Ice Cream Sandwich: “Native Resolution” Is 720p

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While introducing the new Galaxy Nexus today in Hong Kong, Samsung’s senior VP for product innovation, Kevin Packingham, said something that surprised me a little. He said that Android 4.0, Ice Cream Sandwich, is “specifically designed” to work with 720p as its native resolution. That seems a bit odd considering there will likely be only a handful of phones with displays capable of that.

Furthermore, almost every tablet running Honeycomb is running a 1280×800 display. Not that 80 pixels is a huge difference, but it’s significant for app developers.

In a way it’s forward looking, as 16:9 and high-density displays are definitely growing in popularity, but the fact is that for a good long while they’re just plain going to be expensive, part of the high-end superphone crowd. If Android 4.0 is supposed to be the road on which Android 2 and 3 finally meet, setting a standard neither one seems to use is a bad place to start.

It may simply be that Google is embracing the fact that the Galaxy Nexus with its big 720p screen is, realistically speaking, going to be the only ICS device out there for a while. Maybe 4.1 will bring the various tools required accommodate lower resolutions and different aspect ratios.

A native resolution isn’t a bad choice for a pilot device, though. If ICS doesn’t have to fit onto the great unwashed variety out there just yet, they can nail down UI principles, hunt down bugs, and generally focus on looking good — and then their next job can be entirely composed of adapting that work to new resolutions.

It’s also possible that Packingham was just overstating the case.