Samsung’s Galaxy S IV Will Push The Boundaries Of Retina, And Apple Needs To Keep Up

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Samsung’s got a flagship smartphone coming down their pipeline. It’ll probably be called the Galaxy S IV. It will probably be launched in April. It will have all kinds of great and ridiculous features that I’m sure Android fans will love. But it will also have a screen that knocks the socks off Apple’s Retina display.

There have been rumors for a while now that Samsung wants to add a display to the Galaxy S IV that’s much more pixel dense than the iPhone’s Retina display. According to the latest reports, the Galaxy S IV’s display will have a pixel density of 440ppi, which sounds like overkill, but it’s actually something Apple needs to consider adding, too.

When Steve Jobs announced the iPhone 4’s Retina display he said there’s a magic pixel density threshold that makes pixels indistinguishable for the human retina. That number was around 300ppi. Steve was kind of right. There have been mathematical formulas and scientists supporting the Retina display’s qualities. But Retina isn’t enough.

A lot of people will claim that the battle to make screens with higher pixel densities doesn’t matter because we’ve already passed the threshold of it being useful. They’re wrong. This isn’t like the battle for megapixel count that the camera industry waged for a few years. Boosting pixel density turns a digital object on a screen into a life-like objects. It’s the kind of tech magic that Apple has prided itself on for years.

Cult of Mac’s John Brownlee wrote an excellent piece on Retina displays last year talking about why Apple needs to keep pushing for higher pixel density.

Back in 2010, Japan’s NHK Science & Technology Research Laboratories discovered that across the board, the smaller the pixels, the more real an on-screen object seemed to the person viewing it, even if they didn’t have perfect vision. In fact, this effect is so profound on individuals that it eventually reaches a point where you have pixels small enough that on screen objects are completely indistinguishable from real objects.

For a display to truly, indisputably match the resolution of the human eye and be considered true Retina, it needs to have pixels that are no larger than 0.3 arc minutes in size from an average viewing distance.

For the iPhone’s Retina display to reach that 0.3 arc minutes figure, it would actually need a pixel density that’s over 700ppi. It’s currently impossible to manufacture a 4-inch display with a 700ppi screen, but there are a few tricks to make a screen look better at lower resolutions that Apple’s not currently trying.

While Apple’s been pushing for better Retina displays on the iPad, MacBook, and iMac, it needs to make improvements to the iPhone’s Retina display in the next two years. It’s unlikely that the iPhone 5S will have a higher pixel density than the iPhone 5, but Apple and its fans shouldn’t scoff at Samsung’s efforts to make richer displays.

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  • FriarNurgle

    All cell phone manufactures are working towards the same year after year; better, faster, longer, more durable, etc.

  • MrsCleaver

    Blah blah blah “news” based on little or nothing. Until tomorrow, when you report that Apple’s latest iPhones will blow future Samsung phones away.

    Please report on more meaningful, or at least more interesting activities in the world of Apple-centric technology, history or social effect.

  • Solowalker

    While it’s a nice thought, it still won’t count if it’s Pen Tile. Talk about cheap and ugly garbage. Also, having a normal color gamut instead of overblown and over-saturated hues would be nice, too. And brightness (i.e. in sunlight). Until they fix these things they most certainly will NOT beat out the Retina displays. But good try. Keep the competition coming.

  • gnomehole

    Apple doesn’t need to follow, they need to continue leading. DOn’t fall for all the gimicky crap other phones are pulling to get customers.

  • Gadget

    Sorry, but I scoff

  • iSteve

    Buster, Apple sets standards and lead while others follow. Concerning the next move for screen by samsuck, this proves that they are following what Apple has established as a benckmark.

    Apple has already the next step for Retina Display coming for the new iPhones. So buckle up!

  • Alexander530

    What good is that 440ppi if apps won’t get updated to support such density? So again, it would only look good on paper.

  • SuperJunior

    Galaxy S4 will be the best mobile phone.
    Until Galaxy Note 3 comes out, that is.
    Mighty SAMSUNG, fighting!

  • Matthew Gonzales Landry

    440ppi sounds cool but I’m with a lot of the other people here who are pointing out that no software will support that resolution. Oh yeah, and can you imagine the strain that’ll put on the GPU/CPU? We’re talking about Android here. So lets not take these rumors so seriously.

  • SuperSam64

    440ppi sounds cool but I’m with a lot of the other people here who are pointing out that no software will support that resolution. Oh yeah, and can you imagine the strain that’ll put on the GPU/CPU? We’re talking about Android here. So lets not take these rumors so seriously.

    I assume what you mean to say is that no software *designed for a phone* will support it. The reason I say that is because 440 PPI on a 4.99 inch screen is about 2.06 million total pixels. Some tablets, such as the Kindle Fire with an 8.9 inch screen and a PPI of 254, have a higher total pixel count (in this case 2.184 million total pixels) which is the same as saying that they have a higher resolution. Feel free to check my math.

    So for there not to be any software available for such a display, there would not be any software available for the Kindle Fire, or other high pixel density tablets.

    Of course all of this is irrelevant, because the Droid DNA has a 5 inch screen and 1920 x 1200 display, giving it an even higher pixel count of 2.461 million total pixels, and it seems to be doing fine as far as software is concerned. For the record, its PPI is also 440. The total count is higher because it is slightly larger and the aspect ratio is a small bit different.

    As far as the strain on the hardware, have you used Jelly Bean? It is much more fluid and less glitchy than earlier versions of Android. Between Jelly Bean and the fact that Galaxy S IV is rumored to have 2 quad core processors (one for basic tasks and one dedicated to CPU-intensive ones) I am pretty sure it will be able to handle it.

    Is 440 PPI necessary? Probably not. But that’s not to say it’s not possible. And the whole idea is to have the best hardware available. People base these types of purchases on many factors, one of them being the display. For a person who prioritizes the display as a buying point, they are likely to go with one with a higher resolution and pixel density. It makes sense. Personally, my priorities would be more along the lines of the internal specifications, but a 440 PPI display would be a welcome feature.

About the author

Buster HeinBuster Hein is Cult of Mac's Social Media Editor. Hailing from Roswell, New Mexico, but now spending his days in Phoenix, Arizona, he wastes most of his time eating burritos and reading Spanish romance novels. Twitter: @bst3r.

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