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Apple iPhone 12: The new OLED display is great but it has a caveat

PWM could become an obstacle for the Super Retina XDR display in the new Apple iPhone 12.
PWM could become an obstacle for the Super Retina XDR display in the new Apple iPhone 12.
Super Retina XDR, that's what Apple has named its new iPhone display with OLED technology. That sounds good but could be a step back for some users despite its great color display and Dolby Vision support.

Apple is capable of developing great smartphone displays, that's always been true. Despite Apple not owning their own display manufacturing and developing displays in collaboration with Samsung, they always manage to provide some special aspects for their displays.

The iPhone 12 now features an OLED display instead of the standard LED panel. Apple probably made this choice in part in order to provide the necessary contrasts for Dolby Vision. This is a development of HDR that is also used in Hollywood movies.  

Our iPhone 12 review shows that the display has great color accuracy, is bright and can display details precisely thanks to its high resolution. That's a real advantage for iPhone fans... isn't it?

There is one caveat that goes along with this new technology: OLED displays don't have background lighting that can be dimmed, which means that the entire display has to be turned on and off constantly to simulate lower brightness. This happens at a frequency of around 218 Hz on the iPhone 12, which might easily be tiring for sensitive eyes. 

The LED displays usually - if at all - only have this problem at very low levels of brightness, while the OLED displays use PWM at all levels except for maximum. There would be a solution for this: so-called DC dimming could be used to reduce the voltage of the individual OLED diodes in order to reach a lower brightness. However, it doesn't seem like Apple is planning to bring this technology to the iPhone anytime soon.

So while users can grab themselves an iPhone 11 without any further thought, sensitive eyes or not, potential buyers of the iPhone 12 had better try out the phone's display before taking this $900 smartphone home. 

Find out more about the display and other relevant aspects of Apple's newest product in our detailed review of the iPhone 12.

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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Apple iPhone 12: The new OLED display is great but it has a caveat
Florian Schmitt, 2020-11- 9 (Update: 2020-11- 7)