Mobile phones made by Samsung Electronics are displayed at the company's main office in Seoul.
Mobile phones made by Samsung Electronics are displayed at the company's main office in Seoul January 29, 2010. REUTERS

Samsung Electronics has thrown down the gauntlet to Apple, saying the iPhone's display technology is no competitive threat.

Dubbed, the 'retina display,' Apple's claims its screen, developed by LG and Hitachi, has a higher resolution than the human eye.

The display uses a liquid crystal display, developed to be visible from a wider range of angles. Liquid crystal displays have to be lit from the back, and protected with a layer of glass or plastic.

Samsung uses a technology called active matrix organic light emitting diode, or AMOLED. The LEDs are integrated into the touchscreen. LEDs are themselves lit, so the backlight is unnecessary.

One trade-off is resolution. LEDs can't be made small enough to get the 960 x 640 pixel dimensions Apple wanted in the iPhone's screen (it adds up to 614,000 pixels). Apple claims that at 326 dots per inch, the resolution on the screen is greater than that which the eye can detect.

However, a Samsung spokesman says that isn't entirely the case. "The visibility difference is only 3 to 5 percent," he said. Samsung's AMOLED displays have a resolution of 800 x 600, or 480,000 total pixels. That's 80% of the total resolution of the iPhone, assuming a screen of the same size.

"You can't make an OLED display with this type of resolution right now," Jobs said. "Retina display is going to set the standard for displays for the next several years. We don't think anybody's going to come close."

Another issue is power use and cost of manufacturing. The iPhone display requires two extra layers - a glass screen at the front and a backlight to make the LCD visible. Both increase the manufacturing cost of the product and energy required. Samsung claims its OLED screens don't need to be backlit, making them 30% less energy intensive.