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The new iPhone 6 has a 2012 Android display

If you were paying attention to last night's Apple live stream, where the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus were announced, you'd have noticed that Apple has continued to forge its future by copying Android's past. Even as Apple finally increases the screen size of the iPhone it has done so in a way that gives me nostalgia for 2012 Android phones.

apple iPhone 6 press colors
Apple is moving forward, but is it just moving into Android's past? © Apple

Under Steve Jobs, Apple was rigid about sticking to its guns as far as small screen sizes go. But the increasing dimensions of Android displays proliferated and it would appear external and market pressures finally got Apple to budge beyond a 4-inch diagonal (the new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus have 4.7 and 6 inch screens respectively). While this is big news for Apple fans, some snarky commenters have noted that the new iPhone 6 is basically a repackaged Nexus 4, as you can see below.

iphone troll
We all love a good bit of iRibbing, but this is kinda true. © Ron Amadeo

If you look at the display size and pixel density trends of the major Android flagships alongside the iPhone, you can see that it hasn't exactly been a linear progression, but rather that there tends to be a clump of higher pixel densities in the middle of the pack rather than at the large screened end, which traditionally don't push the pixel race as much as the mid-sized devices. Still, the overall trend has been toward larger screens and higher pixel densities across the board. Here's an infographic to demonstrate the point, starting at 2012:

infographic screen sizes en
Displays keep getting bigger and more pixel dense. © ANDROIDPIT

As you can see, from the high 200 ppi range and low 300's in 2012, pixel densities increased through the 300's last year and in 2014 most of the major flagships are all sitting comfortably in the 400+ ppi range with a few outliers pushing beyond the 500 ppi mark. In 2014, you're hard put to find a major flagship with a screen below 5 inches and pixel density lower than 400 ppi.

The new iPhone 6 sticks with the magical 326 ppi we already saw on the iPhone 5, which is basically the same as the iPhone 4. Steve Jobs' influence is still holding sway at Apple, at least as far as pixel density goes, even if the iPhone 6 Plus has 401 ppi. Jobs famously claimed that anything over the ''magic number'' of 300 ppi is beyond the differentiation limit of the human retina. So is the iPhone 6 Plus a one-off or does it imply Apple will change its position in the future?

iphone6 lgg3
If the iPhone 6/Nexus 4 have perfect screens, is the LG G3 overkill? © ANDROIDPIT

The new iPhone has a Retina HD display, which is just a smidgeon better resolution than traditional HD. Not Full HD, not QHD. It seems unlikely that Apple will go beyond 330 ppi for some time yet, at least in a smaller form factor anyway (the iPhone 6 Plus has 401 ppi, remember). Keep in mind that Samsung have already released the Galaxy S5 LTE-A with 577 ppi.

So why are things different in the Android world? Way back in 2011, Samsung announced the world's first HD smartphone: the Galaxy S2 HD LTE and six months later LG announced the world's first Full HD smartphone display. The first Full HD smartphone was 2012's HTC Butterfly. LG was the first to announce the first QHD display in 2013 but the first smartphone to ship with a QHD screen was the Oppo Find 7.

keynote apple iphone6 8
Will Apple ever join the pixel density race like Android has? © Apple

There is a constant debate about whether or not pixel densities above 330 ppi make a difference or not. Display technology companies clearly think they do, manufacturers of Android smartphones obviously think so too, and the market itself clearly supports these assumptions. But if the eye can't perceive any pixels in a phone with 326 ppi then what is the point of trying to double that figure? Why do Android OEMs and now Apple itself push beyond 330 ppi?

The science actually proves Jobs to be correct, given the exact parameters he provided for the ''magic number'' and yet many in the Android world claim you can spot pixels even when the science says you cannot. And so we return to the Nexus 4 and the iPhone 6. When I first unpacked my Nexus 4 I was blown away by the display. The prospect that I haven't seen anything better with my naked eye since then is an interesting thought to ponder. 

What do you think of the ''magic number''? Where do you see the future of display sizes and pixel densities?


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  • I am just here to mess with you guys head. Since you all are always coming into Apple articles or forums, i decided to come and chck you all.
    I,discovered that Apple fans dont go on other forums to rant about how great the ipad is, I guess they dont need to. Why do you?
    What will they call in the medical literature of the future at the illness that you all carry? Androitis? Maybe. Jajajajajajaja
    I feel sorry for you.

    • It's all part of the fun, Eduardo. We really don't mind if Apple fans buy Apple products, we just like to tease them about it. It's the same thing as how Android fans don't exist to Apple people. It's all about ribbing the ''other side''. Of course Apple make some good stuff, if they didn't no amount of marketing could overcome the problems. Android also makes exceptional stuff, but both sides have issues and limitations - these are the cracks we like to getinside and wedge open with discussion and debate. We also discuss the problems in Android at great length too!

  • Kids, dont you notice that you even bash Apple amongst yourself. Instead of just talk about how great the phones that you love are, you spend so much capital ranting about Apple amongst the choir. Its dumb.
    Its a cult, some say. And under the same definition, what are you? Be honest. Lol.
    Be happy with your choice. We dont care what you buy. Never talk about you people, yes, you,people, amongst ourselves. Youdont even exist. So just be happy, enjoy your phone and stop the cryng and moaning about phones for godsakes! It is phones we are talkimg about. And some of you appeared to be adults on those puctures. Shame n your parents kids! Jajajajajajajaja

  • Higher pixel densitoes are NOT about seeing individual pixels.
    It is all about smoother, more natural image, be it text or picture.
    The argument is parallel to the 8bit/color one. True, most people
    cannot differentiate more than 255 shades of primary color, but most
    people can easily see the banding and other artfefcts 24bit color creates.

    BTW, the resolution argument goes back to the days of book printing.
    The claim that 300dpi is good enough was proven false in blind testing against
    1200 dpi, which lost to 2400 dpi, and if you see a (rate) book printed at 3600 dpi
    you know what I am talking about
    And yes, printing at 4800 dnd 9600 dpi was done. This was the limit of the computerised plate making systems of the time (circa 1976).


  • Actually, I think this density is really irrelevant over 300ppi, but companies will always run to increase it while should care about battery. But the funny part of this comparisons are that this features apple added yesterday that nexus 4 had two years ago, actually had already been in android for more time than it.

    • I can appreciate Apple sticking to its science guns with the 330 ppi limit, but then it does the iPhone 6 Plus at 401 ppi and completely undermines its own stated position.

      So why not give the iPhone 6 higher pixel density too? Is it really just to differentiate between the ''base'' model and the ''premium'' model? If so, then even Apple is glorifying higher pixel density!

  • CJ Brown Sep 11, 2014 Link to comment

    Those comparisons remind me why Apple / Tim Cook should spend less time me whining in court (over patents) ... and just mimic Android (hopefully they'll catch up - probably sooner once a Chinese company buys Apple (lol) ...

    Great design / build - but the rest of these specs are embarrassing (unless you're an Apple Cult Consumer - who are probably boasting to themselves). OS updates are not an issue anymore once Google takes over all updates via Google Play (which I predict will be mandatory for all smart phones) ....

  • I can't help but laugh at the silly Iphone 6+ the Galaxy Note 4 is going to STOMP IT into the ground so easily. When I owned the Htc Evo 4g back in 2010 it had a 4.3 inch screen not 4.7.

    • Hey @Richard, on that note (get it?), how do you think people that aren't worried about a stylus see the Note series?

      Do you think they see it as a great device with a thing they don't necessarily need, or as a device that's not suited to them? For example, would an Apple fan see it as a business tool or a consumer device?

      I always think of the Note as a fundamentally great device with an exceptional ''bonus'' in the S Pen, but I realize to some all they would see is a ''stylus phone''.

    • Ricky, how is it that note is goimg to stomp? Like a mule when bit by a hornet? Jajajajajajajaja...
      How many dozens note4 will sell this weeknd durng their first release? Iphones only sold over 10 millions. Your couple dozens note will beat that easy. You androits hate facts as if it was hell!
      Jajajajajajajajajaja.....a fool as his does it goes? looks like an androit.

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