How sharp is the iPhone 4.0's screen?

iPhone 4.0

Yeah, people are arguing about whether it really is a “retina display.” IE, can your eye see individual pixels on the new iPhone’s screen?

I say hell with that. The screen is the best one I’ve seen — by far.

How good is it? Well, click on the photo above and you’ll be taken to the full resolution photo straight off of my Canon 5D MK II’s sensor of the 960×640 screen on the iPhone (you will have to scroll around a bit to get to the right part of the screen).

Now THAT is sharp!

Oh, and if you still can’t get enough, here’s a video (make sure you click “watch in HD” and open it in full screen mode to get the full effect:

UPDATE: Just for comparison sake, here’s the iPhone 3GS’ screen with the New York Times on it so you can see the difference. It’s not even close! On the 3GS you can’t read any of the text without zooming in, while on the iPhone 4 you can clearly read the text.

New York Times on iPhone 3GS


  1. Thanks for this great shot about iPhone4 new screen … however could you describe also your feelings about iPhone4 speed about surf, typing, etc … because one of the most frustrating things is when the phone is hanging or frozen little seconds for something ?

  2. It seemed faster overall than the iPhone 3GS but I'll need more time with it to say that conclusively. Look at the videos I shot, though. Gives you a sense.

  3. I think the new iPhone4 has a massive screen flaw/shortcoming. It's the little AT&T logo on the upper left portion of the screen and utterly destroys the UE. When it's on Sprint, I can buy one.

  4. Thanks for the photograph and videos, very telling. I spent the last 10 minutes comparing the photo on my iPad and my Nexus One screen side by side and I would agree with you. The iPhone 4's screen just pops in a way that the N1 doesn't. I wish the iPhone had been in a single plane to the camera, you have some blurring as the focal point seems to have been the fair side of the article.
    The real issue will be AT&T, their limited data plans and their wonky network.

  5. This is incredible. I can't wait for the iPhone 4, it'll be my first iPhone. Also, if they bring that same amazing display to the iPad, It'll be a great tool for reading all these documents I know break my own retina while reading.

  6. On my Canon 5D MK II I use a 17-40 mm F4.0 Canon L Series Lens. My camera was set at 1000 ISO.

    I need to spend more time with this phone to tell you whether it's worth the extra money, but on first look? It sure is a nice screen!

  7. I see your point, but am wondering if the screen alone is worth the money. Facetime will not be of too much use, given that it is Wi-Fi only and is restricted to iPhone 4 only. Guess, will hold off for some time…

  8. I'd compare it to an Android screen. The iPhone 3 had a really shitty, low-res LCD. The Android was fairly high-res. For comparison: iPhone 4 is 640×960. Most Android phones are 480×854. iPhone 3 is 320×480.

    It's almost as if Apple intentionally gave iPhone 2009 a shitty LCD to make the 2010 screen look good…

    1. Except in terms of screens this small there is a HUGE difference between 480×854 and 640×960. It’s comparable to 720P and 1080P in HD terms.

  9. The thing is that people in the West live in a bubble when it comes to mobile phones screen technology.

    When I worked in Japan in 3 months in 2008, I was totally blown away by the screen of the mobile I rented.
    I had a hard time spotting individual pixels. I’d say it was easily 2 times the res. of my Nokia at the time (which matches the iPhone 3G’s ppi) — on each axis!

    But these phones are only available inside Japan. Vice versa, mobile phone companies from the West have almost zero market penetration in Japan.

    So what Apple is selling here is old tech. They can, because most people have not been in Japan and even if they were, as tourists, it’s unlikely they ever got to closely inspect a Japanese mobile phone.

  10. “The screen is the best one I’ve seen — by far”

    I’m not so sure about the ‘by far’ part. Has the author seen the display on the Verizon Droid?

  11. @davenatts
    ‘This is where Android, like the desktop/laptop PC world, always wins, as there are manufacturers releasing new models all the time.’
    Okaaay, so every time there is a new Android phone released that ups the anti, you are going to ditch the last one, pay a cancellation fee or upgrade price to get what? Tiny incremental improvements. How is this a benefit to the user? Seems like a money gouging upgrade strategy to me with a horrendous cost to the environment in unessential consumption. Also, since new Android models appear at an ever faster rate, your old model, maybe only a few weeks old is worth zilch.
    Yea, just like the desktop/laptop world – a price race to the bottom which sacrifices any build quality in the interests of manufacturers profits.
    I just sold my 3g iPhone (end of contract) for $85 and a 5 year old G4 Powerbook for $300.
    try that with your PC lappy or an Android phone.

  12. I don't see the point of even bothering to compare to the previous iPhone screens, as all three versions had puny 163 PPI screens – Apple took 3 years to bother to upgrade them! Yes, the 326 PPI is the best on the market right now, though most top end Android phones, that have been available for months, are 250+ PPI, and there will doubtless be ones that top the iPhone 4 before the end of the year if not sooner. Apple's once-a-year update does the consumer no favours – when you go to get a new phone and are being tied in to contracts of 18 or 24 months, you don't want to get a model that's already been superseded. This is where Android, like the desktop/laptop PC world, always wins, as there are manufacturers releasing new models all the time.

    1. What you call win, can also be called fragmentation and quick-obsolescence. “I just got this cool new Android phone! Wait, what? They already canceled it and came out with a newer model with newer software? What do I do with this piece of junk for the next couple of years?” Android phones seem to be for the hardcore geeks who must have the latest and greatest every 2 months no matter what the price. It has to be dizzying to be a fan.

  13. Yup, but the Sprint EVO and the Verizon Incredible's screens aren't even close to as sharp. More after I get mine (I'll have all the top end phones for comparison).

  14. I’m wondering what the reception will be like. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was significantly better. I’ll be camped out as usual at the Palo Alto store to get mine. I’m a little bummed there isn’t a 64GB, but other than, I’m really looking forward to this.

  15. Unfortunately the EVO's PPI is only 217, because the screen is larger. The Incredible has 252 PPI, as does the Nexus One and the Desire, all of which are 3.7″. HTC's best screens are in their Diamond/Diamond 2/Touch Pro models which all run Windows Mobile with 286/292 PPI. The Motorola Droid/Milestone has 265 PPI.

    So Apple is leading the pack on mobile screen resolution and density, but I doubt it will be for long.

    1. let me get this straight, you act like you don’t sign a 2 year contract with an “android” phone? hello???

      worse, there are 50 Androids, and they are all out of date, so the moment you sign a 2 year contract, your phone is out of date within 1 month, guaranteed with an Android… worse, of those 50,000 apps, only a fraction can work on your phone, because there are 50 different form factors, and almost as many Android OS’s to go with them… ALL OF WHICH ARE OUT OF DATE….

      and guess what, when a Android phone finally releases with a comparable screen, and as fast or even faster processor, literally maybe a handful of apps will work on that new Android phone.

      people are missing the big picture here, that fragmentation is just unbelievable, 50 Android phones, not a 2 even has the same form factor, 98% are out of date, yet some poor sap developer spent his time developing for one of those 98%… worse in 2 months those 2% will be out of date… and there will be 80 more android devices by this time next year, with completely different form factors all different, and not a single app will run on them without some sort of crash or difficulty….

      are you people out of your mind?????

      1. Very good points you’re making here, buddy. My sentiments exactly. Someone once compared the Android App Market with Apple’s App Store and they said it was like trying to compare an Open-Air Turkish Bazzar to a Beverly Hills Nordstrom’s: With the first you pack a weapon ’cause you’re not sure what might happen while you’re there, as compared to the second where there’s no concern for life or limb and All the offerings are first rate sans the ‘flies’.

    2. It is the whole package that is selling iPhones, not just the screen. Apple will be leading for the entire package since Apple will continue to innovate ahead of the competitors not just with the hardware, but the software, the Apps, iTunes, integration, form factors, etc. Yes, if you are buying just based on one specification at a time, then Motorola, HTC, etc. will win. But I want the best all around phone.

  16. What's with the phone in the video having an AT&T signal then switching to the “no sim” warning? Hope that's not a potential production/network problem. The display does look very crisp. Despite the EVO's less pixels-per-inch though, that extra screen real estate can be very handy and doesn't look bad at all, despite the older technology.

  17. Given the nature of “Retina” display – the resolving power of the eye – I don't see a compelling reason to go beyond it much – except for bragging rights. Even the 250+ screens on the competition.
    Now the aim should be to make this resolution available on larger and larger screen sizes.
    Magazines don't print at larger dpi counts because they have already hit the point where they can be photo-realistic.
    When I can get a 27″ iMac with 300ppi resolution and resolution independent OS it will near perfect! :)

  18. Of course always go with the evil genius explanations for Apple's actions even when they make no sense. That's what you do to be cool in tech circles these days though, so I understand.

    They went with a lower end screen because they judged it best at the time I'm sure in terms of cost and what you get for it. Apple isn't always trying to think of ways to screw people in the future and make more money. Get some reality.

    This screen is the best thing around but people still find ways to complain about it.

  19. As I said, it benefits the user because you can get the latest spec whenever you buy, instead of waiting for the annual Apple roll-out. Apple took three years to upgrade their screen! I'm very glad I don't buy nor am loyal to their products or I would have had to have waited a long time for them to get up to speed on that.

    Of course your model only a few weeks old is not worth zilch. The fact is though any used phone is not worth what it was when you bought it.

    $85 is nothing to shout about IMHO.

    1. ‘$85 is nothing to shout about IMHO.’
      Well do tell us what you can get for a 2 year old, very well used ie. worn and battered Droid.
      Nothing to shout about? – that’s nearly half the selling price – after two years! My Motorola Droid went into the recycling skip after 1 year, an as new, hardly used gift. It was worth precisely nothing since I couldn’t give it away.
      re ‘Er, that’s the smartphone market, not the whole mobile phone market.’
      You should learn to read the OP
      re ‘Yes, that’s right, in the UK where I am, you can buy many Android handsets SIM-free, and then you can get a long-term contract if you want, or just rolling 30 days, or pre-pay/credit… you’re not tied in like you are with the iDrone.’
      And neither is the iPhone which is available payasyougo in the UK too – if you want to pay through the nose.
      Well I work in the UK and US, so I do have experience of both markets AND I have used a Nexus One. To equate the user experience of the Nexus One with even the iPhone 3g as being better shows you have very low expectations of both build quality and feature implementation. The Nexus One had(has) issues with colour accuracy, screen formatting and horrendous text presentation between apps – all well documented. But if that is what you want, fine, but don’t go mouthing off as tho’ all phones are the same – they’re not.
      Of the iPhone…
      re ‘You sound like someone who’s never used one.’
      Et tu Brute

  20. Yes, that's right, in the UK where I am, you can buy many Android handsets SIM-free, and then you can get a long-term contract if you want, or just rolling 30 days, or pre-pay/credit… you're not tied in like you are with the iDrone.

    Only a fraction work on your phone?! That's complete rubbish. All the popular apps work fine on my Nexus One, which while not being the newest Android handset, is certainly not 'out of date'. I'm running FroYo and maybe 2 out my 150 apps have issues, and they're just silly toy apps anyway.

    Are you seriously claiming the A4 processor and iOS is faster than the Snapdragon with FroYo? Did you not watch the speed demo at Google I/O?!

    98% are out of date?! What are you talking about? As long as you're running Android 1.5 or above, which has been available for over a year now, the vast majority of apps run fine. You sound like someone who's never used one.

  21. Is the same 'whole package' which censors the apps you can install? Or the same one that doesn't let you swap batteries (like virtually EVERY other phone on the market in the last 10 years does), or storage cards (like virtually EVERY other smartphone on the market in the last 7 years does)? Or the one that ties you into particular networks because the hardware doesn't support them all? Or maybe the package that doesn't give you a choice of form factor at all? Or the software that still can't truly multitask, even with iOS version 4. I could go on, but it sounds like a pretty dud 'package' to me.

  22. because the Android has been a fail from a usably and app point of view. It's mainly for geeks, not consumers.

  23. Are you serious? Android has 50,000 apps, that's not a fail! And it's perfectly usable. And if it's not for regular consumers, how come Google reported 100,000 activations per day a few weeks ago? That's more iPhones that Apple are currently selling (they last quoted a million per fortnight).

  24. I've been an iPhone 3Gs User for a year. I have never used a phone/gadget as much as the iPhone. So, I'm really pleased with it! My brother-in-law just got an HTC Android phone. I've been using phones and computers for ages, but I found the workings of the Android rather less than intuitive. I managed to change his Home screen inadvertently. After playing about for a good 15 minutes – both of us – we eventually got a Home screen quite similar to the original – but that was also inadvertent. So, while the Android is certainly a very capable unit, apparently far more customisable than the iPhone, I find the single button iPhone far more elegant.

    Your points about the swappable batteries and storage cards are correct of course. But to be honest, with all the other phones I've used over the years, I never had an extra battery, or swapped batteries, and I've only ever bought one storage card because the built-in memory was paltry.

    Apps are very important. Google's free turn-by-turn included SatNav app is certainly very attractive. I wonder if that's coming to the iPhone? But in the mean time, I'm using nDrive that cost me £9.99. And I have quite a few other apps I have purchased. So, with a not-insignificant investment in iPhone apps, the cost of migrating to Android is getting higher and higher (if I wish to use the same apps on the Android) the longer I stay with the iPhone. I would imagine the exact same scenario with those who currently own the Android and thinking of buying an iPhone.

  25. Because you've zoomed right in on the web page Lamebot. Fairly obvious from the “T” of the “The New York Times” URL being under the www at the top of the screen. When you zoom in on screen 2-3x the “The New York Times” text is being displayed with 2-3x more pixels.
    (His headline text is taking up approx 19mm of screen space, yours is taking up approx 42mm)
    Original uncropped pic to which you're trying to compare:

  26. And if you change the F-stop you could fix your shallow depth-of-field so we could see the screen in focus…

  27. You miss the point. Typical consumers couldn't care less about those issues – if they did, the iPhone wouldn't sell so well It's not some secret which only you and an elite minority of geeks have unravelled, it's just that no one really cares.
    My iPhone 3G is 2yrs old and I can still use it all day without a charge (reasonable usage of course). I'm upgrading to the iPhone 4 and I'm getting £145 for my old iPhone…explain to me why I need the option to remove a battery?
    The apps I can install are of the best quality, give me restricted apps that perform great, developed specifically for MY device (not a pool of dead Android phones) over unrestricted apps made by anyone with very poor quality control.

    This is the point you guys miss over and over again, the iPhone isn't about specs, it's not about what it limits, it's about how it makes limited specs into a great experience for the end user. Apple understands more than any other tech. company right now…the end experience is what matters. Believe me, I was an iPhone hater like you one day, then I actually started to use one and saw what the fuss is about.

    PS. It's available with pretty much every network here in the UK

  28. What's your point? Android is not a smartphone?

    Apple doesn't care about the non-smartphone market. Google doesn't care about the non-smartphone market. Both care about who will dominate the smartphone market. Apple is dominating the Japanese smartphone market. Get a clue.

  29. Typical consumers do care, actually. They like porn, for instance, which you won't see on an iPhone. Have you ever tried going camping or somewhere over night without electricity, like normal people do? That's why you might want a spare battery. And I don't know any typical consumer who enjoys having to start again every time they go into an app because it wasn't able to keep running in the background while they were doing something else.

    Not sure how you can say iPhone apps are developed for your device when there are four different models?

    I was referring to the US re: the hardware/networks. In the UK, iPhones are only really popular in a few of the cities. I'm not claiming Android is doing any better, but don't pretend they're what everyone wants (or can afford).

  30. Sounds to me like you changed the home screen (I guess you meant that you moved some of the icons around?) because you were used to your 15 months of doing things the Apple way – nothing to do with genuine intuition. I tried an iPad at the weekend and I kept struggling to find how to go 'back' out of whichever part of an app I was in, without going all the way back to the home screen. I wasn't used to looking in the top left corner, I was used to having a 'back' button, like on TV menu systems.

    Sure, with previous phones you probably wouldn't need a swappable battery because you weren't using them very much (you admit yourself that you've never used a phone as much as your iPhone). Tell me honestly that you can use your iPhone for days on end without having to charge it?

    I don't get your logic about storage cards – if the built-in memory was paltry, that's exactly why you would want a larger memory card.

    I doubt Google are in any rush to do turn-by-turn Navigation with Google Maps for iPhone, but you never know.

    The cost of using Android is zero, it's Apple who built a market that meant you had to invest cash into the apps you wanted to make your phone indispensable. It wouldn't really work the other way because the vast majority of good Android apps are free – I've yet to pay for a single one. Google's strategy is not about making users pay for extra services, but getting eyeballs and earning through advertising, just like it has already mastered on the web. Wonder why that's why Apple have started to try and get in on the game (with iAds) – they obviously realise this is going to become an important revenue stream.

  31. Sorry but the Droid is only 8 months old, so you can't get a 2 year old model anywhere, nor could you have dumped it after a year of (non) use?! In fact, the first Android handset only came out late 2008, so you can't get any 2 year old models at all as yet! You can buy Motorola Droid's on eBay right now for $200-350 – you really didn't try very hard to sell it!

    Are you seriously telling me the price of your iPhone was less than $200? You know it was subsidised by your two year contract, surely? Apple are going to be charging £600 for the iPhone 4 in the UK without a contract – that's not far enough $1,000!

    I've had a Nexus One for over 4 months and had no issues with colour accuracy, screen formatting or horrendous text presentation. Show me this documentation? Of course not all phones are the same – I never said that.

  32. Um, there is TONS of porn available for iPhone, just not in the app store. And I have a half dozen extra batteries for iPhone, not to mention car chargers and all that. So, there are work arounds for everything you name.

  33. Nice article.
    Iphone is a good phone with a large screen and that's all!
    If you want a real SMARTphone, pocket-pc, PDA phone you should try the devices with Windows Mobile from HTC or Android.

  34. I am with you bro. I would much rather operate within a high quality 'closed' system than out in the wild wild West where anything goes. :) Someone once compared the Android App Market like shopping in a third world open-air Turkish Bazzar where you need to pack a gun and are not really sure if you're going to be left alone or ambushed at any moment. The same person compared Apple's App Store to shopping at a San Francisco Nordstrom's where you don't have to come in 'packing' because it's safe and all the offerings are of Premium quality.
    If I was shopping in The Android Market and 75% of the Apps said something like 'download at your own risk. This app my compromise your device' I think I would be inclined to shop elsewhere. :-)
    People rag on Apple about control, but that so called 'control' has a lot of smarts and good sense behind it.

  35. iPhone 4 is just incredible. I can't wait to grab an iPhone 4 for myself and It will be my very first iPhone. Will be launching in my country next month. I just love the many applications available and of course, the user friendliness interface. Thanks for the images and video.