Confirming earlier reports of significant screen quality variations between both iPhones and iPhone 3Gs, as well as different iPhone 3G units, iLounge Editor Jesse Hollington has released a new series of photographs showing differences between an original iPhone and two separate iPhone 3Gs, one an 8GB model, the other a 16GB model. All three devices are running the latest version of OS X iPhone, 2.0 (5A347), and have been set on the same maximum brightness level.
In the photographs, which have the original iPhone on top, the 8GB iPhone 3G model is shown to have a noticeably darker screen than the 16GB unit, as well as a considerably more shallow viewing angle. “Using a standard 360° measurement,” Hollington found, “where 0° is viewing in standard portrait mode, the most noticeable ‘negative black’ effects actually occur from about 110° through 270°, give or take.” The same effect “also seems to exist on the new 16GB,” continued Hollington, “although not nearly as pronounced, and almost only visible at the 135° point.” Consequently, the 8GB unit is more difficult to see on off-center angles, which can impact the performance of video, game, and photo features.
Adding to the confusion, Hollington explains that while “the 16GB seems to have a greater range of brightness on both ends of the screen, getting a bit darker than the 8GB when turned all the way down,” it also seems too bright at its maximum: “it made my standard wallpaper look washed out when I first set it up.” For this reason, it is unclear at this point whether the screen differences represent a defect in one unit, both units, or merely a substantial variation in screen performance deemed acceptable by Apple’s factories. It should also be noted that although the 16GB model shown here appears better overall, as its brightness can be toned down to an acceptable level, it is likely that different 8GB and 16GB units use different screens, making it impossible for a buyer to know without testing a given unit whether its screen is good, bad, or somewhere in-between.
Reports last year of post-release changes to iPhone and iPod touch screens spread across Apple’s and iLounge’s discussion forums, with some users watching serial number updates on a week-by-week basis, hoping that Apple assembly line changes would result in improved screen quality. While some users reported eventually getting devices with “good” screens that did not invert their blacks at certain viewing angles, others did not, and Apple never fully explained the problem.