What Is The iPhone's Retina Display?

Steve Jobs mentioned an all-new retina display for the iPhone 4. But what exactly is a retina display? Apart from a marketing buzzword, it's essentially a high-end screen with four times as many pixels in the same screen real estate.

...It's a screen...

A fancy screen, with a 326dpi resolution. Jobs said "there's a magic number around 300dpi, if you hold something about 10-12 inches away from your eye, it's the limit of the human retina to distinguish pixels." Here's what Apple has to say about the display:

All the breakthrough technology in iPhone 4 is situated between two glossy panels of aluminosilicate glass - the same type of glass used in the windshields of helicopters and high-speed trains. Chemically strengthened to be 20 times stiffer and 30 times harder than plastic, the glass is ultradurable and more scratch resistant than ever.

...and it's close to the iPad's display quality...</h3

It's got 78 per cent of the pixels of the iPad, but in a far smaller screen-size. That should mean colours will pop, and video, browsing - whatever else you do with your iPhone - will be clearer than ever.

...but it's better than your iPhone 3GS' screen...

An 800:1 contrast ratio doesn't say much - you know how misleading contrast ratios can be - but it sounds fantastic for a phone. It boils down to just how they measure it, but we do know that it's 4x better than the 3GS' contrast ratio. In the photo above, provided by BenM.at, you can see the difference between the lower-resolution displays and the new "retina display".

...that's sharper, but mostly marketing hype.

We know you. We know you wouldn't bow down to marketing pressure. So while fancy display terms such as "OLED" and "CRT" (snicker) are thrown around, bear in mind that this is just Apple's branding on what's essentially a super-sharp display.


    Stupid name aside I have fallen in love with this screen already. And the absurd thing is that I'm basing this on nothing but specs, hype and fancy screenshots.

    Damn you and your effective marketing Apple..

    Heavy on the marketing as always.

    A little over 300dpi is the acuity of the average human eye in ideal conditions. However, this is based on the closest focusing point of your eyes. For me that's about 5 inches.

    So while it's true for them to say that you can't see pixels on their display at 10-12 inches, it would also be true to say that for a lot of modern displays.

    I'm guessing he trotted out the 10-12 inches figure as that's probably how far most people hold their phones from their face.

    Does anyone know if this glass they're talking about is new for the iPhone 4 or is the same glass used for the 3GS? Screens breaking was the biggest defect received by Apple customer service.

    Any word yet on what it looks like in bright daylight?

    I'm rather disappointed in the sub-HD display and and actual screen size.

      Apparantly the glass has been toughened further compared to 3GS... but if it breaks then it will likely mean getting a complete screen replacement including the LCD as well, since the glass and LCD panel are laminated together to prevent internal reflection or something.

      Regarding a full HD panel on a screen this size, why bother when the eye cant perceive the difference anyway, you'll only be wasting processing power. Sure you might get slightly more detail if you hold the phone 5 inches from your eyes, but how many people actually hold a phone that close without getting eyestrain?

      I'd like to see a few drop tests and see how the glass fares hitting a hard surface.

        Interesting to hear about it's toughness.

        I see your point about the HD screen size. I keep forgetting that the iPhone has a 3.5 inch screen; too small if you ask me.

        I've seen the HD2 with it's 4 inch screen and I think it's the perfect size.

        If Apple think 300ppi is the bomb on a 3.5 inch screen then on a 4 inch screen 1152x720 would be HD and 16:10 widescreen with over 300ppi.

        I'm sure in a year or so that will become a reality.

        It seems that the toughness of the glass screen of iPhone 4 is not strong enough as the marketing says, my phone screen has a big crack,I cannot recall droping it. It seems to be from a pressure while it was in my pocket.

    I wonder based on what you're saying that it's "almost" as good as the iPad's display. I don't anything that points that out. No contrast comparison, no brightness, no viewing angle. And it's much sharper. Are you referring to the fact that it's got "only" 78% of the iPad's pixels? Because that means that it's way sharper.

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