By Harry McCracken | Thursday, June 17, 2010 at 9:46 am
“Retina displays” are so early June 2010.
[UPDATE: The Droid X’s resolution is the same as that of the Droid, and Verizon has rescinded its claim that it has a 720p HD screen.]
Engadget notes that the display on the droid X is 854 x 480 – the same as the Droid and the DPI is less than the iPhone 4. Their ad also now says “Captures 720P” instead of 720P display.
See here: http://www.engadget.com/2010/06/17/the-droid-x-gets-real-on-verizon/
Looks to be a bit of an error since the screen on the Droid X is not close to the iPhone 4. Just the camera.
The “Retina” display was pure marketing spin. I’m glad to see it left behind. If you compare the 3GS to current competing phones, it was way behind in resolution: http://www.anandtech.com/show/3764/two-omap-3430-phones-nokia-n900-and-motorola-droid/3
When your PPI is only 60% that of your competition, doubling it isn’t some great innovation that sets you apart, its necessary to catch up.
What will be interesting to see isn’t just the PPI war, but what different manufacturers do with it. If competing phone manufacturers implement higher PPI like computer manufacturers do in laptops, where higher PPI just makes text even smaller, then Apple’s approach to use the higher resolution to to make text clearer at the same physical size will, indeed, set it apart in terms of readability.
The claim of a 720p display on the Droid X is not true, despite the fact that Verizon continues to push it (dare I say fraudulently?). The resolution is significantly less than iPhone 4, despite having a larger screen.
> The “Retina” display was pure marketing spin.
No, not at all. 300 dpi is not a marketing number, it’s a highly technical number. In fact, it is the single most important number in graphics. Another way to say “300 dpi” is “print quality” or “laser quality”. It’s the point at which the jaggies go away when you’re holding something at reading distance. When you ask Photoshop or Illustrator to make you a new “print image” you get a document with 300 dpi. The dpi resolution ruler in digital graphics goes like this: 72, 150, 300, 600, 1200, 1800, 2400. With the exception of 72 (which is based on an old print metric called points, which has 72 in an inch) the other marks on the ruler are all multiples of 300, even 150 which is half of 300 and which is used for low-res proofs. Most of the world’s digital print masters are created and stored at 300 dpi.
Graphics and publishing people have been waiting for a 300+ dpi screen for decades, and especially since the first Mac, which had an exactly 72 dpi screen. It a significant *technical* achievement to ship the first 300+ dpi display.
Now, Droid X saying that its 854×480 screen is a “720p screen” … *that* is pure marketing spin.
> If you compare the 3GS to current competing phones, it was
> way behind in resolution
Yes, because instead of gradually adding a few pixels here and there, Apple stayed at the same 320×480 of the original iPhone for 3 years, and then quadrupled the pixels between 3GS and iPhone 4 (which doubles the resolution). The reason for this is that all the system and 3rd party application artwork done for 320×480 can simply be shown at an easy 4x size on the new phone and look exactly the same (4 pixels will show each pixel of information in the artwork) and then going forward all of that system and 3rd party application artwork can easily be redone at 4x size and then look pristine on iPhone 4, and yet still be shown at an easy 1/4 size on iPhone 3G/3GS. They now have 1 low-res screen and 1 high-res screen that are both easily compatible with each other. There are 250,000 applications … compatibility is important.
Although many other phones have something similar to the Droid X’s 854×480, in many cases you’re looking at lower-res artwork on those screens, just wasting them. It’s no good upping the resolution of the screen if you don’t also up the resolution of everything it is showing. A low-res image on a high-res screen is still a low-res image.
Anytime you feel like saying something Apple is doing is about marketing, I highly recommend you resist the temptation. They are very, very design/engineering driven. Their marketing just consists of explaining well-designed, well-engineered devices in human-centric terms. The process is: designers decided they should stay at 320×480 until they could quadruple every pixel and exceed 300 dpi and only have to support 1 low-res and 1 high-res size, then engineers figured out how to quadruple every pixel, and then finally marketers named the quadrupled screen “Retina Display” to explain the feature in a way that everyone can easily understand. They didn’t start with marketers demanding a screen with a few more pixels than the competition so the spec sheet would look good, they started with designers and engineers figuring out how to make the *screen* look good. That is important because most iPhone 4 buyers will look at the screen but they won’t read the spec sheet.
@Ham… You make many good points with which I have no particular argument. Here are two points where we differ, however:
“Now, Droid X saying that its 854×480 screen is a “720p screen” … *that* is pure marketing spin.”
I didn’t report that the Droid X does 720p. Harry did. If his info was incorrect, I’d expect to have seen a retraction or clarification from him by now. Since official specs have not yet been released, I guess we’ll have to wait and see. If it turns out that it does not have a 720p screen, just 720p output via HDMI to some external screen, then I’d agree it was cheesy marketing spin.
“instead of gradually adding a few pixels here and there, Apple stayed at the same 320×480 of the original iPhone for 3 years, and then quadrupled the pixels between 3GS and iPhone 4”
Whereas this paragraph goes on to rationalize delaying improvement of the screen resolution for three generations, I see it as a failure to deliver current tech to the user in the intervening years. If whole-number multiples of resolution was such a big issue, Apple could have solved that problem by implementing vector-based formats for artwork or specifying over-sampling for bit-mapped artwork and scaling it to changing screen resolutions in the phone with each generation. The iPad is an example of Apple using scaling quite successfully in a slightly different way: 4×3 screen resolution on a 16×9-shaped display. Simply holding back for 3 years while competitors surpassed it instead of doing the work to make the developer and user experience better along the way isn’t some technical innovation, its business. Its another example of Apple making something that’s really good for them sound like was actually done for the customer all along. That’s what I mean by marketing spin.
My original point was that Retina was a catchup to competing phones. I believe your statement furthers that point in highlighting that only in comparison to a 3-year old phone screen does it appear to be some great leap forward. Relative to competing phones that have come out recently, its only a minor improvement.
It looks like you were right, that was cheesy marketing. The article Harry linked to has been updated to point out the change from “720p Display” to “Captures 720p”: http://tech.fortune.cnn.com/2010/06/17/droid-x-the-is-first-720p-smartphone/
“I see it as a failure to deliver current tech to the user in the intervening years.”
That’s not accurate. The Droid was the first Android with more than 320×480, and it came out only 6 months ago. It’s true that Apple merely answered to those higher-res displays of the Android competition, but their answer was both timely and more practical for developers and consumers then the Android resolution chaos.
I’d say that, just like it’s a strong move of Apple that they waited for a true 2x display becoming available, it’s also a great customer-friendly policy of theirs that they’ve reliably released no more and no less than one phone per year, at the same time, for the last 4 years, so customers, after they saw the Droid, waited a few months for the new iPhone and Apple rose to the occasion.
“If whole-number multiples of resolution was such a big issue, Apple could have solved that problem by implementing vector-based formats for artwork or specifying over-sampling for bit-mapped artwork and scaling it to changing screen resolutions in the phone with each generation.”
So let’s just entertain the thought that this is workable, even though Apple have failed to make Mac OS Aqua resolution independent for the last 10 years… what about custom artwork inside apps? It’s always best to assume that 3rd party developers don’t have the expertise and resources of the platform holder.
“The iPad is an example of Apple using scaling quite successfully in a slightly different way: 4×3 screen resolution on a 16×9-shaped display.”
I don’t get what that means. iPhone is 4×3, iPad is 3×2. As the iPad has slightly more pixels then the iPhone 4’s 960×640, iPhone apps are scaled up to about 90 % of the iPad screen, at a 2x factor for old apps and a 1x factor for new iPhone 4 apps. They are not stretched in their proportions to fill the corners of the screen. The standard iPad UI elements are redesigned from scratch, not merely scaled up.