When Apple announced the imminent arrival of its new iPhone last week I have to say I was a little bit underwhelmed by some of the specs at first, especially the display which I thought might push up over 367 pixels per inch (ppi). However, having analysed the display specs and device availability of 842 smartphones, I concluded that Apple is still way ahead of its main rivals when you look at average PPI weighted by shelf share... but not in every measure.
Our recent report, Apple in Danger of Falling Behind in Pixel Density Race, details the 40 available smartphones identified as having a display with >300ppi, as well as showing the maximum, minimum and average PPI for every smartphone brand on the database. Try our SpecTRAX service now or existing SpecTRAX clients can access the database here.
What does shelf share mean? First, we take a snapshot of 300 network operators and retailers in 42 countries around the world and look at their smartphone portfolios. Then for each brand, we calculate the average PPI. Using Apple as an example; most carriers and retailers last week had at least one iPhone 4S variant on their portfolios (with a 326ppi spec), many also had one or more iPhone 4 (also 326ppi) device, and some had the older iPhone 3G S 8GB with a 163ppi display.
We have calculated Apple’s PPI in September 2012 as the average of each model’s PPI weighted by the number of appearances of each model on the shelves. Apple’s weighted average in September was 306ppi, based on much wider availability of its 326ppi iPhone 4/4S models than the 163ppi iPhone 3G/3G S models.
Samsung, meanwhile, has a much wider portfolio of smartphone models, with variations in display size and resolution giving a September 2012 spread from 121ppi to 316ppi, and a weighted average of only 210.5ppi. Of the other top ten smartphone vendors, Sony’s average is the closest to Apple’s, although still a fair way behind at 272ppi.
Apple won’t have everything its own way though, and one of the challenges that Apple will face in the near future is its 12 month cycle between new models. While the iPhone 4/4S/5 gradually push the 3G S out of the way and bring the average Apple display spec close to 326ppi, other smartphone vendors will push ahead with higher resolutions and even greater pixel densities. Sony’s Xperia S and Fujitsu’s Regza T-01D are already at 342ppi and Toshiba is expected to reveal a 367ppi display on a smartphone soon. Sony, Fujitsu, Pantech, Sharp, LG, Huawei and Motorola all have at least one flagship model available with a pixel density greater than Apple’s 326ppi, so where will that leave Apple in 12 months’ time? Probably still at the top in terms of average PPI, but almost certainly lagging behind in terms of maximum PPI.
- Stuart Robinson