Many rumors turn out to be false, and this one is a good candidate for being false. Devs already have to have 2 image densities (normal and “@2x” for Retina screens), so adding an “@4x” would be a pain. But let’s pretend this is true for a second. What might this be the harbinger of?
Designers and people like Jony Ive and Steve Jobs were never totally satisfied with vector images on low-resolution screens because they could never been drawn accurately/precisely enough to match a high-quality, hand-tuned bitmapped image.
But this is how fonts started, right? Back in the 80’s and 90’s, one had to use Adobe Type Manager or similar app from Bitstream to generate point-size-specific bitmapped fonts. Screens were too low resolution, and hinting wasn’t good enough yet, to have scalable fonts. But eventually the hardware and software got to the point where scalable TrueType and Type 1 fonts became good-looking.
Well, what if the same happened for graphics as happend for fonts? What if screens become so high resolution (and mobile graphics processors fast enough yet low-energy enough) that vector images (for buttons, backgrounds, etc.) looked great when displayed on a mobile device? Then, regardless of device size, buttons and other graphics would look superb on any device. Of course they’d look best on a quad-retina screen, encouraging everyone to upgrade. 🙂
Designers would only have to create one version of each image (since it’d be vector), and developers wouldn’t have to worry about naming or placing the various resolution images in different directories. How sweet would that be?
This is all pie in the sky based on a doubtful rumor, but it was interesting to think about.