From a developer’s perspective, it’s worth noting that all of UIKit specifies sizes and locations in floating-point values.
It wouldn’t surprise me if everything ran in iPad-like pixel-doubled mode by default (which wouldn’t suck like it does on the iPad), but it’d be cool if we could put a key in our Info.plist files that made everything — not just WebKit — run in virtual-pixel mode.
But I’m still puzzled about the 960 × 640 move, if it’s real. The iPhone is already the highest-DPI display that Apple sells, and to double its resolution is very expensive: the panel costs more, it’s likely to use more power, it places higher demand on the CPU for rendering, it needs much more memory for frame buffers and textures, and it incurs big costs on developers and Apple’s developer-tools and developer-support teams. In other words, it strains nearly everything that is already strained.
To make that worthwhile, it needs to be a lot better for customers so this feature alone will drive sales. But I think it’ll have the same problems as Blu-ray (and before that, HD-DVD and HD Radio and DVD-Audio and SACD): consumers don’t care about improvements in technical quality unless they come with significant improvements in other areas like versatility or form factor.
What’s the average-person selling point for the high-density display that will overcome the downsides? And if the other specs have improved enough to eliminate the downsides — reduced costs, improved battery life, increased RAM — why is this better than having a cheaper, longer-lasting, faster iPhone with today’s display resolution?
To make reading a selling point, they tackled the wrong problem: anyone who doesn’t enjoy reading on their phone is likely to cite the physical size, not the pixel density, as the limiting factor.
There is an Apple mobile device running iPhone OS that’s good1 for reading and could have significantly benefitted from a high-density screen, but they picked the wrong one.
That said, the iPad doesn’t have nearly enough RAM to sustain good applications with 2048x1536 frame buffers and quadruple-sized textures. And if such a panel even existed in the 10” size range, it would be far too expensive to put in a $500 device. So it makes sense that the iPad didn’t get one.
I’m sure I’ll fall in love with the high-density iPhone display as soon as I see it. But on paper, I’m still unconvinced that it’s necessary.
This is my preliminary evaluation, so far, of the iPad’s reading capabilities: good, but not great. To be great, it needs to be a lot lighter, a bit smaller, and a lot less bright at its minimum brightness setting. I don’t see any of those happening, though, because I don’t think Apple sees reading as anything bigger than an ancillary feature on the iPad.
I love using the iPad, but I can’t deny that the Kindle 2 is still a much better device if all you want to do with it is read books. ↩