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Expert Says iPhone's 'Retina' Display Claim is False

Raymond Soneira, president of DisplayMate Technologies, said that Steve Jobs was using a misleading marketing term when claiming that the new iPhone 4's display exceeds the limit of the human retina. In fact, Soneira said that the device's display is reasonably close to being perfect--perhaps the best on the market--however Jobs took it a little too far during the keynote speech.

Soneira pointed out that Jobs' "puffery" was a symptom of a larger problem seen in the industry today--manufacturers are exaggerating their claims about display specs, and feel that it must be done because everyone else is doing it. 

"The marketing puffery is now in control,"  Soneira said. "Everything that’s being said now is just this super-amplified imaginary nonsense, and the only way to get people’s attention now is making more outlandish statements."

He offered an example, saying that Sharp's four-primary-color claim with the Quattron TV line is utter nonsense because all movie and television content is produced and color balanced using the traditional RGB. Although the fourth yellow primary is now included in the Quattron series, it will have nothing to do because yellow is created using mixtures of red and green primaries. 

But what's the deal with the iPhone 4 screen? Again, more puffery. Soneira said it was inaccurate to measure eye resolution in terms of pixels, as the eye actually has an angular resolution of 50 cycles per degree. The only way to compare the resolution limit of the eye with pixels is to convert angular resolution to linear resolution. Once that is done, a "retina display" would actually have a pixel resolution of 477 pixels per inch at 12 inches. Soneira apparently achieved this knowledge after studying displays for 20 years. He also possesses a PH.D. in theoretical physics from Princeton. 

So why not just be up front with consumers? Why throw out all this over-bloated information? Because companies would go bankrupt.

"[Market puffery] hurts companies that make good products, like Apple, because they can’t really put the specs out because everybody is lying," Soneira said. "If you and I have the world’s greatest display, and we launched it and put down the real scientific numbers, we’d go bankrupt because our numbers would look like the worst display being made." 

During the keynote speech, Jobs said that the iPhone 4's display packs in 326 pixels per inch, and that this resolution exceeds the limit of the human retina. Jobs said that the human limit was 300 pixels per inch for a display positioned 10 to 12 inches away from the eyes.