iPhone 4 Retina Display: Thoughts and Impressions

After spending about a week with the iPhone 4, we're starting to understand how the Retina displays matters and how it compares to other devices. In this video we explain that screen resolution is a big determining factor in the quality of a display. It used to be that mobile devices would max out at a resolution of 320x240, as was the case with the iPAQs and Palm devices of the early 2000s. In the mid 2000s, we began to see 640x480 go mainstream. And by 2008 and 2009, 800x480 became the standard for higher-end hardware. Today, we're capped at that 800x480 until the operating system purveyors (like Google and Microsoft) make code changes to allow for higher resolution displays.

Apple, in knowing that it would take a period of time before the other smartphone operating systems could catch up, leap frogged to 960x640 resolution. This, in effect, creates such a high pixel density that the human eye cannot perceive pixels on the screen. This means that text and graphics look painted on the screen, rather than drawn on the screen with pixels.

Does the Retina display matter? Yes, it really does, especially in comparison to lower-resolution devices like the iPhone 3GS, or the HTC Hero. While most third party apps look good out of the box when they use operating system elements like text and buttons, the developers still need to update artwork without the apps to make them higher resolution. For the most part, this has yet to happen with most apps, meaning that most of the applications you use on a regular basis won't look as sharp as native iPhone 4 apps.

Beyond that, the Retina display exhibits terrific outdoor screen visibility, even in very bright direct sunlight. Also, the inclusion of IPS technology means that viewing angles are very wide, which is helpful when sharing content with others.


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