always on displays
Technology

Why iPhones Don’t Have Always-On Displays

Always-on displays have become common in recent years. The Apple Watch received one in 2019. While Android devices like the Galaxy S have had them since 2016. So why is it taking Apple so long to introduce the feature on iPhone? Well, the answer is that Apple is waiting for the perfect display technology to be available. And that moment may’ve already arrived. The upcoming iPhone 14 Pro models are expected to feature an always-on display.

Displays Refresh Rates

Since just this year, smartphone display panels with variable refresh rates as low as 1Hz have been made available. Which means the screen can draw a new image once every second and consume much less battery. Previously, smartphones with always-on displays featured 60 or 120Hz refresh rates. Or, in more recent years, variable refresh rates. Which would fluctuate between 10 to 120Hz depending on the task. But this wasn’t acceptable for Apple, who wanted their always-on display to have virtually no negative effect on battery life. So they waited for displays with refresh rates of just 1Hz.

But this was just part of the equation. Apple has also been developing a dual TFT circuit similar to the Apple Watch that turn pixels on and off for individual frames every fraction of a second. And it’s driven by a new IGZO circuit that keep the pixels powered with a certain voltage during that frame, determining how bright each pixel should be, and what combination of red, green, and blue to display. These technologies are estimated to make the upcoming iPhone’s always-on display 5 to 15 percent more power efficient.

And that’s exactly Apple took their time. It’s similar to what happened with 120Hz refresh rate displays. Android devices had them years ahead of iPhone, but they drained battery so much that many users disabled the feature. So if Apple does introduce an always-on display with the new iPhone 14 Pro models, it’s likely to feature some unique technology that delivers high image quality while retaining long battery life.

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