iPhone 5 (black, left angled, display 001)

Apple’s Retina display may still be the best mobile display on the market, but not so much anymore in terms of the sheer pixel count and clearness.

Case in point: Samsung’s five-inch Galaxy S4 with its full HD 1,920-by-1,080 resolution screen at a whopping 441 pixels per inch easily outperforms the iPhone 5’s four-inch 640-by-1,136 Retina display at 326 pixels per inch. Another example: HTC’s flagship One smartphone and its 468 pixels per inch display.

Now, a new rumor out of China alleges that Apple’s next iPhone will have an upgraded Retina display with twice as much pixels as the current-generation…

According to the Chinese-language publication Weiphone, Apple will debut the sharper Retina display on a next-generation iPhone, most likely the upcoming iPhone 5S.

Specifically, the next iPhone will reportedly feature a 1.5-megapixel screen for twice the sharpness versus the current-gen iPhone 5 whose Retina display has “only” 727,040 pixels.

The story also alleges that the device will be thinner compared to the already thin iPhone 5 and borrow design cues from the iPad mini, such as the narrower side bezels.

You’re advised to take the story with a grain of salt.

For starters, introducing a new screen resolution would only require programmers to spend more time optimizing their apps for it, without any clear benefit in terms of the visible difference.

That’s not saying that 1080p phones don’t make sense – they do, but only if their screen sizes are closer to five than four inches diagonally.

According to DisplayMate President Dr. Raymond Soneira, the extra sharpness of a typical 1080p smartphone display is mostly wasted because your eyes typically “can’t resolve sharpness above 229 pixels per inch.”

For some people, it is possible to tell the difference if we were to sit down and study a 1080p display and a 720p display, side-by-side.

If you’re really a fanatic and you study images, or you have some professional applications and you’re really into displays, then it may make a visual difference for you.

On the other hand, 1080p does make sense when presenting content such as high-resolution photographs and especially full HD video because you don’t have the rescaling artifacts.

In the case of the iPhone 5S, doubling the pixel count would require more powerful graphics and increased memory bandwidth to push the extra pixels, which in turn would take its toll on the battery life.

While I don’t believe that the iPhone 5S will feature a 1.5-megapixel Retina screen, perhaps the report got it slightly wrong and this screen is actually for a rumored five-inch gadget that the reliable Japanese blog Macotakara back in March 2012 claimed was in the works.

Specifically, the report mentioned two possible screen resolutions for an Apple iPhablet: 1,600-by-960 and 1,280-by-960 pixels, the former conveniently in the ballpark of 1.5 megapixels.

What do you think?

Is it high time Apple stepped up its Retina game?