iPhone 5 could feature a "Retina display killer" screen

iPhone 5 could feature a "Retina display killer" screen

Summary: Believe it or not, it is entirely feasible to produce a screen of such density.

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TOPICS: iPhone
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There's been a lot of speculation about the iPhone 5, in particular relation to the display. Will it be bumped up to 4 inches, or will it be bigger? Or, will it stay at the current 3.5 inches that people know and seem to love?

There are two problems facing Apple with regards to increasing the size of the screen. The first is that increasing the size of the screen without altering the resolution would cause the pixel-per-inch ("ppi") count to drop below that of the current iPhone 4S.

Another problem is that small tweaks to the screen resolution or aspect ratio could break the way current apps are displayed, requiring developers to rewrite their apps to support the new screen.

Take one example. Scaling up the current iPhone 4S 960×640 Retina display screen from 3.5-inch to 4.65-inch while keeping the same resolution would mean that the pixels per inch number would fall from 326ppi for the iPhone 4S to something in the region of 250ppi for a 4.65-inch screen.

That would represent a huge drop in pixel density. It's unlikely that Apple would bump up the screen resolution to accommodate for the larger screen because this would introduce a whole host of scaling problems for existing apps, essentially drawing a line underneath backward compatibility with existing apps.

Doubling the resolution of the iPhone's screen to 1920×1280 would make scaling simpler. It's what Apple did when it went up to the Retina display on both the iPhone and iPad. But such a screen would have a pixel density in the region of 500ppi.

Believe it or not, it is entirely feasible to produce a screen of such density.

LG announced the world's first 5-inch fully-HD LCD panel for smartphones, the highest resolution mobile panel to date. The panel based on Advanced High Performance In-Plane Switching (AH-IPS) technology and features 440ppi at a screen resolution of 1920x1080, allowing full HDTV quality on a smartphone.

It's not the only panel to feature such a high pixel density. Toshiba has a 6.1-inch display running at 2,560x1600 offers a pixel density of 498ppi.

Both these panels are "Retina display killer" displays in that their pixel density is far in excess of the 326ppi panel used on the current iPhone 4S. Visually, 440ppi or 498ppi is indistinguishable from 326ppi -- because the pixels are too small for the human eye to discern -- but it would give Apple enough wiggle room to increase the size of the iPhone's screen, while retaining the same aspect ratio of 3:2 and keeping the screen compatible with current apps.

If -- and that's a big "if" -- Apple decides to change the size of the iPhone's screen, my guess is that we'll see a doubling of the screen resolution just as we saw with the transition to the iPhone 4 and the iPad 3.

Image source: Apple.

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32 comments
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  • Adrian, stop with the rumours

    I can do the same thing and rack up baited clicks by saying the iPhone 5 has:

    Bluetooth 5
    Class-1 Laser powered Thunderbolt 2
    USB 4
    8-core ARM A7X
    802.11ac
    etc.

    One thing is certain: Apple is a lot slower at integrating new standards that people care about than you give them credit for. If you want examples of what they were late-to-market with, it's not difficult to track:

    A developer ecosystem
    3G
    4G
    Cut and paste
    Cutting the PC sync cable requirement
    Reliable WiFi (jury's still out on that one)
    Printing (we shouldn't even count their attempt so far either)
    Joe_Raby
    • This

      Too true.... I'm sick of it now, considering moving to another blog, between the Iphone / Ipad rumours that get posted every 20 minutes and SJVN putting me off Google at every turn, need some pastures new, however i feel every blog will probably be the same....
      danjames2012
      • stop whining..

        It's easy to not click these stories, buddy. All blogs have ridiculous Apple rumors- they get clicks.
        Uninterested_Viewer
      • It's what get people reading.

        If you hate MS with a passion, SJVN has a blog catered to those people specifically. Same here.
        It's no longer "lets write truthfully about what I feel people in general would be interested in", it's now, "lets craft a a blog geared specificlly towards a subset of readers that will definately buy anything I say".

        Are they trying to change the minds of the world, or just spoon feeding people that which they'll dying to eat?
        William Farrel
      • @Uninterested_Viewer

        @Uninterested_Viewer

        I wouldnt care if they had any sort of links or sources etc, but basically he says....

        LG have this new screen, apple could use it....

        I could post on a blog, america has this new rail gun, iran could use it and it would have about as much truth as this post.
        danjames2012
    • 'late' is better than rushed

      I would argue that Apple was not 'late' to market with any of those things- others simply rushed them to market- then Apple came and did them right. Take 3G and 4G for example. Sure, it was possible to produce 4G phones a year ago in time for the 4S, but Apple didn't. Why? It's not Apple being 'late', it's all those other 4G Android phones showing just how awful 4G was to battery life until recently. Same with 3G a few years ago- these new chips are always highly ineffient for their first few generations. Apple isn't going to throw a 4G chip into their phone and ruin battery life like Android manufacturers do just to say they were the first to market. These moves have been the correct ones for Apple.

      You could make a list 10 times as long with technology Apple pioneered or popularized (hint: Wifi is one of them)
      Uninterested_Viewer
      • Yes, that was Apple's "official line" BUT

        Yes, that was Apple's "official line" but let's not forget that Verizon had 130 potential LTE (4G) users when the 4S was released. The real truth is AT&T wasn't ready for 4G and they controlled 3/4 of the iPhone market. Why would Apple upset AT&T? Instead they lost market share to Android, something that could of been avoided if they supported LTE. However I do agree that the battery and the size of the LTE chip may have been too big for the size of the 4S phone, something else Apple screwed up. One other thing, how many iPhone users carry around Juice packs and the like because they don't have enough battery life with all of their running apps, Google Maps, and of course Siri?
        dbaps
    • AirPrint works great...

      as long as you didn't mind either buying a new printer or enabling the AirPrint hacks for your desktop OS. I've been using AirPrint since it was released in iOS 4.x, and the only issue I've ever had was with the desktop side.

      The biggest disappointment in the tech is that Apple decided to not natively support it in their routers and desktop OS natively, either at all or without a hack.
      Champ_Kind
      • Download AirPrint Activator.

        It works just fine.
        msalzberg
      • Printopia works for me

        If you install Printopia on a computer that is normally running, you can print via proxy which that device provides, to your printers. Works fine for me.

        You should be able to guess that Apple decided to not provide the proxy service itself, otherwise, HPs new printers would of appeared to be a useless investment. By requiring you to buy a printer, or be smart enough to find the CUPs config changes/Printopia "fixes", they kept HPs investment in new technology on the table.

        I would guess that in Mountain Lion, we might see them support airprint from the Mac to the printers, and then also a proxy service from the mac to non-airprint devices, with the mac as an airprint destination.

        Airplay is supposed to be universal, so why wouldn't Airprint also receive such an upgrade in usability?
        greggwon@...
  • Feasible Yes, But...

    You underestimate the GPU power that would be required to drive this screen and the limited assets available for battery expansion considering the ever shrinking phones.

    The new iPad did something similar and required around 1.7 times the battery capacity to maintain the equivalent runtime. They did the trick by making it thicker and leveraging the internal space that was left by reducing the internal components size.

    The switch to a 16:9 screen that would allow Apple to keep the resolution compatibility, retain the "retina" precision and remain in a manageable GPU envelope is more likely.
    TheCyberKnight
    • backlight too

      The backlight contributed to the increased power usage on the iPad 3 MUCH more than the beefed up GPU. Higher pixel density requires much more light to shine through it. Your point still stands, however.
      Uninterested_Viewer
      • There would be no backlight with Super-AMOLED+

        And not all pixels are lit at once either...
        The Danger is Apple
      • LCD density and backlight

        not true.
        The backlighting requirement is the same for higher density same size panel. The panel is just an array filter for a rectangular block of white light. The increased power comes from each pixel having their own little transistor and thus requiring more power when you have more pixels. Extra GPU processing would also use more power. There is no extra power requirement for the backlighting.
        warboat
  • Just a thought...

    [i]Visually, 440ppi or 498ppi is indistinguishable from 326ppi because the pixels are too small for the human eye to discern [/i]

    Er, not really. You forget that the retina display takes distance into consideration. It's the same reason why an HDTV looks like utter crap when it's right in front of your face but looks fine when you're on a couch. The 326 ppi is indistinguishable at the distance of a foot. There are many times when I'll bring my phone up much closer to my eyes.
    Aerowind
    • Really?

      And why do you have your phone so close to your face.
      clcrockett
      • Eyes away

        What I couldn't figure out was how he sees stuff with his foot.
        Robert Hahn
  • This would make Apple look bad

    Apple has stated that Retina display is perfect. At "normal" viewing distances (normal as defined by Apple so that any display they want to define as retina can be defined as retina) the pixels in a Retina display cannot be seen as individual entities. Going beyond that is worthless.
    toddbottom3
  • ....

    If apple doesnt step up to the times and get rid of its tiny 3.5 screen it will seem even more antequated then it already is.
    Fletchguy
    • I have giant meat claws as hands and the screen is fine.

      OTOH, any screen larger than 4 inches is uncomfortable in my hand. The Samsung Note is actually too large to be a phone and too small to be a tablet; it would make for a good media player, however.

      If Apple does anything to increase the screen size, we'll see a 4 inch iPhone. That's really about it. Even then, I think we'll see the same size screen but with a new TFT technology that allows for less powerful backlighting, higher resolution, faster response time, and a thinner display size.
      Champ_Kind