Apple’s ‘iPhone 13’ Is Finally Getting an Always On Display (Plus More)

iPhone 13 Pro Concept Credit: Darvik Patel / @SiliconDesigner
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With the “iPhone 13” only weeks away at this point, it’s safe to say that all of this year’s specs are now fully locked down. Although a few mysteries remain, of course, one of the things that’s almost certain to come are the new 120Hz LTPO displays, and it looks like one of these will include a bonus feature.

The faster 120Hz display technology was something that came very close to debuting on last year’s iPhone 12 Pro models, but got called off at the last minute due to challenges sourcing the necessary display chips in the midst of the global health pandemic.

Since it was only a supply problem, however, it was safe to say that Apple had only delayed the new display technology, rather than giving up on it entirely, making it the most obvious upgrade that will come to this year’s “iPhone 13.”

About the only question right now is whether the faster low-temperature polycrystalline oxide (LTPO) displays will come to only the “iPhone 13 Pro” or whether we’re going to see it on the entire 2021 iPhone lineup.

Past trends and common wisdom suggest that it’s likely Apple will reserve it for the “Pro” models, since it’s been differentiating the displays between the two tiers ever since it debuted the LCD-equipped iPhone XR alongside the OLED iPhone XS back in 2018.

While the entire iPhone 12 lineup gained the same basic OLED display technology last year, it’s very likely that wasn’t the original plan. After all, if Apple had its way, the iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max would have gained the 120Hz LTPO displays, setting them apart from the standard models, and therefore providing the room for the lower-end iPhones to finally move to OLED.

Had the iPhone 12 Pro models actually gained the LTPO display last year, it’s possible that Apple may have planned to bring it to the standard “iPhone 13” this year, but since that didn’t happen, it seems likely that Apple is now planning to put its best foot forward on its Pro lineup this year.

Always On Display

Even though the faster 120Hz displays have been a given since late last year, there’s been more speculation about whether Apple would take advantage of the lower-power LTPO technology to produce an always on display for the iPhone.

Now, however, Mark Gurman of Bloomberg has added his voice to the chorus of those who are pretty sure it’s coming this year. In his weekly Power On newsletter, Gurman shares a brief blurb on what we should expect in this year’s iPhone:

Expect a faster A15 chip, smaller notch, a new display for better battery life and the potential of an Apple Watch-like always on mode and a 120Hz refresh rate and upgrades to video recording.

Mark Gurman

While Gurman hedges a bit by saying “the potential of” an always on mode, we’re still betting in favour of it, since it seems like something Apple has already been planning for since last year’s iPhone 12 release.

Apple already bought an always on display to the Apple Watch with the 2019 Series 5, and it’s expanding it this year in watchOS 8 so that even more apps will be able to take advantage of it. Meanwhile, last year’s Apple’s Leather Sleeve with MagSafe seems like something that was built for an always on display that never came.

Inserting your iPhone 12 into the MagSafe leather sleeve already changes the Lock Screen to display a clock through the small window in the case. However, it’s kind of a weird and slightly pointless feature in its current state, since the clock doesn’t stay on for very long — you have to tap the screen through the case to see it again. However, it’s not hard to imagine how much cooler this would be with an always on display that showed the clock through that window all the time.

Since we know that Apple originally planned to include the LTPO display on the iPhone 12 Pro, it’s very likely that this accessory was made with that in mind, but Apple saw no need to scrap the idea when it was forced to change its plans — especially since it will likely enable this capability on this year’s iPhone models.

Gurman also adds that Apple has even higher hopes for this year’s iPhone lineup, having asked suppliers to be ready to build up to 90 million new units for this fall. That’s a 20 percent increase over the order for 75 million units for last year’s iPhone 12, although it’s also possible Apple may just be overestimating again to lock down supply chain capacity, as it did with the iPhone 12 for the early part of this year.

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