iPhone 4 Screen Revolutionary, but plagued by Shortages

Dennis Faas's picture

An analyst is forecasting that problems with a new technology could cause significant shortages with Apple's new iPhone version 4. The new phone is due for release this week, with demand expected to be high.

One of the main selling points of the iPhone 4 is that it has four times as many pixels in the same size screen, providing a resolution of 326 pixels per inch. That's more than many printed publications. According to Apple "the Retina display's pixel density is so high, your eye is unable to distinguish individual pixels."

iPhone 4 Screen Made of High Tech Materials

The glass for the screen, which Apple says is constructed "from the same materials used in helicopters and high-speed trains" is produced by South Korean firm LG Display, which also made the screens for the iPad. But Ashok Kumar, an analyst for Rodman and Lenshaw, reports that LG Display has produced far fewer screens than hoped.

He claims that "Our supply chain checks indicate that our earlier monthly shipment estimate of 4 million [iPads] have been reset by about half." (Source: businessweek.com)

New iPhone Supply Headed For Fall

Given those figures, it's unlikely there will be supply problems immediately upon the phone's release. However, it appears LG Display may not be able to make significant changes to output until late summer. This means that between September and the end of the year there is a "non-trivial risk" of Apple being unable to keep up with demand as existing iPhone users come to the end of their contracts and look to upgrade.

It's worth noting that even if production goes down to two million units, Apple wouldn't necessarily have to sell two million phones to begin having supply problems. Stock is split between different countries and different retail stores, meaning that some places could run out quicker than others, causing delay as stock is relocated.

Dispute over Retina Display

There has also been some dispute over Apple's claims and the use of the term "retina display." That's partly because the eye is technically an analog device which doesn't work in terms of pixels, and partly because a lot depends on how far the screen is held from the eye.

Doctor Raymond Soneira, who works for a firm that develops display testing software, says that with a phone held 12 inches from the eyes (a "typical distance"), the eyes can distinguish the equivalent of 477 pixels per inch. To be unable to distinguish the iPhone's 318 pixels per inch, the screen would have to be over 18 inches away.

It has been pointed out elsewhere that these calculations do assume perfect vision and thus the pixels may indeed be indistinguishable for many users. And Dr Soneira also notes that though the phone is not a true "retina display" in his view, it does mark a significant improvement. (Source: pcworld.com)

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