When Apple launched the ProMotion screen in 2017, we all thought the iPhone would be the next in line to receive 120Hz displays. Four years later, fans are still waiting for the upgrade. The pressure is even bigger on Apple to deliver, considering that 120Hz screens are now a staple of the high-end Android experience. Rumors said the first iPhones with 120Hz displays would launch in 2020. But that never happened. New leaks now say the iPhone 13 series will pack high refresh rate OLED screens. As always with Apple’s first-generation tech though, not all 2021 iPhones will get the highly anticipated upgrade. But a new report from Korea teases a significant change for next year’s iPhone 14 series.
The Apple way
Apple doesn’t want just any kind of 120Hz OLED displays in its iPhones. Reports last year said all iPhone 12 versions have 60Hz screens because the higher refresh rate eats more energy. Apple reportedly wasn’t happy with the battery performance.
Apple debuted its LTPO panels on the Apple Watch Series 4 a few years ago. But the company didn’t even take advantage of the tech until a year later. Short for low-temperature polycrystalline oxide, LTPO allows Apple to dynamically adjust the screen refresh rate from 1Hz to 120Hz, depending on what’s shown on the display. That’s what made the always-on Apple Watch Series 5 feature possible.
Samsung has its own version of LTPO screens, which it employs in the Galaxy S21. Samsung should manufacture the bulk of 120Hz LTPO screens for the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max. The iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini aren’t expected to have these new displays, however.
A report from The Elec said a few months ago that Samsung will provide 110 million OLED panels for the iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 this year. Not all of them will be 120Hz displays. LG Display will make 50 million OLED panels for the iPhone, and BOE will supply 9 million units. That story implied that only Samsung will manufacture the LTPO screens that support 120Hz refresh rates.
All iPhone 14 models getting 120Hz displays?
A few months later, The Elec has a new report that underscores Apple’s massive interest in LTPO screen tech.
The story says that display equipment maker Avaco has been negotiating a deal with LG Display over machines that will manufacture “low-temperature polycrystalline oxide (LTPO) thin-film transistor (TFT) OLED” panels. LG will reportedly order parts once Apple approves its new 120Hz OLED tech.
LG reportedly wants to convert a production line to LTPO OLED in the hopes of supplying Apple next year. This implies that Apple wants to increase LTPO OLED production significantly. In turn, this might mean that more iPhone 14 versions could receive 120Hz displays next year, not just the Pro models.
The report reiterates that Samsung will be the exclusive supplier of LTPO OLED panels for the iPhone 13 series. But only the Pro and Pro Max versions will support 120Hz screens, if the rumors are accurate.
The OLED panel is one of the most expensive components inside the iPhone. That’s one of the reasons Apple took its time adding OLED screens across the entire iPhone lineup. It was only last year that all iPhone 12 versions shipped with OLED panels. Sizes range from 5.4 inches to 6.7 inches.
It makes sense for all new iPhones to ship with 120Hz LTPO panels in the future. But there are no guarantees that it’ll start with the iPhone 14 series.