Apple is replacing Lucida Grande with Helvetica Neue in Mac OS X. Some people are happy, some are sad. Those that are sad explain that Helvetica Neue doesn’t make as good of a screen font because, in part, it has tighter apertures, which means that at small font sizes some letters get hard to read. For example, lower case Cs look like Os and Ss look like 8s. This is true when you view them at lower resolutions, such as most computer monitors (which are under 150 ppi, but is fine on high resolutions such as print outs (300+ dpi) and retina displays (approximately 300 ppi).
We know Apple cares deeply about the usability of their products, and we know that they have some great designers working for them, so we have to believe that they understand this potential for a problem. But what if the designers knew something we didn’t, that soon, non-retina displays would be obsolete?
Apple’s “Pro” line of laptops have retina displays now. The Mac Pro supports multiple 4k displays but Apple doesn’t sell a 4k display. Instead they have a Thunderbolt Display, with a pixel density of barely over 100ppi and has gone a few years without an update. I could imagine Apple upgrading it to a 4k and a pixel density high enough to be Retina.
Apple also offers two iMacs, one of which essentially is built into the Thunderbolt Display. If Apple were to release a 4k display, it would make sense for the higher end iMac to use the same display. In the same way that Apple offers a low-end non-retina pro laptop for a while, it seems feasible that they would do the same for the iMac. Like the non-retina Pros and the iPad 2, I’d expect this model to be phased out gradually.
That leaves the two Airs. There have been rumors floating around for a year now that they would be getting retina updates.
Why would Apple upgrade to all retina displays, you might ask? Have you compared a non-retina screen to a retina screen? (For example, the iPad 2 against an iPad 3 or 4) The screen really is much better. This is the future. Microsoft agrees and has released Windows 8.1 with support for double density displays (previously they maxed out at 150% density).
The last challenge will be distinguishing I and l (i and L).