The Droid X from Motorola sports a 4.3-inch LCD with a 854×480 pixel format. The original Droid has the same pixel format but in a slightly smaller 3.7-inch LCD. We all know Apple is focusing on resolution, as in pixels per inch (PPI), and rightly so. The 3.5-inch Retina Display in the iPhone 4 features a 326 PPI resolution (read Retina Display), double that of previous generation iPhones. What is interesting here with the Droid X is that Motorola is going backwards, in terms of resolution*.
The original Droid packs a resolution of slightly less than 265 PPI and even won the DisplayMate Best Video Hardware Guide Award for both smartphone and the entire mobile display category (read Motorola Droid vs. Google Nexus One). The resolution on the new Droid X drops down to 227.8 PPI. A mystery? Maybe not. I think Motorola was too fixated on HTC’s EVO 4G. The EVO 4G has the same-sized 4.3-inch LCD but with a 800×480 pixel format so Motorola wanted to make sure its display was better. Unfortunately the end result was a display that has less resolution than the previous version, the Droid.
I’m all for big displays, but there is an optimal limit on smartphones since our hands are pretty much fixed in size. I think these bigger sized-smartphones are getting to be less-than comfortable to both hold and put in your pocket. In particular, I’m fairly sure thumb-typing in landscape mode will be a bit of a stretch for some. Of course this is nothing an ergonomic-aware UI update couldn’t fix, but those type of UI decisions are at best a compromise. Take for instance thumb-typing on an iPad in landscape mode. Not many consider touch-typing on the iPad easy and since so many more are used to thumb-typing why not add an UI fix to allow for that? Makes sense and there is a good mock up with a separated left and right keyboard somewhere out there but it looks darn ugly. I think Apple should have considered a slightly larger iPad to make touch-typing easier in landscape. But I’m glad Apple decided to keep the size of the display on the iPhone the same since the size of our hands hasn’t changed since 1997.
* Just to clarify: when I refer to resolution I’m talking about pixels per inch, not pixel format as in 854×480.