iPhone 4's Retina display explained

The iPhone 4 promises to offer picture quality so high that your eye won't even be able to distinguish individual pixels.

During today's introduction of the iPhone 4, Steve Jobs detailed that the upcoming device will make use of what Apple calls the Retina display .

But what exactly is a Retina display and how will it, along with other screen technologies, benefit the new slimmer, HD-ready iPhone? To put it simply, Apple's figurative Retina display is an LCD that boasts a super high pixel density by squeezing a 960-by-640-pixel resolution into 3.5 inches--a pixel density of 326 pixels per inch (ppi).

iPhone 4's Retina display explained

A close-up photo of an icon on the iPhone 4's screen.

iPhone 4's Retina display explained

By comparison, the same icon on an iPhone 3GS.

The Retina display has four times the number of pixels as previous iPhones; its screen size is unchanged, resulting in double the pixel density. When compared to the now US$99 iPhone 3GS, which has a 163ppi screen with a 480-by-320 resolution, it's easy to imagine just how this new screen will shine.

While talking about the new display, Steve Jobs went on to detail that after a certain point the human eye fails to distinguish individual pixels. According to the Apple CEO this "magic number," when visible pixelation is no more, is around 300ppi. Therefore, with the iPhone 4's screen coming in at more than 300 pixels per inch (326ppi) the display will supposedly always looks smooth and crisp, with no jaggies in sight.

The photos above, taken by PCWorld Senior Editor Melissa J. Perenson, show an icon on an iPhone 4's screen compared to the same icon on the iPhone 3GS's screen. The difference, as you can see, is pretty remarkable.

Apple's retina display also promises an improved contrast ratio. The company claims that the upcoming iPhone 4 will have a contrast ratio four times higher than that of previous models. Beyond the use of more compact pixels the screen, which is a backlit LED, will also adopt In-Plane Switching (IPS) technology to improve viewing angles and enhance color display.

Apple isn't the first to put a super-high-resolution screen in a smartphone. Google's Nexus One, for example, features an OLED screen with a resolution of 800-by-480 pixels, but its subpixel arrangement has some issues.

Like this? You may also enjoy...

Follow Chris Brandrick and GeekTech on Twitter.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags mobile phonesiPhonesmartphonesiphone 4

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Chris Brandrick

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Matthew Stivala

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

The HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer is a great device that fits perfectly into my fast paced and mobile lifestyle. My first impression of the printer itself was how incredibly compact and sleek the device was.

Armand Abogado

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

Wireless printing from my iPhone was also a handy feature, the whole experience was quick and seamless with no setup requirements - accessed through the default iOS printing menu options.

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?