5-inch 1080p, 440ppi Android phones coming to the U.S., blowing past iPhone 5 Retina display

HTC is showing off the Verizon Droid DNA today at the special event in New York City, and the big news -- the HUGE news -- is the size and density of their display: a 5-inch fully 1920x1080p at a positively pornographic 440ppi. HTC has always loved pushing the envelop when it comes to specs, and this is obviously no exception. Back when Apple launched the iPhone 4 with Retina display, its 960x640 at 326ppi screen was well beyond anything else on the market, and it stayed that way for a long time. Even with the iPhone 5's 1136x640, still 326ppi screen, HTC is now far, far ahead.

If Apple wants to once again take the screen density crown, and keep app compatibility the same way they did when they went to @2x pixel-doubled Retina, they'd have to switch to @4X pixel-quadrupled super-Retina. That'd be 2272x1280, and unless they increase the physical size of the display, an even more ludicrous 652ppi.

Powering a display that big for any length of time is non trivial as well. The iPad 4's 2048x1536, 264 ppi Retina display required an increase in thickness and weight and a battery that wouldn't be out of place on a laptop. The iPad mini couldn't be made with Retina display.

Here's what those displays do and would look like, both in terms of pixel count and density and physical scale (44x44 pixel grid overlay). From left to right, iPhone 5 (purple), Droid DNA (green), iPad 4 (blue), theoretical iPhone @4x (red).

HTC is using a 2020 mAH battery to power the 141 x 70.5 x 9.73 mm, 138 grams Droid DNA. Apple, by contrast, is using a 1440 mAH battery, for 123.8 mm x 58.6 mm x 7.6 mm, 112 gram iPhone 5. However, the Droid DNA is using the same processor as the Nexus 4, a 1.5GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 APQ8064 and MDM9615m, despite pushing 1920x1080 rather than 1280x768. It'll be interesting to see what that does for performance, since Apple's Retina devices always seem to take a performance hit for the first generation, and that's usually with all new (Apple A4) or beefed up (Apple A5X) processors.

Apple's priorities seem to be on making thinner, lighter, better devices, not bigger or denser ones, so this might well be a battle Apple is happy to sit out. Arguably, any increase in density beyond 300 ppi is lost on most human eyes anyway. Just like cameras, where better sensors are a smarter play than more megapixels, we might be hitting diminishing returns when it comes to displays.

Still, for people who want the biggest, densest phone screens possible, with the HTC Droid DNA on Verizon, there's a new monolith in town.

Mobile Nations' Phil Nickinson was at the Verizon event today, make sure you check out his full HTC Droid DNA hands-on.

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

  • That is impressive!!
  • It just highlight the stupidity of the Spex Wars on andrOS, where manufacturer are killing each other with specs... this is end of the life cycle of many previously hyped androphones like GS III... now Samskunk have to come with something better to stay at the top of the food chain... and so on...its a looser game ... too bad for any andro-producer... as they can't get their's investments back... too bad for any andro-user.... if he bought one before the NEWEST arrival .. so he only could enjoy the hype for sometimes just a few days.... that's why APPLE chose not to participate in Spex WARS... DUDES
  • How is this the end of the S3? The S3 is still the phone to get if you want a phone with a Micro SD Card, Removable battery, and decently fast updates. Every Flagship Android Phone has something to offer over its competition (even the iPhone). The S3 for reasons I said, the One X because its the best phone on the Market for $100 on contract, the Note for being huge, and this for being the phone with the best display. Its about choices.
  • but there is always just one Flagship androphone at the time...DUDE... which every androfreak wants... to show off an flash around.. just as long until the NEXT one hits the road which isn't very long those days....its not just about choices... but also about money...specially on andrOS
  • I'm an Appple fan, but what's up with the DUDE all the time and broken English. You make us apple people look like uneducated idiots
  • Regarding batteries Rene, I think you mean 2020 mAh and 1440 mAh, and not "14,40" or "mAH".
  • Now if i could only get an affordable 300 DPI or 400 DPI monitor for my computer and by affordable i mean less than $300 USD.
  • Can the human eye discern the difference between 326ppi vs 440ppi? meh.
  • yes. depends on how close you hold the phone to your face. so it could be useful to some people, maybe. i doubt it would be for you or me or most people but for people holding the phone really close to watch a movie or something it might make a difference.
  • I think this will basically pull up the "our specs are better" fight that will try to make Apple seem ancient going forward, even though pushing that sort of resolution for the MAJORITY of the people on this planet makes no sense. Honestly I still believe 1080p is overkill for a large part of the population. It's still barely noticeable unless you have a significantly larger tv (over 50ish inches) and sit much closer to the TV. Hell, I just watched a SD movie on my 47" TV a about 12' and while it wasn't as clear as something in HD, but it's still more than acceptable. Moving to 720p/1080p, it would be hard to tell the difference at any significant distance.
  • There is a significant difference between 720p and 1080p all of the time. It doesn't just kick in when you have a larger TV. I sell TVs large and small and it is easy to tell the difference between a 720p picture and a 1080p picture. It is far from overkill.
  • It ONLY matters when you are at a specific distance from the TV. Someone buying a 42" TV for their living room, when they are 10+ feet away would not need a 1080p set. The eyes aren't able to perceive the difference. Now I am not discussing compression. But if you took a blu ray 1080p disc on a 720p and 10800 equivalent tv at beyond the distance in the chart I've included, the distance ISN'T noticable. Anyone who says it is apparently is trying to just sell TVs. http://s3.carltonbale.com/resolution_chart.html Most people sit at LEAST 8-10' from their tv. At that point, the only important thing is the quality of the panel ( contrast, color, refresh, etc). For the majority of the population you could swap out 1080p sets and toss in a 720p of equal quality and the difference would be only mildly perceptible. It's not just a theory.
  • If you cant tell the difference its only because 720p and 1080p are both shit resolutions. If you had a 4k tv I promise that you would be able to see the difference.
  • If it was a 40ish", I'm sure then picture would LOOK nicer, lots nicer, but the extra detail would still be lost at the varying distances noted above. The whole thing with 4k is putting it into gargantuan 80+" TVs, where at any point you sit, it'll look amazing. But the most commonly sold TV sized right now are still 50" and under. Maybe 5 years from now, 4k will be in our price range and it might be worth upgrading to, but I think 1080p is going to be around for a while still, especially if we are just NOW getting HD streaming as the norm, and even then bandwidth caps are killing people who want to watch a few shows here and there. Trust me I like 4k, I think it's the future, but it has to be incredibly competitive with its pricing, as people are now buying other tech like tablets and such which reduces their spending for TVs and such. Anyway, there's no doubt an 85" 4k TV would blow the ass off of Kim kardashian, but it wouldn't make sense to start selling 40ish" TVs at that resolution unless you're using it as a computer monitor, or live somewhere with a minute room that puts a TV 6' in front of you.
  • My guess is that it would be a striking difference. Besides, this is where Apple is headed with the iphone. I wouldn't complain.
  • I didnt think so and I own the rMBP, retina iPad, and iPhone 4s (soon to be iPhone 5 since Verizon announced us mere employees could order it) anyways I had a chance to look at this impressive DNA and I have to say I dont care who you are one can easily see almost 25% more pixels on a display. Is it a huge jump over the iPhone? Why yes it kind of is. It almost looked like a sticker at first it really was impressive. It also didn't feel that it took a huge hit on performance but then again we havent given the new Snapdragon S4 a run yet so we will see. However the iPhone 5 (and even 4s) was much smoother, but then again iOS always has been. Anyways I thought I would share what I saw. It is a nice phone and very thin and light and I congratulate HTC on this device. Not to mention Verizon just announced an employee edition for $99. Does that mean I will pick one up and back to the Android camp? Well, no. I have to say it was much too big for my liking and I like a smaller phone, a little bigger tablet (although the Mini is nice just wish it had the better display), and smaller(isn) laptop. I'm happy with the displays on Apple's current lineup and although it looks nice I would rather have the great ppi and better performance from the iPhone 5 than this DNA.
  • precisely! The human Eye can't!
  • useless, its cool but useless. you already cant see the pixels on an iphone at normal viewing distance. why increasing it even more? only costing more and draining the battery faster. its impressive though
  • It's the only way Apple can increase the size while maintaining retina standards. You don't think it will remain at 4" do you? Just don't remind Apple of the "Thumbs" commercial later.
  • What good does that resolution screen do other than a) require bigger images meaning fatter apps b) eats more battery, RAM and CPU cycles? This is clearly a feature that doesn't solve a problem unless bionic eyes are on the horizon.
  • At some point we have to step back and say "it's just a phone."
  • Let me get this straight. The human eye will not be able to tell the difference and yet there is a need for Apple to go there because another manufacturer wants their amps to go up 11. Makes perfect sense to abandon an operating model and rush in to this without thinking.
  • Did u read the article? Read the second to last paragraph dude.
  • "Apple's priorities seem to be on making thinner, lighter, BETTER devices, not bigger or denser ones, so this might well be a battle Apple is happy to sit out." Why did you find it necessary to include the subjective word, "better," in that otherwise objective list of Apple's engineering priorities? Oh, wait, I know why... derp.
  • " 5-inch fully 1920x1080p at a positively pornographic 440ppi" So, we've discovered what the primary use for all of these big screens is for?
  • "Positively pornographic 440ppi"
    I agree with this proper use :))
  • Lmao! :-)
  • *shudder* I'm sorry, but I honestly believe even just super HD porn is unnecessary. Most people, even porn stars, are at from perfect. And imperfections in those special areas are so astronomically horrific that they should be seen by no one.
  • Bite your tongue.......I have NO imperfections!
  • Where is the like button when you need it? ((:
  • this article's assessment is silly. the fact that its a full 1080p display, with the power to back it up, and only 5 inchs is amazing, but acting like this is a threat to apple is dumb. at this point people are locked into apple's or google's eco system and no one can deny apple makes great hardware. (although since jobs died seems products are more rushed) people on android have a lot of competition, this will be a big winner. i will say this though, the battery and storage are a concern.
  • Yawn I don't need a ridiculous about of PPI on a small device. What I need is 4K resolution across a large display. The limitations of 1920 x 1080 are becoming more and more apparent.
  • Correct me if I'm wrong but wouldn't the icons and ui need to be adjusted to accommodate the higher density? Unless Android is using vectors for all the icons and ui, how would the increased density be aesthetically pleasing for anything other than movies?
  • Launcher icons only go upto xhdpi (320 dpi), so after that they will need to scale up if htc wanted them physically larger.
  • Most phone now adays have higher resolution and ppi than the i5. Lumia 920, GSIII, 8X, now this.
  • Your wrong they do not have higher PPI than the retina display. Higher overall resolution? Yes, but not higher PPI. The only phone that previously had more was the HTC rezound I believe ..
  • It's all well and good to keep increasing size to get the specs into the phone that you want. But point of fact is, many of us would prefer a smaller device while continually increasing performance and usability. Apple recognizes this. Better to keep a mobile computing device mobile and then pair it with a tablet if needed, rather than making your mobile device approach tablet like proportions, essentially losing the "mobile" moniker in the meantime.
  • Then those who want a smaller phone can simply go buy one. That's why small phones like the Motorola RAZR i exist.
  • I wouldn't argue against it too much Rene. Your super retina is where Apple is headed with the iphone 6 hopefully now that the move to 16:9 is done. No doubt the quality is better. It remains to be seen how it will look in comparison. I imagine this is when Apple can freely increase size without worry of losing "retina." It would be surprising to see HTC accomplish this without a performance hit with android. It's probably lag city.
  • No lag on Jelly Bean.
  • No I actually disagree on Apple ever making a 1080p screen, or that this DNA is a spectacular product. http://modernprodigy.blogspot.com/p/blog-page.html
  • To each his own. But I can't imagine Apple not doing this.
  • This is like the megapixel race in pocket sized cameras with quarter inch lenses. It doesn't matter at this point
  • I'm amazed by the size and density. But I really hope apple sits this out. I don't want a phablet. I don't want a phone I can't EASILY hold and use with one hand. HTC screens a beautiful I just wish the rest of the phone was as good as the screen in all cases. I want a phone that just works with a lot of apps so apple please stay focused on that fight.
  • I'd guess Apple finally makes more than one version when they hit super retina. You'll still have your 4" iphone. But unless they double the res, they're stuck at that size. At least it's at a better aspect ratio for increasing size now. But just as we have ipad mini that reaches down, we'll see a big iphone eventually that reaches across and tries to appeal to the bigger screen crowd. They have no choice. The iphone is their most important product.
  • Doesn't matter how high res the display is if there's still crappy software running on it.
  • Jelly Bean is not crappy software. It is as smooth as silk. Android has come a long way.
  • Or rather, some Android hardware has become fast enough to run Android smoothly.
  • But not this hardware.
  • I'm sure the S4 Pro can handle this pretty easily. The problem is battery life. I dont see this phone having the battery life of the S3 or Note 2.
  • Not crappy, for sure, but smooth as silk? Really? Pretty raw silk on my Nexus 7, even with its quad core. Android has indeed come a long way, but has a ways to go.
  • As I said, smooth as silk. Just as smooth as IOS. And I have both, so I speak from experience.
  • We are definitely NOT hitting diminishing returns when it comes to displays, maybe mobile displays yeah but nowhere near on computer and larger displays. I thought by now we'd start seeing "Retina" displays coming our way, it's been two years since the iPhone 4 has been out (actually two-years and a half) and we're still nowhere near that. Retina on a larger display would be a dream come true. It's apparently already cheap to make on a variety of small devices to large tablets, so why can't they push the envelope and push it in the right way, make retina display LCD (or LED for that matter) computer displays?
  • I would love the option for a screen bigger than 4in. One handed use is irrelevant to me as I use my current phone 2 hands regardless, unless I'm swiping through screens. If I could have the G Note 2 running iOS, I'd have it made in the shade!
  • "Any increase in density beyond 300 ppi is lost on most human eyes anyway." Yes but when 325ppi was new, OMG best in the world!!!!! Now, its not that big of a deal right....... Why can we all just get along, the war is pointless.
  • Apple doesn't have to double pixel density again to catch up.
    They could simply use triple the density of the original iPhone instead of the current double density.
  • let the games begin!!!
  • Added diagrams, and something on the processor. The Droid DNA has the same proc as the Nexus 4, but it's running 1080p rather than 720p. Be interesting to see how the performance works out.
  • Hilarious. This will give the droid fans something to crow about. They *do* get hung up on specs, after all.
  • As do iOS fans. There's a reason why many aren't buying an ipad Mini.
  • ya...androfreax are very spex-hungry duds.... but major they love to SHOW OFF
  • first of all HTC has no problem pushing the envelope with things like LTE or 1080P screens but that is because they have no problem with releasing a product with a crap design and crap battery life. 440ppi or 320ppi what do I care if my eye can't perceive a difference anyway? If HTC cared about battery life I am sure they would not be releasing this product but instead it will be terrible and even so no one will care in the press because they will all be focusing on apple leaving a screw exposed on the bottom of their phone and how hideous it looks
  • If the eyes can't tell the difference then why are all of the early reviews raving about how beautiful the display is? Shouldn't they be saying "Sure it's big but it looks no better than the iPhone." Retina is marketing jargon folks. Your eyes will very likely be able to tell the difference in quality regardless of what Apple tells you. I can't wait to check for myself in person to find out how it compares to my S3 and my work iPhone5. Cheers.
  • I heard Rene say many times that the reason the ipad mini doesn't have a retina display is because it would increase the size and cost. But I have to disagree, over the past week I have gone to local stores to see the seven inch competition to the mini and they have far better screen resolution yet still have thin form factors and reasonable prices. It's sad but apple is trying to keep people looking forward to they're future products by withholding features that arguably are here now. Just look at the nook hd, nexus 10 and those displays. I guess im still peeved about apples choice to leave out the retina on the mini. Its a step backwards for apple to shrink an ipad 2. Btw I really enjoy the imore podcasts.
  • 440 ppi iPad mini would be sweet :)... I can dream
  • 440 ppi doesn't make the screen better. The whole idea over the retina display is that you will not be able to see the pixels at the normal distance. So I believe the Droid DNA is and the iPhone 5 are pretty much the same. And there will be more repercussions with the display on the DNA. http://modernprodigy.blogspot.com/p/blog-page.html will give you more info.
  • Tell that to the people who compared it to 720p screens like the One X and said it looked better. This screen is better then the iPhone 5, and if you doubt that you are an idiot. With that said, the superior screen on the DNA doesnt necessarily make it better then the iPhone 5. But don't talk as if you KNOW there will be other problems on the device, because YOU haven't used it yet.
    Anyway, the fact they could get such amazing hardware at the same price as the iPhone and S3 is amazing to me though.
  • That is because you are simple minded. Comparing a 720p screen to the One X is ridiculous. The One X has a high resolution display, similar to the DNA, and comparing it to something not retina doesn't count (well, maybe depends on the screen). But, since you can look at a Retina Display screen and not see the pixels, in theory, It'll make no difference. And I have had time to look at it seems my claims have been almost right. The screen is a little bulky, but not bulky to complain about. And the one I tried was slow, compared to other phones, and I didn't have a good experience.
  • Unless HTC can make a use case for 440 DPI, this smells like differentiation desperation. 5 inches okay -- and I'd even have a use for 2560x1440 output, when eventually available -- but I'd rather have longer battery life or faster speed (always a good thing on Android) than the densest display on my block.
  • This is amazing... when Apple has a feature or capability other devices don't have the Apple fans use that fact to proclaim that Apple device is the best thing ever! Then when another device has something the Apple device doesn't have... the Apple fans proclaim "WELL WHO NEEDS THAT FEATURE ANYWAYS??? THAT'S JUST SILLY!" LOL *rolleyes*
  • Haha, that's a good one, and I would agree with you.
  • While this is interesting, I don't think it's necessary to have such a high DPI...Beyond 300 or so, the eye cannot discern pixels at the length people are holding their phones from their faces. Not to mention the battery drain that such a high resolution display will entail...
  • Do you know for a fact how this device performs in regards to battery life?
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    ? You need quality and cheap prices, we are the right place.
  • I think it is achievable for the next iPhone. If it is true that the next iPhone will have appropriately 5 inches, with a 4x resolution of 2272x1280, the screen will be a 522ppi. I think it is a great number for a coming Super-Retina Display :)