Apple likes to throw around marketing terms a lot. Even their chips have fancy names like A12 Bionic. But now, Apple has three different displays across their phones: Retina, Liquid Retina, and Super Retina. So what does this all mean? Let’s break it down.
The original Retina Display was introduced on the iPhone 4. At the time, Steve Jobs explained the name derives from the eyes’ inability to distinguish individual pixels at a normal viewing distance.
For those of you too young to remember, we used to actually be able to see pixels before 4K and Retina Displays started taking over the world.
Super Retina Display
With iPhone X, Apple introduced a beautiful, edge-to-edge, OLED display that was much more pixel-dense than previous iPhones. With a new display came a new name: Super Retina. This is by far Apple’s best display and was designed by Apple for the iPhone X (but it’s manufactured by Samsung).
Both the iPhone XS and XS Max utilize Super Retina OLED displays. As with the iPhone X, OLED allows the display to turn individual pixels on and off. This means black pixels are true black because they don’t emit any light. It also allows the display to curve into the corners and around the speaker/camera housing.
Many OLED phones feature a “chin” or small bezel at the bottom of the display. Apple solved this issue by bending the display back on itself. It’s a very expensive solution that most other manufacturers have avoided entirely.
Liquid Retina Display
So where does the iPhone XR’s Retina display fit into the equation? The iPhone XR is Apple’s less expensive model, but still has an edge-to-edge display. To save money, Apple made it LCD.
LCD stands for “Liquid Crystal Display,” which is where Apple gets the “Liquid” part from. But a traditional LCD display doesn’t curve around edges. So this isn’t just any ordinary display.
Apple’s Liquid Retina display was engineered to look just like an iPhone X/XS display using miniature LCD panels. Not a lot of information is available from Apple, but essentially they managed to make LCD work where most companies would simply charge more for OLED.
While this likely took a lot of engineering on Apple’s part, it results in a low-cost, bezel-less display that Apple can use to put the same display size and shape in its entry-level phones.
OLED is of course far superior to LCD, but Apple’s approach to LCD results in a great display to put in its cheaper devices. Liquid Retina Displays won’t support 3D Touch, so if you want this feature you’ll need to look at the iPhone XS or XS Max, or an older iPhone model. Of course, the lack of 3D Touch could indicate it’s on its way out. However XR users can still access some 3D Touch shortcuts with its replacement, Haptic Touch, which has a similar feeling to what you’d get on a MacBook with a Force Touch trackpad.
What are your thoughts on Apple’s new LCD and OLED displays? Will you miss 3D Touch on the Liquid Retina Display? Is OLED worth the extra cost? Let us know what you think in the comments and on social media.