For its time, Apple’s iPhone 4 was considered by many in the tech industry as the ‘Rolls Royce’ of smartphones — not just because it was a beautifully and, not to mention, formidably constructed piece of technology, but also because the 2010-era handset brought a slew of new features to the table that effectively upended the industry as we knew it. Just one of those features, in particular, was the introduction of Apple’s Retina display.
At the time, boasting an unprecedented 640 x 960 pixels crammed into a comparatively tiny 3.5-inch display, the iPhone 4 was, in the words of Apple’s late co-founder Steve Jobs, himself, “the next leap forward in display technology.”
Indeed, not only did the iPhone 4 pack double the pixels into the same size display as the iPhone 3Gs (which featured just 320 x 480, for comparison’s sake), but Apple effectively set the stage for other industry heavyweights to bring forth their own display technologies to the table.
Of course, even before the iPhone 4 stole the spotlight, various Android manufacturers — such as Motorola with its Atrix handset — were already bringing devices to market that “boasted even higher resolutions than Apple’s Retina display.” Sure, at 960 x 540 pixels, Motorola’s Atrix was, at least on paper, already basking in the glory of Retina-like stardom. However, in practice, these “higher resolution displays” actually rendered images at far lower resolutions, featuring fewer colors, due to their construction around a faulty AMOLED PenTile technology.
These displays, which were featured on several 2010-era Android handsets, may have claimed higher resolutions on the packaging; however, given that AMOLED PenTile displays were of a more cost-effective technology, they actually produced about 30% less sub-pixels — by rearranging greens with fewer reds and blues than iPhone’s Retina display, which as a result, caused Motorola’s Atrix to be chastised by reviewers for its “inaccurate colors and poor viewing angles, not to mention practically unreadable text at its furthest zoom.”
In other words, rather than utilizing the millions of extra pixels to actually enhance the display technology, most Android manufacturers simply followed in the footsteps of what PC manufacturers had already been doing for years — in the respect that they either blew up the screen (thus expanding pixels across a larger display area), or scaled it down (in order to fit more UI content on the screen).
An iconic example of this would be Samsung’s first-generation Galaxy Note phablet, which, introduced just a year after the iPhone 4, launched featuring a similar, cost-effective PenTile AMOLED display — only that display, instead of boasting an upgraded technology, was simply “blown-up,” yet again, on an even larger, 5.37-inch display.
At the time, Rasmus Larsen of FlatPanelHD noted, “a PenTile AMOLED panel was recently introduced with the Samsung Galaxy Note, and we were not impressed. In the real world, PenTile means loss of details and sharpness, as well as a bluish/greenish tint around letters (depending on the background color).”
As Android manufacturers soon began to learn: simply squeezing more pixels into an already lackluster display technology — just to have the bragging rights — ultimately resulted in an even bigger problem that they didn’t adequately prepare for. Since Apple’s A-series chipsets were in a league of their own (and still are), comparative Android chips — such as Qualcomm’s original Snapdragon — simply didn’t boast the raw processing power capable of driving all those millions upon millions of extra pixels. And that resulted, as you might imagine, in some pretty sub-par displays.
‘Wide Color’: The Next Evolution in Apple’s Retina Display Technology
While, due to its size, Apple’s iPhone 4 only boasted about half a million active pixels, today’s considerably larger Apple handsets — such as the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus — power upwards of 2 million pixels. And while some Samsung devices, such as the Galaxy S7, tout the presence of over 3.7 million pixels, it’s important to note, as we mentioned, that pixels aren’t everything. That said, Samsung’s top-tier devices, unfortunately, have struggled to reckon with the sheer brightness, clarity, and legibility of Apple’s renowned Retina displays — simply because those handsets are built around less powerful application processors.
The good news, at least for Apple fans, however, is that the company has been relentless in its quest to develop displays for future handsets and tablets boasting features that actually benefit the end user.
The result of that effort, you might be wondering, is Apple’s new ‘Wide Color’ initiative. ‘Wide Color’, which was first introduced on the company’s 5K iMac.
When Apple introduced ‘Wide Color’ technology on its 9.7-inch iPad Pro, Ray Soneira of DisplayMate described the display as offering “ the highest absolute color accuracy, the lowest screen reflectance for any mobile display, the highest peak brightness for any full-size tablet, and the highest contrast rating in ambient light at each viewing angle.”
Furthermore, Soneira believes that the technology — which we now know as True Tone (with support for ‘Wide Color’) — could ultimately see its way onto Apple’s ‘iPhone 7’ later this year. His rationale is that it’s clear Apple didn’t invest so much time and so many resources developing the new technology for a single device; but rather in light of the attention that Apple devoted to ‘Wide Color’ at WWDC last month, it would seem only reasonable that the company would implement the new technologies on the iPhone 7 — and even other iOS devices coming in the near future.
And, of course, given the dramatic increase in color vibrancy, accuracy, and saturation that True Tone and Wide Color deliver to the end user, many would-be buyers might consider the ‘iPhone 7’ a worthy upgrade — even if solely for that beautiful leap forward in Retina display technology.
What do you think about an ‘iPhone 7’ featuring True Tone & ‘Wide Color’ technology? Let us know in the comments!
Featured Image Copyright: nixki