Thursday, May 19, 2022

Apple, why is the OLED iPhone 13 still missing always-on display?

If there is one feature, we all can and should expect from a smartphone that has an OLED screen, is the always-on display. OLED screens can be more energy-efficient than the regular IPS, as the individual OLED pixels emit their light, thus can be completely shut off to “display” blacks as true blacks, and no greys.  

Apple, why is the OLED iPhone 13 still missing always-on display?
Apple, why is the OLED iPhone 13 still missing always-on display?

Thus, normally the always-on display feature would use a pitch-black background along with a few active pixels as possible to show information to the user. Due to most pixels remaining off, the always-on display doesn’t have a huge impact on the battery life, unlike an IPS display.  

Android phones users have utilized always-on display for many years now, ranging from basic to fully customizable (for example, on Samsung flagships), thus, allowing the users to choose what they want to have displayed on their phone non-stop, even when locked. This could be anything from a clock with notification icons, to the date, battery percentage, or it could even be an image.  

Apple doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to adopt Android features, case in point – always-on display  

Plenty of flagship Android phones with OLED screens feature always-on display one way or another. However, what about iPhones? Both the new iPhone 13 series, as well as the iPhone 12’s, have OLED displays, yet these remain completely blank when the iPhone is locked. There is no option to enable anything that resembles an always-on display for iOS.  

Apple indeed is not in a hurry to adopt Android features, however, it’s likely because the company has its strategy in how it does things, which seems to be working quite well so far. Keeping things simple while avoiding features that can prove to be confusing as well as complicated is what makes the iPhone 13 so approachable while being beloved. Bottom line, Apple might just not see any reason to play catch-up with its competitors, as of now at least.  

However, when it comes to the always-on display, in particular, a feature that’s not all that complicated. There were rumors that the iPhone 13 might be getting it, yet it did not. Why would that be? Maybe due to concerns regarding the phone’s battery life? Perhaps, it could be something else.  

Apple might be reserving an always-on display for the upcoming iPhone 14. So, it could act as one more reason to “upgrade” next year  

Apple does have the capability to introduce an always-on display (with a different name) right now, on the current iPhone 13 also on the iPhone 12 series, through a software update.  

As mentioned earlier, before its release, there were rumors regarding the always-on display and how it would be featured in the iPhone 13. However, it’s plausible that the Cupertino company chose to omit this feature for now. So, they could make it available only starting with the 2022’s iPhone 14. So that phone’s presentation can show a “newer” feature to encourage their users to upgrade.  

Or, it could be possible that Apple is still unable to solve the potential battery drain issues that would arise with implementing the always-on display. Android phones with always-on displays happen to get their battery significantly drained, to the point of not being worth it.  

Indeed, there are Android phone makers that have issues figuring out how to implement always-on display without requiring to sacrifice too much battery life. It’s possible that Apple similarly still hasn’t been able to find a proper balance. Thus, the iPhone 13 might’ve been launched without an always-on display, due to their reasons.  

But could it be the case? It somewhat feels like a stretch, an excuse, rather than a justifiable reason. The iPhone 13 Pro Max manages to last nearly 19 whole hours of constant 60Hz internet browsing. Surely the iPhone has a strong enough battery to survive whatever impact or issues always-on display implementation would cause, right?  

In any case, the more basic and expected features Apple deprives its users of, the more likely it is that the users want to buy the upcoming iPhone if it finally manages to get those missing features. Apple couldn’t or simply chose not to give us an always-on display this year is something that can be debated for a long time. However, we can’t overlook the fact that including it on the iPhone 14 will be convenient and act as a huge motivating factor for users to upgrade next year.  

The iPhone 13 might just be a stopgap  

I’m sure many smartphone enthusiasts viewed the iPhone 13, then struggled to figure out what was new over/upgraded from the last year’s iPhone 12. I feel that the iPhone 13 was nothing but a boring but safe stopgap release for Apple, all the while the company being aware of that as well, sorry iPhone 13 buyers/users.  

Apple is quietly working on the exciting Apple AR Glasses. By some reports the iPhone 14 is likely going to be a more worthwhile release, however, until the iPhone 14 lineup is ready to be unveiled next year, the company had to prepare something for the 2021 calendar year.  

If you don’t have any huge announcement to make, the safest thing to do is to release the same tried and tested iPhone with minor upgrades, and push to make it look like a big deal. Like, introducing some software features, for example, Cinematic Mode.  

Or you could start at 128GB of base storage, which is twice over last year’s iPhones. Realistically, this does not spark excitement, and Apple should’ve arguably moved to 128GB back in 2018. However, the company played the smart move and offered it when the time is right. When there was not much they could get people excited with.  

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