"Apple ripped us off again": where is the 4K iPhone with a 40-megapixel camera?

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
The new Apple iPhone 6s family is out and this will likely be the biggest launch of 2015 and most of 2016: biggest in terms of sales, revenue, profits and influence on the state of smartphones.

Nonetheless, the critics are more vocal than ever in the comments section of various websites. It’s okay to be critical and we ourselves have a few areas we find Apple could have improved in, but at the same time, for someone who’s been following the industry for a while, it’s a bit tiring and really just sad to see short-sighted criticism repeated time and time again as an endless mantra.

We can do better than this.

In this article, I pick a couple of features - but it’s really an attitude of blind picking numbers - that iPhones are often criticized about. Would they really make the iPhone 6s better, had Apple included them? And did 'Apple rip us off again'?

4K display

The Sony Xperia Z5 Premium was recently unveiled as the first handset to feature an ultra high-res 4K display with a resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels, resulting in a pixel density of more than 800ppi.

As a matter of fact, even earlier this year Samsung went on to include a Quad HD (1440 x 2560-pixel) resolution on a 5.1-inch display, making for a resolution of 577ppi.

At the same time, Apple’s iPhones stubbornly stick with a resolution as low as 750 x 1334 pixels and are constantly hammered about this.

And yes, sure, a higher resolution on the iPhones would in fact result in a sharper display, but here is the catch: most research points out that at regular viewing distances your eyes cannot actually perceive much of that increase in sharpness, even if you have 20/20 vision. You can see the difference between a 720p display and a 1080p display when you stare at the screen from an uncomfortably close distance, while the improvement from a Quad HD to a 4K is even less visible and practically impossible to notice on a smartphone screen.

Don't believe the maths behind this? Well, we actually did a blind test showing people images on a Quad HD and 1080p display, and they could not see any difference between the two.

The only truly practical benefit of a super high-res screen would be in virtual reality applications where each pixel is magnified and less pixels result in a noticeably pixelized picture.

If we were to assume, though, that virtual reality is not amongst the prime uses of a phone (at least, not yet), it would make no sense for Apple to make a 4K or even a Quad HD phone. Quite the opposite - such a screen would unnecessarily tax the processor and slow down the iPhone.

Super high-res camera

When I speak about cameras, the first thing that we usually mention is how many megapixels are in the sensor: the iPhone 6s made the jump to 12 megapixels from the 8-megapixel sensor in the iPhone 6, while the Samsung Galaxy S6 has a 16-megapixel camera, the Sony Xperia Z5 has a 23-megapixel camera, and the Nokia Lumia 1020 features a 41-megapixel camera.

Ha! That must mean that the Lumia 1020’s camera is about four times better than the iPhone and about two or three times better than the Samsungs and Sonys out there?


Maybe it’s us, the media, that paint a bit of a wrong impression as we mention the megapixel count every time we speak about a camera, while often ignoring to give details about its color reproduction, how it measures white balance and exposure, how fast it focuses and takes pictures, how easy it is to access commonly requested features like tune-ups in exposure, HDR, etc.

At the end of the day, megapixels tell nothing but a sheer size of an image. It would be ridiculous to compare two photographs by their sheer size: it is what is inside the frame that matters, not only the details.

And when it comes to megapixels, established photographers agree that even 6 megapixels is more than enough for large photo prints. Sure, there are conveniences of more megapixels - details are more plentiful, allowing you to crop parts of the picture and still end up with a decent photo, but such use cases are markedly niche.

Conclusion: We need to start looking beyond the numbers in the specs

It is this obsession with specs and number crunching that really draws attention away from what’s really important: how smooth your phone runs regardless of the number of cores in its processor, how accurate the colors of the screen are in this era of sharp-enough displays, how well it takes pictures in various lighting condition and not just how big and detailed those pictures are, how much it lasts in real-life use rather than how big its battery is, and the list goes on and on.

No, specs are not dead and they never will be: they are the building blocks of a good device, but just throwing around specs while completely ignoring the way they are put to use is no good either. It results in blind praise for devices that often don’t deserve it. 

And we can do better than this.



1. TyrionLannister unregistered

While 4K display is not needed, a 1080p is at 4.7 inches.

3. Victor.H

Posts: 1095; Member since: May 27, 2011

How for away do you usually hold your phone? If it's around 11 inches or more, you would not be able to see much of a difference and 1080p is not needed. Take a look at the table in the article and the image below (and of course, use your own experience)http://www.phonearena.com/image.php?m=Articles.Images&f=name&id=119491&kw=&popup=1

6. janis

Posts: 397; Member since: Mar 10, 2014

i was in phone shop last week, i do photography, so pixels matters for me. 750p screen and 1080p screen not that big difference, but 750p and 1440p is huge difference, its like, once you go 1440p you cant look at other screens, because they look really bad.

9. Victor.H

Posts: 1095; Member since: May 27, 2011

I hope you do realize that a 750p screen looks just as sharp as a 1440p one if you look at it from a few inches further away, right? There are many misconceptions about screen resolution, and yes - the difference can be seen when you stare at the phone from a couple of inches, but what we're arguing here is that at regular viewing distances it's not (we've done a blind test and people just can't tell the difference).

10. carlemillward unregistered

Wrong thread.

48. Aploine

Posts: 445; Member since: Oct 24, 2013

Wrong involvement. Point made in the article

49. Aploine

Posts: 445; Member since: Oct 24, 2013

By the way, I always watch my phone from a distance between 6" and 11". I'm not an oldster with presbyopia. So I think 1080p is imperative for 5" to 6" display diagonal

35. TyrionLannister unregistered

You have done the blind test between 1080p and 1440p. That difference is way smaller than 750p and 1440p.

43. FluffyBled unregistered

Wow ... an editor in a tech site who is actually an apple fanboy!

117. plck74

Posts: 65; Member since: Dec 12, 2013

we found IFan with ICrap and IFool

53. Macready

Posts: 1829; Member since: Dec 08, 2014

A test that was statistically unrepresentative and had seen silly conclusions based on a an average from a small group, that still slightly favored the higher resolution. But mostly silly because averages in general do not hold for a large group of people. Even 20/20 vision is a useless metric for say 10% of the people having considerably better vision. I for example have 160% vision with 100% being the 20/20 index and according to my optometrist that's not so rare. In the averages it's balanced by those having less vision, but denying benefits for those that see clear differences, based on averages from a tiny sample group, is more than just a fallacy. Not to mention the fact that images aren't the only area to see benefits. Some see benefits much sooner when displaying text or symbols. Or drawings/handwriting (see for example Note 5 vs Note 3).

73. bur60

Posts: 981; Member since: Jul 07, 2014

Victor, in sharpness no, but in pixelprojection yes it does. My z3c with 720p shows my pictures kinda blurry because it has a display that can't show enough pixels. Some get lost in detail. On the s6 my pictures look amazing

77. crzykiller33

Posts: 14; Member since: Jan 22, 2015

For a editor at phone arena you're completely wrong... Those people you did the blind test on are just plain blind and stupid... I can tell a MASSIVE difference between my brothers Iphone 5s and my Galaxy S5 from 1 foot away... And I can definitely see a difference between my S6 and my S5, especially when using the camera and using it for macro shots. Stop spreading bulls*** Victor

80. janis

Posts: 397; Member since: Mar 10, 2014

well i am using phone properly, ok if you are so Iretarded, beat this: you pay 800-900 for your screen and believe its best, while we pay 500-700 and we get best, i am not even talking about ips vs amoled. so go get your tent before its too late to get in ques for that gorgeous 750p screen :)

96. roldefol

Posts: 4744; Member since: Jan 28, 2011

From a foot away, I would agree with you. There is not much difference between 750p and 1080p. But you're assuming people don't use their phones up close - like, the few inches away that you would need to be to read a website's desktop version comfortably on a ~5" phone. That's where I see the big jump from 720p to 1080p. QHD is a different matter.

102. Jango

Posts: 376; Member since: Oct 24, 2014

According to your blind test, at least one in every 2 people could see the higher res display.

105. slyhounddog

Posts: 22; Member since: Jun 28, 2013

You're blind test needs to be between 750p and 1440p, not 1080p and 1440p. You're blind following of apple is sad. And this is coming from someone who loves and enjoys iPhones just as much as Androids. People don't hold their phone 3ft from their face. Since this is the case, a bump in resolution would be a refreshing (and much needed) improvement. They phones have the power capable of handling the change. Apple just needs to admit the only reason we didn't see it in this iteration is out of greed. It'll give us a reason to buy next years' model when it will come with a 1080p screen.

118. hound.master

Posts: 1044; Member since: Feb 27, 2015

You know that Lumia 1020 actually take 5 mega pixel super sample photos with its pureview technology and yes 1020 40 mp camera is indeed better than all of them.

119. RajRicardo

Posts: 502; Member since: Feb 28, 2014

Z5 Premium renders android system in 1080p. You want people to differentiate 1080p and 1080p? Of course they cant find any difference. This article is a joke. Put an iphone 6plus next to a S6 edge+. Then ask the same people to differentiate.

125. lakki369

Posts: 114; Member since: Apr 10, 2015

OK.. Apple make good phones That's it.. There is nothing so special about it... There is no Wow factor.. There is not much of innovation which is actually useful in day to day usage. Both the author and pretty much a person with small brain knows that Apple is playing safe. If they stuff everything right in a single model, they will not have anything in the future to show the world. They want to make some money. That's what exactly they are doing. But coming to the resolution debate part.. I totally disagree with the authors comments. There is a lot of difference in the real life when you see something in HD and FHD resolution. FHD looks good when compared. It gives you good experience. It makes you feel like you got what you have paid for. Its the same case with a 2K screen. More specs are always good when you can fine tune them and get the most out them. There is nothing really stopping apple to do it apart form the thing called "Marketing Strategy".

32. StuiWooi

Posts: 91; Member since: Feb 19, 2013

Totally with you, whilst we may not be able to distinguish individual pixels or whatever apple's marketing spiel was about "retina" even at arms length in phone shops I can clearly tell something is different about the 1440p screens (and that's compared to my 1080p oneplus). Plus there's alot to be said for viewing content in native resolution, what out there is in 750p?

97. roldefol

Posts: 4744; Member since: Jan 28, 2011

I maintain that they only picked 750p because it would allow them to keep the definition of Retina = 326 ppi. I expected them to pick something more traditional, like 1366x768 - a stretched iPad 1/2/mini resolution. But then it would be sharper than the 4, 4S, 5, and 5S, at 333 ppi. Perish the thought.

103. Jango

Posts: 376; Member since: Oct 24, 2014

Definitely... there's a more exponential or cumulative overall improvement in the visual aesthetics in a higher res display, which can't be reduced to just splitting pixels. The image just looks sharper or more crisp overall.

84. rihel_95

Posts: 305; Member since: Mar 21, 2012

Hey What about just 16 GB internal ?? What about no micro SD expansion ?? No Dual SIM ?? No Infra Red ?? No Dual Stereo Speakers ?? No HAAC Mics ?? No 4 GB RAM ?? No atleast Quad Core ?? No 3000 mAh battery ?? If any Android Phone would have made a phone in iPhones Specs, and Price, it won't even sell 1000 units. Apple should grow up, and respect the amount customers are paying. We demand more specs in case of Android, but not much concerned for iOS. And don't say its spec heavy, coz their are many spec demanding Apps. Atleast 32 GB & better battery was expected!

30. StuiWooi

Posts: 91; Member since: Feb 19, 2013

According to your much touted graph I can justify the Z5 Premium; when I most want resolution is when I watch videos on my phone. This is mostly when I'm in bed. As I'm in bed I have my glasses off and without them I can't see 10cm from my face. So that's a 5.5 inch screen 4 inches from my eyes, well below the 1440p line. Should... Should I celebrate?

33. TyrionLannister unregistered

Well, in most cases no. But I can definitely tell that my S6 displays text much sharper as compared to an iPhone 6. You can easily see pixelation on the top notification bar near the antenna circles, the time. It's visible all the time and it bugs me. You need to note that not all of us have an average 20/20 vision. I have taken vision tests and my eye's resolution is 1/14000 of the viewing distance. There are people with more than double the resolution of my eye( I myself know a hawk eyed one with 1/27000). Now, let's run the maths. 11 inches = 11/14000 will the the resolution by my eye. Which is about 7.8*10^-4 inch pixels can be resolved by my eye. Just doing the inverse should give the maximum amount of pixels I can possibly view. Which gives about 1200 PPI. Now, the things will start merging way before that as it's the maximum limit and it will be viisble only in extreme cases. But I can definitely tell that the iPhone or iPad is far from indistinguishable PPI Apple claims it has. You can do some readings: http://www.clarkvision.com/articles/eye-resolution.html The average eye has a visual acuity of about 1 arc minute but good eyes can easily go as far as 0.3 arc minute. Also, here is an article from anandtech: http://www.anandtech.com/show/7743/the-pixel-density-race-and-its-technical-merits Have good reads. Make sure to make an article about it :)

104. Jango

Posts: 376; Member since: Oct 24, 2014


74. NexusPhan

Posts: 632; Member since: Jul 11, 2013

Virtual reality. It makes a massive difference.

120. RajRicardo

Posts: 502; Member since: Feb 28, 2014

Victor is a happy man. Apple refilled his bank account.

56. Super.Vegito

Posts: 43; Member since: Aug 04, 2015

Yeah but they won't mind as long as apple is doing it. However if other companies do it then they will just regard it as 'not flagship worthy', not premium for the price and so on. This Victor guy who is so hurt by all the criticism against apple once wrote in the lumia 730 review wrote that the pixel density is about 320 PPI but pixels are often very noticeable because of pentile display. But when they compared HTC one M9 and Galaxy s6, the display comparison went like that from normal distance both screen have enough details but when we dive deeper we begin to see the incredible amount of detail in s6 when compared to m9. Now its worth noting that the s6 also has a pentile display so seeing the difference isn't that vast in terms of PPI on m9 and s6, I would say that the details should actually be less or equal on s6. Also later on in a lumia 735 review John V said that there was no sort of pixelisation visible on the screen. What do say about that? Isn't that being a fanboy, Victor H.? And I could go on and on about your fanboyism, for example xperia phones have nice design made of metal and glass, but when it comes to saying anything about s6 and note 5 s,you guys go crazy and write things such as " The design of this device screams premium and wow and wow and wow and somehow light bouncing off its surface makes some hypnotising show". I mean just stop it its almost childish.

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