The majority of today’s high-end smartphones boast 120Hz or at least 90Hz refresh rates, especially now that Apple has joined the fray. People often praise how such a feature makes the experience feel smoother and more responsive, but faster refresh rates don’t come without its price. In addition to the literal cost of a more expensive component, there’s also the inevitable impact on battery life. There are various strategies to mitigate that, but Apple’s novel technique on the iPhone 13 Pro’s ProMotion display might be the move innovative of them all.
Screens with faster refresh rates often make things look buttery smooth, especially when it comes to games, animation, and even scrolling social media feeds. That does mean, however, that the screen has to refresh 90 to 120 times per second, which naturally means consuming more power in the process. That’s why most phones and tablets implement dynamic or variable refresh rates so that the frequency changes depending on the app being used.
The iPhone 13 Pro uses the same strategy, but Apple has apparently added another factor when determining what refresh rate to use. According to Inc’s report, iOS also measures the speed of your finger when touching the screen and adjusts the refresh rate as needed. That means that if the content on the screen is stationary, the ProMotion display can go as low as 10Hz. Scrolling at a fast speed, on the other hand, can kick things up to 120Hz.
This additional variable definitely sounds like a smarter approach compared to just having buckets based on the type of app in use. This could be part of Apple’s strategy to keep the iPhone 13 Pro’s battery life on almost the same level as iPhones without ProMotion screens. Considering battery life is still a major issue for iPhone users, that’s a pretty big gamble for the company.
Still, it’s definitely an ingenious strategy and one that will hopefully make its way to other ProMotion displays, especially those expected for the base iPhone 14 models next year. Now that the cat is out of the bag, it might only be a matter of time before other phone makers like Samsung adopt a similar technology for their own flagships.