Can you tell the difference between a 1080p display with over 400 PPI from one with lower specs? Just how important are specs when it comes to a pleasing display? As with most things, people tend to greatly overestimate their ability to distinguish the nature of highly complex things.
Inverse explained why it is hard to tell the resolution difference in a piece called “The iPhone XR Might Have an ‘Inferior’ Screen, but You Won’t Be Able to Tell.” They quoted DisplayMate CEO.
“Most of Apple’s recent smartphones, including the iPhone XR have 326 PPI, which appears perfectly sharp for 20/20 vision down to a viewing distance of 10.5 inches. Increasing the PPI would provide no visual benefit for humans,” he said. “It is absolutely pointless to further increase the display resolution and PPI for a marketing wild goose chase into the stratosphere.”
A case in point is the iPhone XR display compared to higher resolution displays with more dense PPI. When Apple first released the specs of the iPhone XR’s display, some on the internet lost their minds. It was setting up to be the next “gate”-worthy scandal. The negative talking points had already emerged: How could Apple release a flagship phone in 2018 without a 1080/display?
Then, this happened. Jonathan Morrison set up a blind comparison between an iPhone XR and an Android phone with the same size display at 1080p and higher PPI. He put together a contraption that showed only the displays without the bezels or notches so that there was no way to identify the two phones.
The people in the video apparently were told that one of them was iPhone XR and that it had a lower resolution. So they were just picking between the best and worst, assuming the worst was the iPhone. You can see the results in his video “Watch EVERYONE pick the iPhone XR over a 1080p Screen.”
The participants fancied themselves greater experts than they turned out to be. They put their faces within inches of the phones. They walked around the setup and considered both phones at extreme angles. In the video, some were told what phones were being compared. Yet some were convinced that one of them was OLED. They even thought they were comparing the iPhone XR with the iPhone XS.
After giving it the most careful consideration and applying everything they knew about smartphone displays, they all came to the conclusion that the one on the right was the one with the higher resolution, and possibly OLED display. The one on the right was the iPhone XR.
There are many factors that go into a good display. Resolution might well be the least of them; Apple has been producing LCD panels that push the tech to its outer limits for years. It is a good reminder that not all panels are equal. It is a little like comparing cameras based solely on resolution and megahertz.