Expert Weighs In On iPhone 4′s Resolution; Steve Jobs’ Claims Aren’t False Marketing
Steve Jobs announced during his keynote address at WWDC 2010 that his engineers have packed close to four times more pixels on the new iPhone 4 display as compared to iPhone 3GS. He claimed that the pixel density on the new iPhone – at 336 pixels per inch – was the highest among smartphones today. Jobs further added:
"It turns out there’s a magic number right around 300 pixels per inch, that when you hold something around to 10 to 12 inches away from your eyes, is the limit of the human retina to differentiate the pixels."
Jobs' assertion that the resolution on the iPhone 4 display was higher than what the human eye can resolve has since then been severely challenged. According to Dr. Raymond Soneira from DisplayMate Technologies, the iPhone has significantly lower resolution than the human retina when held at a distance of 12 inches from the eye. He believed that Steve Jobs' claims are overly exaggerated.
However, according to Phil Plait, an astronomer who calibrates the cameras of Hubble Space telescope who writes for the Discover Magazine, Dr. Soneira's claims do not hold true for the vast majority of users.
He begins by giving a very nice explanation of what resolution means:
Imagine you see a vehicle coming toward you on the highway from miles away. Is it a motorcycle with one headlight, or a car with two? As the vehicle approaches, the light splits into two, and you see it’s the headlights from a car. But when it was miles away, your eye couldn’t tell if it was one light or two. That’s because at that distance your eye couldn’t resolve the two headlights into two distinct sources of light. The ability to see two sources very close together is called resolution.
He goes on to explain that Soneira's argument is applicable only to people with perfect vision. A perfect vision is characterized by a resolution of 0.6 arcmin. However technically, this number may not be applicable since a 20/20 vision is accorded to people with a retina resolution as high as 1 arcmin. Plait writes:
"Something 12 inches away means your eye can resolve dots that are bigger than
12 inches / 5730 = 0.0021 inches
If I use 1 arcminute instead, the scale factor is smaller, about 3438. So let’s convert that to inches to see how small a pixel the human eye can resolve at a distance of one foot:
12 inches / 3438 = 0.0035 inches
Aha! This means that to a more average eye, pixels smaller than this are unresolved. Since the iPhone’s pixels are 0.0031 inches on a side, it works! Jobs is actually correct."
"Let me make this clear: if you have perfect eyesight, then at one foot away the iPhone 4’s pixels are resolved. The picture will look pixellated. If you have average eyesight, the picture will look just fine."
But he believes that most people don't have perfect eyesight. Plait's arguments make a lot of sense since it gives a practical perspective of Apple's retina display argument. Despite the lingering debate, the superiority of the iPhone 4 display over rival products cannot be questioned.
What do you think?
[via Discover Magazine]
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