Sunday, January 9, 2011

On iPad 2 and Retina Displays

From Evernote:

On iPad 2 and Retina Displays

With all the iPad 2 mockups in agreement as far as physical dimensions and surface features, the biggest unanswered question about the iPad 2 is the screen resolution. One thing is certain, Apple will not stick to 1024x768 forever.

Given their past history with the iPhone they will move beyond only when they cam double the pixels. A lot of tech commentators have expressed skepticism of this supposed 2048x1536 resolution. Reasons being, that it will be too expensive, or that at 264dpi it does meet Apple previous Retina display standard of over 300 dpi. Consequently Apple will not be able to market it as such. Let's also not forget when did Apple move to retina display on the iPhone. On it's forth generation. However that happened to be the year Androids phones got mainstream with screens with higher dpi and resolutions that the iPhone. At 2011 CSE, a few tablets did emerge that have higher screen specs than the iPad. Apple is again forced to up the game in some way in the specs department.

What does common sense logic of the way Apple does things say? Apple will not put a higher res screen just for then sake of staying ahead. They will also not do so if the cost was prohibitive nor if they could not do it on a mass scale. Apple has stated many times that they are building a software platform. From a developer perspective, to make sure your App will look good on a screen with new resolution without effort, it will have to scale automatically 2x. Uncovered iOS file references in the past have suggested that Apple has already build support for this.

The questions are: will Apple manage to produce a 2048x1536 res displays the iPad 2 affordable and in numbers and how will it justify calling them retina screens.
I cannot speculate on the first part much beyond the report of Apple ordering 65 million iPad screen for 2011. If that does not bring their cost down, nothing will.

Retina display does not just imply a specific resolution but a one couple to a certain viewing distance. It is understood that perfect human yes can discern pixels at dpi of 300dpi at 1 foot. Increase the distance or the dpi and you can no longer see the pixels, hence you have a Retina display. Normal magazine reading distance is 1 foot and logically so all quality print magazines have adopted this 300 dpi print standard.

The iPhone however is certainly held at a closer than 1 foot distance and so to maintain a Retina display quality it needs a higher dpi: hence the 326 dots per inch. The iPad however is a device you will often leave in your lap while using it. That's way more than the 1 foot and so you can decrease the dpi from the 300 standard and still have a retina display effect. The doubling of the dpi of the current iPad will give it dpi of 264 which might be just enough.
In any case, Apple might need to explain this again at the next event where the iPad 2 is introduced. Remember the blog posts disputing Apple original retina display claim for the iPhone 4?

Other interesting thing that I hope will make it to the iPad 2 and specifically the WiF only version is GPS. The benefits are just too many to ignore them any longer. So many apps will work a lot better if accurate location info is available.

So will the iPad get a Retina Display? I think yes. Will it be 326 dpi? Certainly NO!

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