Retinal neuroscientist examines iPhone 4’s Retina Display: Apple’s claims stand up

Invisible Shield for Apple iPhone 4!“By now it seems that most people on the planet have heard of Apple’s latest iPhone, the iPhone 4 which was released today. One of the many compelling features of the new phone is the Retina Display. When Steve Jobs first invoked this term at the WWDC, my eyebrows were raised. Being a retinal scientist, I was immediately skeptical of just what he meant by ‘retinal display,'” Bryan Jones, retinal neuroscientist and photographer, blogs via Jonesblog.” My mind immediately raced and I wondered if it might have been some of the interesting technology I got to see on my last visit to one of Apple’s technology development labs. I will not say anything about that visit, but this Retina Display, a super high resolution display was new technology that I had not seen before. Essentially it is an LED backlit LCD display with a *326* pixel per inch (960×640) display where each pixel measures a scant 78μm.”

“So… the claim from Steve was that this display had pixels that matched the resolution display of the human retina… A ‘normal’ human eye is considered to have standard visual acuity or 20/20 vision,” Jones reports. “This means that a 20/20 eye can discriminate two lines or two pixels separated by 1 arcminute (1/60 degree).”

Jones reports, “So, if a normal human eye can discriminate two points separated by 1 arcminute/cycle at a distance of a foot, we should be able to discriminate two points 89 micrometers apart which would work out to about 287 pixels per inch. Since the iPhone 4G display is comfortably higher than that measure at 326 pixels per inch, I’d find Apple’s claims stand up to what the human eye can perceive.”

Much more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: If you haven’t seen an iPhone 4’s Retina display is action yet, prepare to be shocked. It makes all other smartphone screens, including older iPhone screens, look like junk. iPhone 4’s screen is effing amazing, regardless of how many Ph.Ds you throw at it.


  1. I couldn’t agree more with MDN’s take. I had to pull a setting off my old iPhone last night. After using the iPhone 4, the old screen just looks fuzzy and blurry. Crazy how our perceptions change just after a few hours with the newest technology.

  2. I can’t say enough about the Retina Display, so I’ll keep going! It’s amazing!

    After upgrading my iPhone 3G to iOS 4, I set up some folders. The little ‘mini icons’ in the folder just look like blobs. You can count the number of blobs, but you really can’t tell any more than that.
    On the iPhone 4 I can actually READ THE ICONS! It’s incredible! I can read “ebay”, “yelp” etc on the little tiny mini icons.

    Incredibly sweet display.

  3. Yep…the new display is incredible. So glad I didn’t by a FLIP…shot some test video yesterday and it popped. Can’t wait to spend more time with the iPhone 4’s camera and then playing the videos or displaying the images using the eye-popping display.

    And for those mainstream writers or tech bloggers that are historical information challenged…the megapixel feature war was the rage in point-n-shoot cameras in the early part of the decade. Apple’s approach is the correct one to take.

    Steve’s dropping this camera and display combination into a phone designed to have the software and hardware work with each other for optimal results…awesome!

  4. I just wonder how this compares to laserprinter-output.
    600 dpi output can be easily distinguished from 300 dpi output, especially on b/w text. IMHO 326 pii does not appear so “retina” in this context.

  5. @Whatever

    There are very good reasons to analyze the screen in-depth. Electronics and computing devices have been systematically eroding the quality of visual information around us, and our expectations, for many years; and we spend more time each day staring at illuminated screens than ever. Many false claims are made about resolution, ppi, megapixels, color depth, contrast ratios etc. and few people challenge them. In this case it appears that Apple’s claims have technical merit to back up the hype.

    Just because you don’t care doesn’t mean others don’t.

  6. To follow up 3monkies response – no comparison.

    Print and display technology is worlds apart. The pixel size in the new iPhone for example is 78 millionths of a meter in size. Ink jets measure print resolution in DPI, but the size of the “D’s” is what makes the print look good or not. Most inkjet’s measure their print dots in picoliters. Get the dots small enough and you can’t see them. As for laser printers, I’m not sure what the latest in technology is for dot size there, but again I’m guessing whatever it is – is much larger than 78 millionths of a meter.

  7. I think Jobs was trying to point out why Apple aimed at this display density. It crosses that physiological threshold, for making images look continuous instead of pixelated.

    So at some point, some phone maker will make a 327 or 340 ppi screen and beat their chest about having the best screen, but they will miss the boat. The jump from the old screens to this one is more important than having the biggest number.

  8. Just got mine today. The display is…I’m searching for enough superlatives. I mean the detail is startling. On some scanned B&W;shots I can see where I missed retouching a tiny spot. In one there’s a newsstand in the background and now I can read all the headlines. And every leaf on every tree, every hair on an arm, every thread in a jacket. Phenomenal!

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