iPhone XR Has the Same Pixel Density as iPhone 4 — But Does It Matter?

Iphone Xr Iphone 4 Screen Resolution Credit: CNET
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The upcoming iPhone XR has the exact same pixel density as the iPhone 4, as a popular YouTuber recently pointed out.

Unbox Therapy made the comparison in a new video published on Wednesday (see it below). And to be fair, the channel’s head — Lew — isn’t wrong about the screen specifications on both devices.

The iPhone XR has an LCD display with a pixel-per-inch (ppi) density of 326. The iPhone 4, of course, also has a ppi of 326. While this makes for a great antagonistic headline, there are a few things to note.

For one, every non-Plus model released since the iPhone 4 has the exact same pixel density. That includes the iPhone 5 through the iPhone 8.

Unbox Therapy contends that Apple intentionally made the resolution worse on the iPhone XR to avoid cannibalizing sales of its premium OLED models. There may be a grain of truth to that, but that difference in pixel density probably won’t even matter to most end users.

That’s because there’s certainly an argument to be made about whether pixel density actually matters in day-to-day usage. Unbox Therapy touched on this in the video, but it’s worth mentioning again.

At a normal viewing distance, it’ll incredibly hard to notice the individual differences between two devices with different pixel densities unless you know exactly what you’re looking for.

In other words, while higher resolution looks great on paper, it might not have a discernible positive effect on your normal smartphone screen viewing.

To be clear, there are a lot of great Android devices that are aggressively priced and have excellent specifications for the money. Apple wants to compete in that space with the iPhone XR, so it’s worth drawing a comparison between those devices and the mid-range 6.1-inch handset.

And while many of those Android phones have higher-resolution displays, there are also some downsides to that — as TechRadar pointed out in an excellent article from 2015.

In addition to higher costs, denser displays also have a higher drain on your battery. The lower resolution display of the iPhone XR means that the device has the best battery life of any iPhone Apple has ever made.

That’s not even counting the negative effect that higher-resolution displays have on accessibility and phone performance. They can make text harder-to-read and result in laggy performance when running graphically intensive apps.

All in all, the iPhone XR has the display you’d expect from a mid-range iPhone that’s a spiritual successor to the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus. Most people aren’t going to notice a difference.

Sure, the iPhone XR could certainly have been priced more competitively. But with the operating system, hardware and features that it packs, it’s still likely to give Android devices in its price range a run for their money.

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