Apple: iPhone 3G display color warmer by design

Since the iPhone 3G was released Friday, many people have commented on the fact that colors on new phone’s display appear noticeably different than ones on the original model when placed side by side. (You can see some great head-to-head examples in Mat Honan’s “Yellow or Warm?” photoset.) Is it a bug? A broken display? Strange lighting?

The iPhone 3G (left) and original iPhone (right) display different color temperatures. Photo by Mat Honan.

To set the record straight, I talked to Apple’s senior director of iPhone product marketing, Bob Borchers. Borchers indicated that this definitely isn’t a bug or a display defect. Yes, the display on the iPhone 3G has a warmer look—and that’s by design. The previous iPhone’s white was more of a cool blue (Borchers likened it to harsh fluorescent lighting), while this one’s is warmer and more of a sunny yellow.

(According to the legwork done by Richard Baguley, the new iPhone’s color temperature is between 6800 and 7300 Kelvins, compared with a color temperature of about 8300K on the first-generation phone. Baguley's tests also reinforce something I’ve noticed with my own eyes: at maximum brightnesses, the new iPhone display is brighter than the old one.)

“We moved the white point in order to make [the display feel] more natural,” Borchers said, suggesting that consumers are more likely to appreciate warmer images, especially when viewing photos.

On your computer, you can adjust your monitor’s color temperature to whatever suits you. The iPhone, being much less tweakable than a Mac or PC, doesn’t offer such a setting. Borchers suggested that most users will be happy with the look of the iPhone 3G display.

Although the color-temperature change was made at a relatively low level in the iPhone 3G’s display system, Borchers didn’t rule out a future software update to allow users to adjust the display’s color temperature in the event of massive user demand, but said that Apple doesn’t currently have any plans to offer such a feature.

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