There’a a lot of buzz around the next iPhones which is expected to be called iPhone 13 series. The next iPhones will obviously boast superior processors and cameras. But there’s one major feature that
may introduce in the iPhone 13 range, particularly reserved for the top-end iPhone 13 Pro models-- LTPO displays with variable refresh rates.
Now, Android smartphones have been offering displays with high refresh rates like 90Hz and 120 Hz for quite some time. And Apple may finally offer the feature this year. Smartphones with a 120Hz
refresh rate display
offer smoother scrolling experience and games become more immersive.
Before we proceed further, there’s another term called ‘
touch sampling rate
’ which you need to be clear about.
Display touch sampling rate vs refresh rate
There are several smartphones which boast of a touch sampling rate of 180Hz while hiding the fact that the display offers a standard refresh rate of 60Hz. Note that the touch sampling rate has nothing to do with the refresh rate. Brands can easily achieve a touch sampling rate of 180Hz using a standard 60Hz refresh rate panel. While it may sound good in marketing brochures in real life it hardly creates much of a difference.
The touch sampling rate is basically how much touch input can the screen register in one second. So, a higher-touch sampling rate means you can expect games to respond more to slight touches. But practically, the difference can hardly be felt while playing most popular games. On the other hand, with a higher refresh rate display, you can actually feel the difference in game responsiveness.
60Hz vs 90Hz vs variable refresh rate up to 120Hz: How does it matter
Coming back to refresh rate. All smartphones offer a 60Hz refresh rate panel by default. And now there are phones with 90Hz refresh rate displays. Meanwhile, newer models are offering variable refresh rate displays up to 120Hz.
Truth be told, most of the times that you use a phone, a 60Hz refresh rate display is enough. You would only feel the difference of using a display with a higher refresh rate of 90Hz or 120Hz only while gaming or watching action movies. Having said that to really understand the difference you need to keep two phones with different refresh rates side-by-side. The easiest way to differentiate is by focusing on the general scrolling speed.
Don’t assume that buying a phone with a higher refresh rate will give you an unfair advantage while playing games like PUBG Mobile or Call of Duty Mobile. There were PUBG Mobile teams in India who made it to the top 10 all-India list using an old Samsung Galaxy S6 too.
The biggest issue of displays with higher refresh rates is that these phones tend to consume more battery, forcing users to charge their phones more frequently, ultimately reducing the battery life. To tackle this problem, brands came up with variable refresh rates.
With variable refresh rate, the phone uses software to decide how much refresh rate is required for the display to show a particular content. If you are just using your phone to browse the internet, chat with friends, call people or perform other regular activities then the refresh rate is reduced drastically to below 60Hz. But the moment you play a game, the refresh rate is bumped up to as high as 120Hz to offer a smooth experience. This is simply a clever use of software to save battery life. Now, to achieve variable display, brands need to rely on a new tech like LTPO.
What is LTPO?
Technically, LTPO means Low Temperature Polycrystalline Oxide. This simply helps smartphones to change the refresh rate as per the content without any extra hardware requirement. This helps in getting the desired refresh rate without putting much pressure on the battery.
LTPO is patented by Apple. Now, the next logical question should be how come Samsung and OnePlus offer this tech in its flagships for a lesser cost when it is patented by Apple?
Well, both Samsung and OnePlus use some sort of LTPO technology by tweaking it, so as, to avoid paying Apple any royalty. Samsung uses Hybrid Oxide Polycrystalline Silicon in the Note 20 Ultra while the OnePlus uses Low Temperature Polycrystalline Silicon or LTPS. Now, LTPS alone can’t provide a dynamic refresh rate without additional hardware and users will have to choose between 60Hz and 120Hz. So, this is where the need for more hardware comes into the picture where LTPS TFT panels are backed by Indium Gallium Zinc Oxide (IGZO) transistors. These technologies manage to offer better battery life along with the desired refresh rate. Another thing to note is that most phones offer a high refresh rate of 120Hz with a reduced resolution of 1080p HD instead of QHD.
Talking about LTPO, Apple uses it in
Apple Watch 5
which helps the refresh rate to vary between 1Hz and 60Hz. This helps in providing a smooth experience and also improves battery life. There’s no word whether LTPO will ultimately come to iPhones or not.
So, what can you expect from future iPhones?
If Apple uses LTPO on its next iPhones then expect the tough responsiveness to dramatically increase and also playing games will be more immersive. You can expect the battery life to increase with the overall experience to getting smoother.