Did you hear the one about the iPhone with the 4x Super Retina display?

There's a rumor going around that Apple might be considering going to @4x -- a "Super Retina" for a future iPhone display. Apple went to @2x, from 320x480 at 163ppi to 640x960 at 326ppi for the iPhone 4 Retina display, and lengthened it to 640x1136 at the same 326ppi for the iPhone 5's 4-inch widescreen display. These days, however, Android phones are shipping with 1080x1920 (1080p) displays at well over 400ppi.

So, to leap ahead again, and to keep things just as easy on the apps as the last big density increase, in some theoretical universe Apple could just double again to @4X, right?

Well, I did the math on a 5-inch, @4x display back in January and here's how it works out:

That's how the various 5-inch iPhone options look when you compare them both in terms of pixel count (top) and physical scale (bottom), with an iOS standard touch-target grid overlay (44px). From left to right, the iPhone 5 (black), theoretical iPhone @3x (purple), theoretical iPhone @4x (red), theoretical iPhone with iPad display @2x (blue), with the HTC Droid DNA 1080p (green) thrown in for good measure.

Yes, HTC has made 1080p (1920x1080) phones at 440ppi, which while positively pornographic, show what's already out and on the market. If Apple decides it wants to exceed that the way the original Retina display exceeded other panels at the time, they'd have to skip 3x and go straight to 4x -- 2272x1280 at 522ppi.

It would require even more graphics processing power, more LED light, and more battery, and it would be absolutely batshit insane, but hey, we're considering all options here.

Going to 5-inches @4x probably isn't something within the current realms of technology, economics, or reason, however.

Going to to @4x with a 4-inch display, to put it just as bluntly, is even more batshit insane. Until humans grow hawk eyes, there's just no need. If an when Apple goes to 5-inches, maybe @3x will make sense, or maybe a more painful switch to the 1080p standard. Maybe there's even something in the Apple labs that does 2x Retina in a very different way than what's being reported right now...

Anyone actually want to see Super Retina display any time soon?

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There are 38 comments. Add yours.

Premium1 says:

Hope if they are doing it it is for a larger screen. Otherwise I could see it really destroying battery life and overkill for the 4" screen.

SoggyTempura says:

I can't see pixels on 2x. WTF would be the point of 4x?

Jay Mobile says:

To satisfy the complainers while at the same time giving them something else to complain about.

"It's too thick, it's to thin, it's too big, it's too small, it's not clear enough, now its too clear it's giving me a headache, not enough apps, too many apps, new models aren't coming out fast enough, they keep changing these iPhones, iPads, macs etc too fast making my accessories null and void."

CORYK333 says:

You win the Internet today for that comment

GraphicMac says:

Agree with Corky... best comment in days!

jlb21 says:

Well, my 47 year old eyes wouldn't mind everything being bigger. But I have my iPad mini covering me for now. I'll have a decision factor come February when my upgrade comes due. If all we have at that point is a 5s, or something like that, I'll have to decide. Clearly the 5/5s (if thats what they do) will have a snappier chip than the one in my 4 (I really do notice the sluggishness compared to my iPad mini). But it works well so who knows.......

daniebello says:

I don't know why a 1080p iPhone would be so hard on developers, it's the same aspect ratio as the iPhone 5. It's just not as stupid easy as going 4x on the resolution. I honestly think going 1080p would be the best compromise all around. 4x as you said is batshit insane and would take up way too much power that what's necessary because its going far beyond what is relevant to the human eye. 1080p keeps the aspect ratio and competes with Samsung and HTC Aptly.

Fraydog says:

1080p is already used on Android, and a lot of devs already do cross-platform development.

Most of the people making the arguments against 1080p are going to be the developers who ONLY develop for iOS.

the_stig#WN says:

This means one of two things:

1). There is a bigger version of the iPhone coming or

2). The leak is false.

No way at the current size they would do this. Just makes no sense whatsoever.

kev46 says:

Would like a bigger screen, 1080p will do for now. Any thing that sharp is way too extreme...imagine the battery that it would need.
4X
No way!

GeniusUnleashed says:

I know Apple hates standards just like America does with metric, but I think in the long term growth of mobile applications, it would be a great thing to create a common standard for devs. i wish to no end that Apple would get in line with more of them...(cough cough) like mini-usb.

brunetmj says:

Apple please don't waste your time with more retina. Better Bat life is what we all seek. That and my eyes are not good enough to appreciate further retina effort anyway. Rene thanks for the calculations.

chuckz28 says:

This would be completely pointless in my opinion. There is no need to pull the "my dick is bigger than yours" thing here because it won't even be noticeable. It won't have any positives but will have negatives. I was big on higher resolution previously until we hit what we have now. I have a Samsung gs4 with a 1080p screen and iPod touch with retina and there is no discernible difference even with 100ppi difference. Even the retina on my ipad is something I am content with. I think Apple should ignore temptation for more resolution and focus on other improvements mainly battery life. Plus it would be an admittance that retina wasn't truly retina when it is.

Tariq.H says:

retina was actually retina, but going for more pixel density would mean Super Retina. Though I still agree going for more pixel density is a waste of time given they could be working to improve battery life and a ton of other stuff as well.

joshrocker says:

Retina is "good enough" but I wouldn't mind seeing something higher on my ipad.

Sam Davis2 says:

Was the screen on the iphone 4 a complete surprise or was it shown by manufacturers at trade shows beforehand? Is it even possible to spring such new technology when Sharp shows their IGZO at shows for years now? I doubt Apple can leap forward with screens like they did with Retina.

vinny jr says:

To power up 522ppi is going to take a heap of bat shit power supply. Why are all the manufacturers trying to out do the other on the thickness of the phone and sacrifice the most important features, battery, processor, camera and all the other important stuff. I would prefer a larger battery than the thinnest phone. But you can not beat the feeling of the iPhone 5 in your hands without a case. I use a case all day and when I get home off comes the case just so I can appreciate the design.

Fraydog says:

I don't think a 5 inch iPhone 5S with a 1080p display would be that overkill as long as Apple could do it without drastically increasing the size of the phone. The Galaxy S4, for all the things I don't like about it, is not that hard to use with one hand because the size of the phone is actually smaller than the GS3. I have moderately sized hands if you're wondering. Not big but not small either. I'm not saying that's what Apple should do, but I'm really not concerned as much as I used to be regarding size increases and one handed usability.

Premium1 says:

Agree, I would be ok with an iphone the same thickness as the 4s with a much larger battery that what is currently being used for the 5. This race to be the thinnest is just hurting key areas such as battery life. Not to mention they are getting so thin you almost need a case for them to give some extra grip and heft too.

joshrocker says:

Thin, while great for carrying it around in your pocket, is actually uncomfortable for me to hold in long sessions. Talking on the phone for more than a minute is very uncomfortable since there's nothing to hold. Give me something a little thicker with great battery life anyway. PLUS GIVE ME A LARGER SCREEN ALREADY!!!!!!

thebizz says:

I'm just wondering why apple would do this. I doubt it will make the product better it just makes zero sense to me

lfeuln says:

I just can't imagine Apple going this degree of spec-overkill, unless it's for a much larger iPhone or retina iPad Mini (fingers crossed). Color me skeptical here but will see...

K Sec says:

As i have replied on Twitter, the rumors is actually 2x the Pixel Count, not 2x the resolution. Somewhere along the chain of Internet Journalism someone decided the 2x Pixel was 2x resolution which means 4x the Pixel count.

And if you do the maths of 2x Pixel Count, it is roughly 1.5M Pixel or 1600 x 900.
Or something possible would be 1.5 x the resolution which is 1704 x 960.

s2by10 says:

It really doesn't need to be higher res. I think it's fine just the way it is. I would prefer an iPhone that can last 2 days with heavy use. Double the battery plz!

Kristof Wybo says:

The rumor suggests a resolution at 3x. That's 1704 by 960 for a total amount of 1633920 pixels and 489ppi. This woud let Apple use bigger displays and keep a good pixel density while having a uniform resolution. For example. A 1704 by 960 display at 5" would still have 391 ppi. This is still a Retina Display. I think this is a very logical next step for Apple.

Dark_Blu says:

Everyone else has gotten over the battery life hump with 4.7 to 5.99 Inches of screen, particularly Samsung. Granted, they aren't using Retina, but maybe Apple might have a way in mind to do it without killing battery life. Maybe they'll decide to do a replaceable battery. It wouldn't kill design.

Harry Wild says:

I like a super retina screen on a smartphone!

Cannot get too much of a good thing -especially for your eyes! A7 accompanied graphics chip should be fine to handle the power requirements of the resolution.

Trappiste says:

No sense whatsoever. They should start to bring about some real innovations after years of re-iterating the same stuff. Hardware specs are easy to upgrade, of cousre, but utterly-irrelevant in 2013. Look at what the WP side is doing. Apple is stagnated in classic tech companies' engineering mentality, when the WP-side, perhaps even Google, have embraced user experience mentality, where hardware and software are subservient to making the user's life easier and richer, that is, what matters in practice, under normal people's typical usage scenarios. And it is not a 4K screen or shaving off another 5 grams of weight.

fury says:

I have the HTC One, and while it is a pretty awesome screen, and it appears to have a GPU that is more powerful than the iPhone 5, that performance advantage is spent keeping up all of the pixels.

With 1136x640, you can really get some crazy visual effects out of that 3-core GPU in the iPhone 5. It rivals the PS Vita. If they crank up the resolution, they'd need an equivalent crank in the GPU power, otherwise they'd face another iPad 3 issue, where the GPU can't keep up the same level of detail at native resolution.

I suppose the solution to that is pretty simple - continue to render some games at 1136x640 in order to maintain the desired effects - but less desirable due to the greater visibility of pixels compared to when 1136x640 was the native resolution (i.e. the light from the pixels is spread out across a larger area when rendering 1136x640 on a 2272x1280 screen : : than the light from the pixels at native 1136x640 •)

Chris Kerrigan says:

Okay, totally off topic and naive of me, but does someone know what that black and yellow "caution" strip over Rene's Tweetbot icon is?

sting7k says:

Yes, I did here the one about the super retina display. I laughed.

jngmin00 says:

If Apple is going to increase the screen size to 5", YES totally but in 4" it'd be totally useless. I personally think Apple should make two types of iphone like galaxy s and note line up or something which satisfy customers wanting bigger screen.

nf_tammy says:

Technology is lovely, isn't it?
Sent from the iMore App

wormeyman says:

Moving to the standard 1080p would be great as they would get huge economies of scale, have the opportunity for multiple suppliers, and it would be standard across the industry!

rockerchick says:

Don't care about super retina. The screen is already awesome! Give me a sick battery life and I am yours forever!

moroboshi says:

Please no more bizarre, non standard resolutions. 720p is more than enough for any phone screen, but if willy waving specs are important to sell things then go 1080p like all the high end Android phones.

Seriously though, 1080p at 5" is insane and a massive waste of GPU fill rate and battery power.