Pin-sized pixels in the smartphones of the future

Hey, you! You look pretty dense.

Relax! It's a compliment! Well, sort of. While density in people may not be something to aspire to, density in smartphones is a thing to cherish. Y'see, pixel density means the number of pixels squeezed into every square-inch of your lovely phone screen - and the higher the number, the more beautifully crisp the screen. Apple's iPhone 4 holds the record, of course, with a 640x960 screen that packs 326 pixels into every square inch - more than the eye can really make out separately, earning it the title 'Retina Display.'

So far, high-end Android phones, while rivalling most of the iPhone 4's specs, haven't been able to match the iPhone 4's crazy density. (We're sure they technically could, but it might cause them to cost more than the average motorbike.)

But a recent breakthrough could mean even denser screens than the iPhone 4 in the smartphones of next year. Electronic wizards Hitachi have perfected a 4.5-in screen with a PC-like resolution of 1280x720. That'd mean phones with a higher resolution than the netbook on which we're typing this story. It'd mean watching 720p HD video and the picture being so crisp you couldn't make a pixel no matter how close your eye got. And it'd mean an Apple-beating - just! - pixel density of 329 pixels per inch.

As if that wasn't enough, the new screen offers 1000:1 contrast and 500 nits of brightness. No, that doesn't mean it's got headlice, it means that white things on screen look white, not grey, and black things look black, not, well, grey.

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