined IPS LCDs. The iPhone 4 display should be comparable to the outstanding IPS LCD in the Motorola Droid, which I tested and compared to the Nexus One OLED, which was trounced by the Droid.

Steve Jobs claimed that the iPhone 4 has a resolution higher than the retina - that's not right:

1. The resolution of the retina is in angular measure - it's 50 Cycles Per Degree. A cycle is a line pair, which is two pixels, so the angular resolution of the eye is 0.6 arc minutes per pixel.

2. So if you hold an iPhone at the typical 12 inches from your eyes, that works out to 477 pixels per inch. At 8 inches it's 716 ppi. You have to hold it out 18 inches before it falls to 318 ppi.

So the iPhone has significantly lower resolution than the retina. It actually needs a resolution significantly higher than the retina in order to deliver an image that appears perfect to the retina.

This is an example of specification exaggeration.

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