Does the iPhone 4 really have Retina Display?

Apple states that the iPhone 4's 3.5-inch display has 614,400 78 micrometer-wide pixels which gives us a density of 326 ppi (pixels per inch). Apple claims this will give the iPhone 4 a, "pixel density so high that the human eye is unable to distinguish individual pixels" (at 12 inches). So, is this just a bit of marketing magic or does the iPhone 4 display really venture beyond the limits of the human eye?

Raymond Soneira, the president of DisplayMate, a company which does analysis of screens gave these statistics: the angular resolution of the retina is 0.6 arc minutes per pixel, which he derived from the angular measure of 50 cycles per degree with each cycle being a line pair -- two pixels.

Using this model if you hold an iPhone 4 at 8 inches you would be viewing 716 ppi, at 12 inches it would be 477 ppi and if you hold an iPhone 4 further away at 18 inches it would then fall to 318 ppi. From this Raymond Soneira deduced that the iPhone has significantly lower resolution than the retina. He even went further stating that you would need a resolution higher than the retina to deliver a image that looks perfect.

William H.A. Beaudot, Ph.D, a researcher from McGill University, states in his profile that "My research is aimed at understanding how visual information is integrated across space, time and its attributes by the human visual system, as well as modeling specific anatomical circuits and interactions between the visual cortical areas involved in these processes." You got all that? Me neither... but he seems to know a lot about the visual system.

Beaudot states that 300 pixels per inch is related to standard visual acuity of 20/20 vision. This means that a normal eye can discriminate between two points by 1 arc minute (1/60 deg). 1 arc minute seen from a distance of 12 inches to a dot size of about 89 micrometer or pixel density of 286.5 dpi. Thus, since the iPhones retina display has a pixel density or 326 dpi, it is 14 % better than we would have at 12 inches with 20/20 vision. Using these facts Beaudot feels that Apples claims are accurate.

He went on to state that the optimal viewing distance quoted by Jobs is 12-inches but Beaudot feels that this may be too close. He measured that the most comfortable distance from his eye to the iPhone 3GS was 18 inches which would make Apple's numbers even better.

So what does seem to be agreed upon is that from 12 to 18 inches the image will be pretty close to if not better than visual acuity.The 326 dpi of the iPhone 4 is also better than magazine print which is only 300 dpi. If you are one of the few who hold your iPhone within 5 inches of your face you will probably be able to see pixels. Either way the iPhone 4 will have a display unmatched in the smartphone market.

What do you think about this, I would love to know your opinion.

[The LoopGadget LabPopular Mechanics via Gizmodo]


Senior Editor at iMore and a practicing therapist specializing in stress and anxiety. She speaks everywhere from conferences to corporations, co-host of Vector and Isometric podcasts, follow her on Twitter @Georgia_Dow and check out her series at

  • I was able to see the pixels. I have 20/20 (with glasses) and I saw the pixels just fine. Yes it is a beautiful screen but I think this whole retina is crazy
  • Would love to see such a high DPI on the second gen iPad :)
  • The whole 'retina display' thing is marketing. Jobs is stretching the truth a little bit. However, that doesn't take away from the fact that it is going to be an awesome screen and I'll welcome it and really love it when I get my iPhone 4.
  • As long as it looks good, who cares? I'm gonna enjoy looking at that beautiful screen. Of course eventually other smartphones will come out with the same display, but right now Apple has bragging rights haha Yay for iP4!
  • AMOLED's are proven to be better and more efficient.
  • Here come the Fandroids. Seriously, I am in the camp of who cares. It will be a great display, something for the other companies to try and reproduce. Gives the iPhone something to claim as best in class... at least until a dozen or more different Android phones come out in the next few months. (they are going to run over super cool real man names soon if they keep it up.. might even appeal to real women eventually)
  • The screen is going to a welcome sight for my eyes. Anything higher resolution Is welcome to me
  • I love beautiful screens but really? Who cares if its retina, I just want a great looking screen and a good phone
  • My 3gs screen is just fine... It's all a marketing ploy by apple
  • My dream iPhone would have a 326dpi 4.3" Super AMOLED display.. Someday..
    For now the iphone 4's new "retina display" will do just fine. Even if the name does suck.
    Regardless of visible pixel structure, I haven't heard anything but glowing reports from those lucky people that have seen it.
  • Jobs is a marketer, so he will stretch the truth where and when he can. It is part of the sales game, that's all. The screen is undeniably gorgeous; that is primarily what matters. (Though power consumption also matters, and on that front AOMLED ahead.)
  • @steve woz
    how have you seen the display?
  • and i have 20/13 vision.. would i be able to see each individual pixel? i hope not:)
  • The retina display is not a marketing thing, it's the real deal.
    Average user holds their iPhone appox 12inches away, 18inches or 5inches away is a lot less likely.
    Apple just can't lie and say That they have incorporated retina display technology when they really haven't. That's false advertisement.
  • And most people don't have 20/20 vision. Even if you don't need glasses chances are you don't have 20/20 vision. Eyes are rarely "perfect" and some imperfection is usually there even if it's not bad enough for you to need glasses.
  • ISP which Apple uses in every display they sell currently. Is far superior to AMOLED. And costs alot more money. But we aren't seeing the cost with how cheap these phones are. My 3G[S] has a nice screen. I'm due for an upgrade in December. So I'm on the early upgrade bandwagon for this months launch thanks to AT&T. And I will be getting one for new contract price and selling my 11 month old 3G[S].
  • what moron stevewoz failed to mention is he had the phone 2 inches from his face.
  • Non of this mumbo-jumbo makes any sense till you realize they are not talking about on the screen, but rather the image projected on your retina while looking at the screen.
    Dots per inch of display does not change with distance.
    Dots per inch on the Retina does.
    Maybe thats a "Well DUH" for some of you, but it confused me till I followed links in some of the Giz articles.
  • Oooooh, who gives a flying f#€< ! iPhone 4 is the greatest development in smartphones to date, Apple fan or not . The ipad bores me to death, but I want the iPhone 4, it's probably a great display ; call it retina, parmesan or jellybeans - who cares, admit it we all want it :/
  • Hey the point is that the resolution is much better than the old phone.
    So any improvments are welcome.
  • @Greg unless you happen to be outside.
  • My vision is 20/15. I find a lot of people have it too. And I'm 34. I don't think it's so rare
  • I am suprised The article doesn't mention this:
    Phil Plat provides additional balance to the argument, of course balance doesn't really matter in the modern internet culture.
  • Market ploy or not, it will still be the better screen.
  • How can AMOLED be "proven to be better" if the screen is blank when you're outdoors? Don't most people use their mobile phones outside? Doesn't that make all Android Phones with AMOLED screens 100% useless outside? Or, I guess if you bring a blanket around with you to huddle under so you can see your phone. I guess you can hobble along with voice commands outside....or get an iPhone 4 if you ever use your phone outdoors!
  • I don't really care at all. 1st - The display is a beauty. 2nd - Much more accurate display than other smartphones on the market. 3rd - Wether or not this is false claims, the display does live to its true name & seems to be getting positive reviews. Wether you like it or not, it really IS a "Retina Display."
  • First of all, my 3GS is about 8" away from my face right now and I'm wearing prescription glasses (my eyesight isn't even that bad though) and I can't see the individual pixels from here.
    Secondly, very few people have 20/20 vision, and that's not perfect human vision anyway! Perfect human vision may be able to discern pixels from 12" away, but honestly I highly doubt it!
  • I love the look and the specs of the new iPhone, but seriously, there's nothing wrong with the 3gs screen resolution. It's all a bit standard resolution versus HD resolution - I can't tell the difference at a standard viewing distance, so what are we all worried about? It's nice to know it's better, but the main thing is the other (pretty major) improvements.
    Films already look great on the 3gs itself - what I want to know is if this improved resolution will translate to better output to a TV.
  • Does anybody actually hold their phone 12 inches away from their face anyway!
  • I'm in Graphic Design and little bit of Photography. Here's a little tip most people don't know; some do. That there's different types of panels behind your monitors, etc. Here's an article that might help. IPS is the way to go, I think.
  • Hello, I'm the "crazy" researcher cited above (not anymore at McGill University). I just posted a blog entry with my take on the whole controversy surrounding Apple "Retina Display". For those not tired yet about the issue...
  • Georgia is hot!!! Especially on the retina display!!
  • With all of those numbers and calculations, I would have thought that this would be a Leanna Lofte article.
    Good job Georgia!
  • Regardless of whether or not the "retina" claim is scientifically valid/sound, I do believe that the new display is going to be of exceptionally high quality. It's unsurprising that Apple's questionable word choice may have provoked the Dieter Bohn-style "hateration" in many who follow the smartphone industry, but their attention to detail cannot be ignored/denied.
  • Forget the screen -- will the darn thing be able to MAKE CALLS????
  • Blehhhhh duhhhh. Divide 1 pixel with ur 3G and try to make 4 pixel with it. That is what retina will do, no u wont see non
  • If I remember it well, Jobs DID state it would be better IF held at normal reading distance.
  • I had a feeling this would happen. Everyone is so quick is jump on Apple for everything. I'm sure when it comes out everyone and their mom will try to make an argument that the antenna in the casing is useless.
  • It isn't about marketing from Jobs really. I have Canon's latest cam the T2i/550D and the screen alone is fantastic. It has more pixels at 3 inches that the iPhone's 4 display (more than a million). It is possible to have more pixel density on this new iPhone than what people think to just be publicity or marketing.
  • It's all marketing... now every site on the interwebs says "Retina Display" like this is some kind of breakthrough... it's a higher resolution, simple.
  • My son has the Samsung Impression with AMOLED and let me tell you that this screen is popping color and is beautiful to look at .I hope the new iphone will look just as good .
  • To be honest I can't discern the pixels on my iPhone 3G and I have '20/20' vision. Then again I do hold my iPhone about 18+ inches from my face! All the same, I am definitely getting the new iPhone 4 and I'm sure the screen will look much better!
    @SteveWoz - Leave troll.
  • I don't know why they went with this new buzz word to describe the display, the screen will be an improvement over the current one which is all that matters for most users
  • Lol @ Merlin
    You are so true with all these smartphones with their numbing specs: blazing processors, space age screens resolution, camera's, video games, etc........
    Did we forget somewhere down the line that this is a PHONE!
    I love my iPhone and can't wait to get iPhone 4. But I hope the new design will help dropped calls. I live in downtown Minneapolis and I get a lot of dropped calls. When I lived in Atlanta i did not have this problem. I am hoping that the iPhone 4 new antenna will help with that. I do get fast 3 g here though that's for sure.
    My job is getting us the evo (which I really don't like) but the 4g speeds are ridiculous. They have a 4g tower on top of the holiday inn near the metrodome. I hope ATT hits the 7.2 hdspa switch soon. I want faster speed.
  • With my bad vision, my 3GS is already a retina display!
  • The samsung jet has a 300 ppi AMOLED display... Just sayin
  • I love the fact that this lack of not being able to see things annoys people. I know Apple are saying it's Retina sharp but god, that's like playing a computer game and being promised real-life graphics.
  • Copy articles much? I read this exact verbiage day before yesterday on another site. Or was it re-posted here by the original author? Where's the beef?
  • Follow-up: Not a copy, but worth comparing:
  • Compared to the EVO, the 3Gs screen looks like a toy. And, Engadget claims the iPhone 4 screen blows the EVO screen out of the water. So, it's going to be awesome. Stop with all the pointless whining and just enjoy it.
  • @Stinky Tuna I paraphrased and feel that it was much more succinct and easier to comprehend.
    Everyone was cited and I thought I did a pretty good job actually but each to their own =)
  • I have 20/20 vision, so I know nothing about vision correction.
    1. I assume people wear glasses and contacts to bring their vision up to 20/20.
    2. I also assume that most people who don't have 20/20 vision use contacts and glasses daily.
    If those assumptions are correct, then saying that the new iPhone truly DOES have a retina display to the majority of the population isn't correct.
    Glasses off, retina display.
    Glasses on, really nice display.
  • retina display is just gimmicky marketing term apple made up for a high resolution display that wasn't AMOLED. people who don't know any better may "ooh ahh" while the rest of us roll our eyes lol.
  • ANSWER: Yes, it does have a Retina display, because "Retnia display" is what Apple calls it. Has little to nothing to do with an eye's actual retina.
  • Apple marketing and branding always drives people to nerd-OCD!
    Like has been said, "retina display" is a branding and marketing scheme. Is Apple advertising capabilities of the LCD in the iPhone 4 that are untrue? Well, it's complicated. It's a fairly simple give and take between pixel density, visual acuity and distance. The only thing fixed is the pixel density at 326 dpi. The rest, one's visual acuity and eye-distance from the phone is highly variable. And this is all assuming high contrast black and white eye chart images. If its color, it's pretty much game over as human vision suck at color.
    For all intents and purposes, that is, for all typical uses, the user will not be able to discern the pixels. The iPhone OS will not be displaying easily discernible high contrast images for basically all cases. Black-on-white text will have decent contrast ratio, if the 800:1 contrast is true, but it isn't eye chart good. For 99.9% of the stuff on the screen, I don't think it'll be discernible with the scale-distance as described: 20/20 vision at 12 inches. If one is 20/15, it'll be 18 inches. If it is 20/10, then you're a genetic mutant with bird eyes and shouldn't be called human. ;)
    It is amazing that nerd-OCD only seems to target Apple though. Well it's likely "Apple" is a click-monster so we hear everyone about Apple and everything else is drowned out: The Nexus 1 and Droid Incredible 800x480 AMOLED screen. Is it false marketing when the AMOLED screen on these devices uses a PenTile sub-pixel arrangement, resulting in a third less sub-pixels and a who knows how much less color space? The HTC EVO 4G thickness is specified at 0.5 inches on the HTC website. I do not believe this includes the camera. This is a trick played by basically everyone. For awhile, PC laptop vendors were advertising the thinness part of the laptop as the "thickness." False marketing? Weight. For awhile, laptop vendors were advertising some "low" weights by not including things like the battery or optical drive. False marketing? Weight, dimensions, and even screen size are fundamental aspects of gadgets. Yet, the gadget sites never validate the advertised specifications. I guarantee to you that some website will test the iPhone's "Retina Display" by putting it through the ringer with various visual acuity testing. That's Apple unique as their brand power is huge. But a gadget site actually testing the weight, size, and dimensions of devices they review and test? Never. I'm interested in seeing it dawn on them that many "technical specifications" are marketing numbers. Everyone does it.
    Screen size is one of those things that really irk me too. The Droid's 3.7" display is actually only 3% larger than the iPhone at 3.5" inches even though 3.7/3.5 is 6% larger. You see, screen size should be measured in area, not linear "diagonal" distance. For example, the iPad's 9.7" display is actually 2% larger than a 10.1" 1024x600 display that is mostly standard on netbooks. Yet, here we are where we are left with the impression that a 10.1" netbook screen is larger than an iPad screen.
    Bah, most of you guys don't really know what technical correctness is, and you are just arguing the merits of brand of advertising.
  • I am just glad its got a better resolution and from what it sounds and amazing looking screen quality!
  • I really don't care too much about the display, I only care about the stupid announcements of stupid phones COPYING the iPhone 4 screen display idea and dreaming that the stupid phones display is better than the iPhone's 4...I'll give you guys less than a month that all announcements of new phones will have that display to then, compeete with the iPhone. Its like all now phones, they are all now "touchscreen" since iPhone and, thats not beeing original.
  • @Georgia, after looking again, you're right. I was out of line and regret the mistake. My apologies.
    Off to heat up a frozen crow dinner...
  • Strange but only part the post is displaying up for me. Is this the site or my net browser. Should I restart my on-line browser?
  • Himachal provides a unique holiday experience to all or any its visitors.
  • Made In United states laser toner cartridges along with printer drums that happen to be eco-friendly or environmentally friendly.
  • Sorry doc but I use my iphone 4 and ipad 2 at about 14 inches from my face, just something I do. So I go with Steve and not you. Either way "Retina" makes for a great way to read small font. I am sure in the coming years Retina will go up even further as technology allows it at a competitive price.