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Iphone Technology

A Professional Perspective On Apple's Retina Display 346

Reader BWJones, who is a retinal scientist, sends in this detailed analysis of the iPhone 4's "retinal display," which includes photomicrographs of the display pixels of earlier generations of iPhone as well as the iPad. Well worth a read. "... as you can see from these images of the displays I captured under a microscope, the pixels are not square. Rather they are rectangular, and while the short axis is 78 microns, the long axis on the iPhone 4 pixel is somewhere in the neighborhood of 102 microns. ... While [an earlier analysis by] Dr. Soneira was partially correct with respect to the retina, Apple's Retina Display adequately represents the resolution at which images fall upon our retina. ... [I] find Apple's claims stand up to what the human eye can perceive."
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A Professional Perspective On Apple's Retina Display

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  • by ( 463190 ) * on Friday June 25, 2010 @10:12AM (#32690248) Homepage
    People love to whine about all the Apple stories. I would defy any of them to submit their own stories about all the other computer companies that are breaking new ground with this type of research. Do you think Dell for example has a team of physics PHDs figuring out these technologies and pushing their vendors to tool up for them? No, THOSE are the guys just packaging off-the-shelf reference designs. Or waiting for the exclusivity on Apple's deal with [insert obscure pacific rim manufacturer here] to expire so they can make a similar looking phone a few years later.
  • by mattdm ( 1931 ) on Friday June 25, 2010 @10:13AM (#32690256) Homepage

    I'm really happy to see screen resolution getting attention. My Vaio U101 had a pretty decent ppi, but it's long in the tooth and that that class of system -- always a niche -- has basically been displaced from the market by netbooks. And I'm sick of netbooks with low-res screens. Hopefully this will catch on as an important feature.

    (I'm double-sick of people saying: "But if there's a higher-resolution screen, everything gets tiny and hard to see. So low-res is better for small screens." Ahhhh! You're doing it wrong!)

  • Meh (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 25, 2010 @10:16AM (#32690312)

    Am I the only one to think thats these articles are ridiculous ?

    Either your screen is great and people see it by themselves, or it suck and they see it too. Going around with a "scientific paper that prove its greatness" makes it sound like a scam.

    TL;DR if you need mathematical proof that it's beautiful, you're doing it wrong

  • by ( 463190 ) * on Friday June 25, 2010 @10:29AM (#32690504) Homepage
    I'm guessing you have never actually worked with Asian manufacturers. New stuff doesn't just fall out of the sky for whoever is lucky enough to "identify" it. For a customer the size of Apple it is a very close partnership and seldom does the manufacturer fully own the resulting technologies. So either you help them develop the next big thing and you get some degree of exclusivity, or you wait for someone else to pioneer it and then you get it a few years later.
  • by jeffmeden ( 135043 ) on Friday June 25, 2010 @10:34AM (#32690574) Homepage Journal

    This is just buying into the hype. Apple came out with a new phone that happens to have the highest pixel density yet (325 ppi). The next closest is the Motorola Droid at 265 ppi. About 20% higher than the competition... Not really a groundbreaking move by Apple, just them taking another step toward higher density displays. It's what any company would have done. Where was the news story when the Droid came out, besting Apples then best display on the 3GS (of 163ppi) by 40%?

    Disclaimer: I don't have an Iphone, or a Droid, but I do have a brain and I tend to use it when I smell hype.

  • by betterunixthanunix ( 980855 ) on Friday June 25, 2010 @10:41AM (#32690652)
    1. High pixel resolutions are not groundbreaking.
    2. Apple did not invent any of the technology in the iPhone and does not have a team of PhDs working on designs
    3. Apple is great at designing and marketing products that feature the inventions of other people
    4. IBM, Intel, AMD, etc. all design new technologies
    5. Have a nice day
  • Comment removed (Score:2, Insightful)

    by account_deleted ( 4530225 ) on Friday June 25, 2010 @10:47AM (#32690734)
    Comment removed based on user account deletion
  • by lxs ( 131946 ) on Friday June 25, 2010 @10:48AM (#32690752)

    There's a huge difference between 300dpi in printing where your C,Y,M or K is either on or off, and 300dpi in systems where the C,Y and M or your R, G and B come in 256+ levels. (chemical photo printing and color displays respectively)

    Print artwork is vastly inferior to a good photo print at the same resolution.

  • Re:Meh (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Goaway ( 82658 ) on Friday June 25, 2010 @10:56AM (#32690852) Homepage

    Well, you know, the whole thing started with people using maths to try and prove it wasn't good.

  • Re:Too literal (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mcgrew ( 92797 ) * on Friday June 25, 2010 @10:57AM (#32690868) Homepage Journal

    It seems I saw this story last week here? Or was that a different guy? TFA is slashdottet so I can't tell. At any rate, "retinal display" is meaningless. Your retina can only resolve as good as what your cornea and lens can accurately focus on it. Someone in their 40s will be holding the thing at arm's length, while someone nearsighted might have it six inches from their face without their glasses. And like focusing, retinal density will vary at least slightly from person to person.

    It's meaningless hype, good for marketing.

  • by Petersko ( 564140 ) on Friday June 25, 2010 @11:04AM (#32690996)
    "Where was the news story when the Droid came out, besting Apples then best display on the 3GS (of 163ppi) by 40%

    Didn't Droid come out 7 months ago? The only way it would have been a story is if it hadn't been able to top the resolution that the iPhone has had since what... 2007?

    Note that Apple didn't market their device as having higher resolution than a competing device. They are marketing it as being so high that it no longer matters.
  • by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Friday June 25, 2010 @11:09AM (#32691058) Homepage

    These are simple factual claims.

    You don't need to depend on the science equivalent of an Imam or a Bishop for your answer.

    You can test the claims yourself.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 25, 2010 @11:11AM (#32691074)

    The point is it wasn't a selling point. Nobody other than Apple or their fans thought of "this is like half the resolution of the human retina at 12"". Apple did and "forgot" that the eye resolves an edge which requires TWO pixels to resolve, not one.

    "Note that Apple didn't market their device as having higher resolution than a competing device."

    Yes they are. That is why they called it "retina display" and said that it was a revolution. Rose tinted retina?

  • Re:point is what? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by FuckingNickName ( 1362625 ) on Friday June 25, 2010 @11:25AM (#32691244) Journal

    I'm not quite sure why the distance people hold printed reading material should equal the distance at which people use their iPhones. For example, it's clear that I (and others around me) hold a 'phone closer than a newspaper, probably because:

    (1) I'm interacting with it;
    (2) Light's reflecting off it in a different way;
    (3) Everything's squeezed up together, so we want the screen to take up more of our field of vision.

  • by omnichad ( 1198475 ) on Friday June 25, 2010 @11:26AM (#32691264) Homepage

    Finally, standard 35mm film is around 10,000 DPI, dude.

    35mm film is a storage format, not a display format. Yes, blowing that up to an 8x10 still gives you something like 1,000 dpi. But the 10,000 dpi figure is meaningless unless you like looking at 35mm wide prints at 12 inches away.

  • by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Friday June 25, 2010 @11:28AM (#32691284) Homepage

    It's good that someone brought up laser printers because I distinctly remember when the 600dpi ones came out.

    They were a distinct visible improvement over the previous generations of 300dpi ones. ...but all this really boils down to is the fact that you've got what amounts to a fairly
    respectable desktop screen that's been shrunk down the the point that you can't see
    anything on it because everything is so small. This whole "retina nonsense" is just a way
    to spin the smallness of the iphone screen into something positive.

  • by sjonke ( 457707 ) on Friday June 25, 2010 @11:33AM (#32691346) Journal
    Why does this make the Retina Display simply hype, as opposed to something pretty impressive? I don't recall Motorola making any mention of their display's ppi. Apple has made a mention of it and made it clear what this brings to the table for the user - a display that produces images that look like print. What exactly should they have done? Not made it? Not mentioned it? So, yeah, Apple is a lot smarter then Motorola, and the Droid had previously bested the iPhone = 3GS's display ppi. Congrats on that.
  • by jeffmeden ( 135043 ) on Friday June 25, 2010 @11:55AM (#32691602) Homepage Journal

    Because it's not "like looking at print on paper"... if you hold the thing a x inches your retina will not be able to distinguish the pixels. The same went for the Droid (albeit at a slightly farther distance) and the same has applied for any LCD at any point in history. It's not as good as print, for one because modern printers use 600 dpi; 300dpi is 80's technology. For two because even when you print at a given DPI, there is chemical dithering that takes place to make the edges indistinguishable. A LCD cannot do that, even if it too ran at 600dpi.

    But no, all of a sudden Apple declares "this is the most pixel density you will ever need" and people are falling over themselves proclaiming how awesome he is for coming up with the concept. It may be the highest density display, it may look fantastic, but get a grip already. There will be another phone in another year that does it all better.

  • by onefriedrice ( 1171917 ) on Friday June 25, 2010 @11:56AM (#32691616)

    On my droid I can run SecondLife, Pandora, another radio station from anywhere, surf the web, and watch videos - all at the same time. All of these programs can take input or provide information at the same time. Nice try Apple.

    I think you've hit on something important here and a reason why the iPhone does so well despite its obvious limitations: Average people don't care whether or not their phone can do all that at the same time because they would never use it like that. On the other hand, battery life is a concern shared by just about everyone. In other words, just about everybody nowadays is very aware of what the iPhone is and what it can and can't do, yet they still swamp Apple's servers on pre-release day. Given the popularity of their prior models alone, I take this to mean that multitasking on a phone isn't as important to most people as it apparently is to you.

  • by noidentity ( 188756 ) on Friday June 25, 2010 @11:58AM (#32691642)
    First story about how it's not really retinal resolution was dumb. Then a rebuttal to it wasn't toally dumb, but that was enough. Now this. What next, a detailed analysis of what the word retinal means, or what the meaning of the word is is? Yeah, I know, skip the article if I'm not interested, but I figured I'm not the only one who finds this retinal-grazing a little extreme.
  • Re:Too literal (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rolfwind ( 528248 ) on Friday June 25, 2010 @11:58AM (#32691648)

    "It's meaningless hype, good for marketing."

    That pretty much describes every single one of apple's products.

    While I don't think Apple products are magical, people who don't understand why they sell (or why Nintendo products sell) are fixated by feature lists but kinda miss out on the whole dimension of actual usability of those features.

  • by Bigjeff5 ( 1143585 ) on Friday June 25, 2010 @12:28PM (#32692054)

    They were a distinct visible improvement over the previous generations of 300dpi ones. ...but all this really boils down to is the fact that you've got what amounts to a fairly
    respectable desktop screen that's been shrunk down the the point that you can't see
    anything on it because everything is so small.

    There is such a thing as "scaling" - you can make an image bigger and pack more pixels in it. If it's a vector image, you keep the sharpness the small pixels provide while maintaining an easy to read screen.

    Furthermore, if you're having trouble seeing all small devices, chances are it's your eyes that are the culprit. See, as we age, the lenses in our eyes harden and loose the ability to adjust the focal length. This means people tend to become a little far-sighted, and require reading glasses to see any detail within arm's length. Anybody in that situation needs reading glasses for small, detailed devices, period.

    Young people with flexible eyes do not have a problem with it. My eyes are still young, and I was pleasantly surprised at how comfortable reading on my HTC Hero is. That's with a piddly 181ppi, barely more than half of the iPhone 4's.

    In other words, if your OS isn't stupid then increasing the resolution only makes things clearer. People are used to higher resolution making everything tiny because Windows made some retarded moves early on, and has been stuck with them since. There is no real need for it.

  • Really? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bashibazouk ( 582054 ) on Friday June 25, 2010 @12:51PM (#32692538) Journal

    Or so the apple haters would have you believe...

    2009 apple advertising was 1.37% of revenue or $500 million

    Microsoft the same year: 2.4% of revenue or 1.4 billion
    Dell: 1.3% and 811 million.
    RIM: 2.4% and 337 million

    Sounds to me like they are less of a "Marketing" company and more of a hardware company putting out better selling products...

  • by Wovel ( 964431 ) on Friday June 25, 2010 @12:52PM (#32692556) Homepage

    It is also about the implementation of the technology. Technology in and of itself is useless. Creating new, even useful technology is certainly praiseworthy. Taking technology and deploying it in a useful manner is also praiseworthy.

    Feature lists are for short-sighted nerds. Apple is successful because they try to keep the feature list shorter and not longer.

    There would be no Android phone, as we know it now, without Apple, there may have been a phone, it would have looked just like the Blackberry and Windows Mobile crap that came before it. People who try to discount Apple's contribution to the smartphone industry or call it "marketing fluff", only show how utterly technology ignorant they truly are.

    Apple completely transformed the smart-phone industry. There is a day when the look, feel, and function of smart phones all changed. That day was the day Apple announced the iPhone. You don't have to love Apple, or even be a fan. Writing off their success as marketing just makes you look ignorant.

  • Re:Too literal (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Animaether ( 411575 ) on Friday June 25, 2010 @01:05PM (#32692804) Journal

    This is not true when you're dealing with cellular-level issues.

    Again.. zoom. You wouldn't say "Oh, I need a 50000PPI display to view these bacteria", would you? You use a display (or your eyes) on a microscope. Refute the zoom as being a proper viewing method and I'll gladly go along.

    And as a sibling poster notes... if you're doing this -in the field-, consider a magnifying glass instead; it'll still be superior to trying to take a pretty low-resolution image and displaying that on a screen that's going to be crap to view in the sun anyway.

  • Re:Really? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 26, 2010 @12:02AM (#32699844)

    they also spent way more than Apple on R&D

    MS still makes almost all their revenue on software. Apple primarily hardware. That makes a comparison based upon percentage of revenue fairly meaningless. Most of Apple's revenue goes to paying for all the hardware they buy to go into their devices. Take that out of the equation (or look at percentage of profit) and you have a very different picture.

We all like praise, but a hike in our pay is the best kind of ways.