The iPhone's aspect ratio is especially suitable for its purposes. Aspect ratio refers to the ratio of the width and height of a display screen. People buying displays such as monitors tend to overlook aspect ratio as an important factor in their buying decision, focusing instead on color depth and resolution. Aspect ratio is in fact integral to the device's ability to perform certain functions, such as displaying documents side-by-side or viewing long texts without scrolling.
Aspect Ratio and Resolution
A screen that is 400 pixels wide and 300 pixels tall has an aspect ratio of 4:3. Resolution refers to the idea of how much information a display contains, so a screen that is small in dimensions but high in total pixels is high-resolution, even though it is physically small.
Aspect Ratio and Resolution of the iPhone Screen
The aspect ratio of all iPhone screens is 2:3 in vertical mode, and 3:2 in landscape mode. The iPhone 4 has a higher screen resolution than earlier versions, however. In vertical mode, it is 640 pixels wide and 960 pixels tall. Earlier iPhones in vertical mode are 320 pixels wide and 480 pixels tall. Apps created for pre-version 4 iPhones may have slightly fuzzy graphics on the iPhone 4, as the app developers designed those graphics for a lower resolution.
Aspect Ratios of Other Devices
The aspect ratio of the iPhone makes for a tall or wide screen form. To compare, standard computer monitors and televisions have a 4:3 aspect ratio. They are a little taller than they are wide. Typical laptops displays are 16:10, to facilitate better widescreen movie display and more horizontal screen real estate for doing work side-by-side. The common aspect ratio of a widescreen display, or the letterbox portion of a wide movie displayed on a TV or computer monitor, is 16:9.
In vertical mode, the iPhone's aspect ratio is well-suited to displaying long streams of information, such as your desktop icons or columns of text. The phone does not well support showing information side-by-side. The iPhone paradigm assumes switching between screens for that purpose. The ability to turn the phone sideways and reverse the aspect ratio is a powerful feature, and makes the iPhone well-suited to displaying videos and video games.
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