ProMotion and always-on display again suggested for iPhone

A third supply-chain report says that Apple plans to use LTPO screens for this year’s iPhone Pro models, which could enable ProMotion and always-on display.

Two previous reports have suggested that Apple plans to take the type of OLED panels used in the Apple Watch Series 4 and 5 and bring them to this year’s flagship iPhones …

All iPhone 12 models have OLED screens, and that isn’t going to change in this year’s models. But what may change is the type of OLED used — specifically, the adoption of low-temperature polycrystalline oxide (LPTO) panels, which allow variable refresh rates. That opens up two possibilities.

First, the refresh rate can be boosted to improve responsiveness of the screen. This is what Apple does on the iPad Pro, using 120Hz refresh cycles under the marketing name ProMotion. It’s most beneficial when using the Apple Pencil, but also makes for smoother and faster action in games, as well as smoother scrolling.

Second, the opposite can be done: reducing the refresh rate when little is changing on the screen. This reduces power consumption. Apple does this on the Apple Watch Series 5 to enable the always-on display without a massive hit on battery life. (The same display tech is used in the Series 4, but Apple didn’t choose to enable the feature for that.)

Previous reports have pointed to LG making LTPO panels for this year’s iPhones, but today’s TheElec report says that Samsung will be the sole supplier for 2021.

Samsung Display will be the exclusive supplier used by Apple for organic light emitting diode (OLED) panels used in the two highest tier models of its next iPhone, TheElec has learned.

Both models of iPhone 13 will use low-temperature polycrystalline oxide (LTPO) thin-film transistors (TFT) OLED panels made by Samsung Display.

Apple’s iPhone 13 will have four models and all of them will use OLED panels. The top two models will use LTPO OLED that can support 120Hz refresh rate.

LG is still expected to supply LTPO screens for future iPhones, but only from 2022. Samsung currently has the edge on the technology as it has already used it in the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra.

The report suggests one other change next year: It says that while LTPO will be reserved for the Pro models this year, Apple is hoping to expand the tech to all of next year’s models.

A couple of cautionary notes are in order. First, the source for all three LTPO reports is the same. Second, while LTPO displays do make always-on screens practical, that doesn’t mean that Apple will choose to implement the feature. The company may instead decide to reduce the battery capacity in order to make slimmer phones.

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