How many pixels can Apple pack into a 4-inch screen?

The iPhone's screen is expected to finally grow beyond the confines of its seemingly permanent 3.5-inch screen. What does that mean for pixel density and resolution?

'So that is the Retina Display. Awesome text, awesome images, and awesome video.' -- Apple CEO Steve Jobs on the iPhone 4's new screen, Apple Worldwide Developers Conference, June 7 2010.
'So that is the Retina Display. Awesome text, awesome images, and awesome video.' -- Apple CEO Steve Jobs on the iPhone 4's new screen, Apple Worldwide Developers Conference, June 7 2010. James Martin/CNET

A bigger screen on the iPhone 5 means more pixels in order to maintain the Retina branding. So, what can we expect exactly?

I asked Paul Semenza, senior vice president of analyst services at NPD DisplaySearch.

"To the best of our knowledge, the display will be 4 inches, with the same 326 ppi [pixels per inch] resolution, which would make it 1,136x640," he said, confirming current speculation.

That would keep the ppi ahead of popular phones like the 4.8-inch Samsung Galaxy S III (306 ppi at 1,280x720 resolution) and the 4.7-inch HTC One X (312 ppi at 1,280x720 resolution).

And would hike the number of pixels to an estimated 727,040 compared to 614,400 on the current iPhone 4/4S with a 3.5-inch display.

Semenza continued. "You can think of [it] as a widescreen version of the double-VGA format in the 4s," he said.

Another marquee upgrade will be in-cell touch tech. "Also, we expect the display to have in-cell touch, which means the touch sensor is integrated into the TFT array of the display, which we think can make the display about 0.5 mm thinner," he said.

And what kind of hardware is going to push those extra pixels around? It's not imperative that Apple upgrade the silicon to quad-core (CPU) to drive those pixels, especially since it didn't go that route on the third-generation 2048-by-1536 iPad (that's a dual-core CPU with a quad-core GPU).

But only Apple knows what Apple thinks is imperative. We'll revisit that chip-specific speculation later.

How iOS 6 could handle the extra screen space.
How iOS 6 could handle the extra screen space. 9to5Mac
About the author

Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.

 

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