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It’s already a given that we’ll be seeing faster 120Hz “ProMotion” style displays finally arrive on the iPhone this year, but if you were concerned that Apple might reserve this cool new display tech for only the larger 6.7-inch “iPhone 13 Pro Max,” you can put those fears to rest.
By all reports, this better display technology was supposed to be included in last year’s iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max. Rumours of this began appearing around two years ago, then continued into last spring, and then we even got confirmation that Apple was testing it for the iPhone 12 Pro Max.
Sadly, however, this never materialized, but it wasn’t because the reports weren’t all true. Instead, it seems that Apple changed direction at the last minute when it found itself facing a shortage of the necessary display driver chips to actually pull it off.
So, last year we ended up with basically the same OLED display found in the 2019 iPhone 11 Pro lineup, and newly added to the standard iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 mini — making it the first time since the debut of the iPhone XR that the whole iPhone lineup featured the same display technology.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way, however, and there’s little doubt that Apple plans to rectify that with this year’s Pro iPhone models. After all, it was only component shortages that kiboshed Apple’s plans last year, but it’s got plenty of time to sort that out in time for the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max to go into mass production.
Despite this, some odd rumours have started circulating in recent weeks that Apple was only planning on bringing the new display tech to one of this year’s iPhone Pro models, which would likely be the larger “iPhone 13 Pro Max.”
This didn’t make much sense to us in the first place, since it’s not a distinction Apple would make deliberately, and component shortages really shouldn’t be a problem by now. Still, we’re relieved to hear analyst Ross Young dispelling this mythical notion.
Young specialized in display technology and the supply chain around it, and has generally provided pretty accurate information. In fact, he was the one who reported on Apple’s problems with the 120Hz displays last year, although at the time he wasn’t sure if Apple was planning to delay the iPhone 12 Pro or simply give up on the newer displays.
This time around, however, it seems that 120Hz LTPO displays are locked-in for both iPhone Pro models.
The standard “iPhone 13” and “iPhone 13 mini” will likely continue to use the same OLED displays that were introduced in their iPhone 12 counterparts, although Young says they could be gaining 120Hz LTPO displays in 2022.
What This Means
The main advantage of switching to LTPO, or low-temperature polycrystalline oxide, displays is significantly lower power consumption than traditional OLED screens.
Apple already uses LTPO technology in the Apple Watch, which is one of the reasons it was able to pull off an always-on display for the Apple Watch Series 5. The trick is that LTPO can reduce the screen refresh rate down to a bare minimum, since it’s updating the screen that consumes most of the power on an OLED screen. Simply showing a static image on an OLED screen uses very little power.
In the case of the always-on display on the Apple Watch, it updates the display only once per minute unless you’re actually looking at it, which is more than enough to show the time or even a running clock for workouts.
Assuming Apple chooses to use the LTPO display technology for an always-on display feature, it would likely be limited to showing a clock face, notifications, and other relatively static information like a photo.
It’s actually a feature that paints Apple’s Leather Sleeve with MagSafe in a whole new light. Inserting your iPhone 12 into the case will change the Lock Screen to display a clock through the window in the case, but at this point it doesn’t stay on. We strongly suspect that Apple first conceived this accessory when it thought LTPO displays would be coming to the iPhone 12 Pro, and decided it was still worth releasing the case even after it was forced to scrap its plans for the LTPO display.
While an LTPO display also lowers power consumption overall, we wouldn’t bet on this resulting in a significant increase in battery life on this year’s iPhone. Most likely, Apple will find other ways to use these power savings to deliver other technology improvements without sacrificing battery life.