Apple’s Commits “Marketing Puffery” with The iPhone 4 Display

June 10, 2010 in Medicine by RangelMD

Apple CEO Steve Jobs claimed that the new “retina display” on the iPhone 4 has a pixel density of 326 pixels per inch which is more than enough since the human eye can detect individual pixels up to a density of 300 pixels per inch at a distance of 12 inches. Really? No, not really according to display expert and physicist Raymond Soneira PhD in this Wired interview.

. . the eye actually has an angular resolution of 50 cycles per degree. Therefore, if we were to compare the resolution limit of the eye with pixels on a screen, we must convert angular resolution to linear resolution. After conversions are made, a more accurate “retina display” would have a pixel resolution of 477 pixels per inch at 12 inches, Soneira calculated.

It’s understandably easy for Apple and Mr. Jobs to –   s  t  r  e  t  c   h  -  the truth a little since very few people know that the resolution of the human eye is most commonly measured in cycles per arc-minute and that a calculation would require changing cycles per degree to arc-minutes per cycle (1 cycle/degree = 0.01 arc-minutes/cycle) divided by 2 since 2 pixels are needed to define a cycle, and this result is taken and divided into the number of degrees of the area to be viewed (which itself is a function of distance and angle of view) to calculate the total number of pixels in the viewing area and then divide by the area in inches to get the number per inch.

Dr. Soneira refers to this truth stretching as “marketing puffery” which is endemic in the consumer electronic industry. It’s so bad that Sharp recently tried to convince consumers that its  Quattron TV line includes a FORTH primary color in addition to the usual three of Red, Green, and Blue. Never mind that all you need to create any color including black and white is the three primary colors hence, the reason they are called primary colors.

This is like when the little known Greek Philosopher Sharpacleze tried to add mud as the fifth element to the ancient 4 elements of Earth, Water, Air, and Fire. A confused Plato asked Sharpacleze what is so elemental about mud since it can be formed by combining Earth and Water, to which Sharpacleze replied, “it’s better for marketing”. This is true. If it’s anything that intellectually lazy American consumers will respond to, it is the concept that if x is good then x+1 is even better even if it makes no sense.

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