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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 gig ( 78408 ) on Friday June 25, 2010 @10:21AM (#32690380)

    ... which is why "laser quality" is 300 dpi. We knew fax looks like shit because it's 200 dpi. It's why chemical photo prints are almost 300 dpi. Why print artwork is done at 300 dpi. The "300 dpi pleases the retina" thing is like 25 or more years old. 300 is the most important point on the resolution scale.

    But of course if Steve Jobs says it, then the Nerd Police have to say it's wrong. If it didn't happen in a video game or a Windows patch then they don't fucking know. As if Apple doesn't know about graphics and publishing!

  • by Timmmm ( 636430 ) on Friday June 25, 2010 @10:22AM (#32690394)

    I agree, imagine if we had computer screens with this pixel density! We could finally have smoothly scalable *and* sharp fonts. It would also stop the need to add hinting to fonts, which is apparently really tedious and difficult.

  • by Trufagus ( 1803250 ) on Friday June 25, 2010 @10:44AM (#32690694)

    Hummm, I thought IPS was developed by Hitachi? And I assumed that Apple just brought this to market (and probably did some final work on it). So yes, I have exactly the attitude to Apple that you think I do.

    Relative to other companies their size Apple has a massive marketing budget and a puny R&D budget. Recently we've been hearing about how Apple has grown bigger then MS, but their R&D budget was 10% of Microsoft's in 2009. Investors have became angry with other companies for spending so much on R&D and they point to the example of Apple that makes better much money by spending their money on marketing.

    In the case of this display, Apple's problem was that they couldn't get Samsung's Super AMOLED display. If they had, I"m sure you would be telling us about Apple incredibly ground-breaking R&D on reducing the power consumption of a display. Apparently though, now that the iPhone 4 is using IPS, we've decided that 'retinal' resolution is the key and giving thanks to Apple for inventing that.

  • by peter303 ( 12292 ) on Friday June 25, 2010 @10:47AM (#32690742)
    With both a hi-res camera and display, you show more of your face than perhaps you want. Every line, pimple and stray hair shows up, when I playing with FaceTime yesterday.

    A minor aggravation is if you hold the phone normally you get a view of one's nostrils and chin. You have tilt your neck and/or lift the phone to get a good face view.

    I think theres agood opportunity for a face-beautification app here. Maybe you could slightly de-focus the face like cameramen did for women in 1930s/1940s movies, to make them look better.
  • The LG CYON LU1400 is where it's at.

    A dumbphone (granted, with a TV tuner) with 3 PPI more than the iPhone 4, in 2008. (800x480, 2.8") []

  • Dithering... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by wowbagger ( 69688 ) on Friday June 25, 2010 @11:16AM (#32691144) Homepage Journal

    I cannot RTFA being it is dead, but my question about all of this "retina-level" stuff is: are they factoring that the eye uses dithering and jittering to increase the spatial resolution?

    Last I'd heard, the current theory is that by using micro-saccades, the eye can increase the spatial resolution over what your would naively predict based upon the angular spacing of the cones.

  • by wjsteele ( 255130 ) on Friday June 25, 2010 @11:26AM (#32691262)
    Some say it's impossible to see a target that small, but I used to bullseye womp rats in my T-16 back home. They're not much bigger than two meters.

  • by mdmkolbe ( 944892 ) on Friday June 25, 2010 @12:06PM (#32691748)

    The article uses a benchmark of 1 arc minute at 1 foot which is 88 micrometers, but the pixels are taller than that (102 micrometers) even if they are only 78 micrometers wide.

    Note, the 1 arc minute number he uses is still bogus because that number actually represents the resolution at which doctors think your vision "good enough" to not need further correction. It also is only measuring the reliable recognition of letters. The width at which lines completely blur into each other or at which aliasing artifacts are not noticeable is much smaller. Cf. vernier acuity which is only 0.13 arc minutes.

    (Fun fact: In Knuth's original work on digital type setting he says he stopped somewhere around 300-600 DPI not because that was "good enough" but because of the limits of the printing process. Beyond that resolution the ink/toner starts to "stick into clumps". Steve Job's might have been more accurate to say that the screen has (almost) printer quality resolution.)

  • Well... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mea37 ( 1201159 ) on Friday June 25, 2010 @12:29PM (#32692064)

    ...I'm glad that's resolved.

    Actually, it seems a bit odd, given the facts presented, that the conclusion indicates the claim holds up. If the conclusion were "it pretty much holds up, far more than you could expect for marketing", I'd be on board... but I think a true purist would withhold the claim of "retinal" resolution for another generation or two, for a couple reasons:

    1) Perhaps nitpicky, but this measurement assumes a viewing distance of 12" on the basis that the ability to resolve detail may be best at 12". However, at 6" the arc spacing of the pixels would be twice as large; whereas my ability to resolve detail at 6" may not be optimal, but probably isn't only half what it would be at 12". Now you can justify that away, I suppose, by arguing that nobody would try to use a touchscreen at a viewing distance of 6", but...

    2) The threshold spacing TFA calculated is greater than the spacing of pixels along the short axis, but not along the long axis.

  • by jollyreaper ( 513215 ) on Friday June 25, 2010 @12:35PM (#32692190)

    High pixel resolutions are not groundbreaking.
    Apple did not invent any of the technology in the iPhone and does not have a team of PhDs working on designs
    Apple is great at designing and marketing products that feature the inventions of other people
    IBM, Intel, AMD, etc. all design new technologies
    Have a nice day

    Apple's an integrator. They assemble cool parts made by others, add some magic sauce, and generally come up with something interesting. Another company working with the same parts might come up with something less compelling. You know, you could compare Apple to a chef. It's not like he's got a proprietary lock on ingredients like meat and vegetables but a good chef can do things with those ingredients that lesser chefs can't touch and people are left guessing as to what he does with the spices to give the food his characteristic zing. You know, the chef comparison really works. Apple is the Soup Nazi. Everyone wants his soup because it's the best on the block but you are in no position to argue with him about anything. You accept what he gives you how he gives it to you with no debate. You complain, "no soup for you!"

    The position Apple's in is that it has to maintain standards and be the best out there or else people will stop putting up with Soup Nazi tactics.

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

    by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Friday June 25, 2010 @02:21PM (#32694088)
    Computer geeks have always lusted after big high-res displays just like everybody else. I think he's just being contrary because "retinal-displays" is linked to a current Apple offering and thus tainted with hype. But obviously identifying the point of diminishing returns for display resolution is of interest (though especially when size is constrained by device form factor).

    In flight simulation they have talked about so-called 20/20 displays [] for decades. (I think that terminology is a bit better than "retinal display" since it accounts for people's varying visual acuity.) Medical imaging has also long been a driver of big high-resolution display tech.

  • by Pieroxy ( 222434 ) on Friday June 25, 2010 @05:38PM (#32696862) Homepage

    The magic sauce is called software. That's where all the other vendors have failed BIG TIME, thinking that beating whatever phone on raw specs and CPU cycles would be enough. But if your software sucks, then your product sucks, no matter how fucking gorgeous your phone may be.

    It's a wonder no one thought of that one before Apple. It really is.

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