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Apple could make iPhone screens brighter without draining more battery

Apple is reportedly considering a new light-capturing technique to make future iPhones brighter and more energy-efficient  (Apple)
Apple is reportedly considering a new light-capturing technique to make future iPhones brighter and more energy-efficient (Apple)

We’ve all developed a series of rituals to save our phones from dying due to low power. If you’re anything like us, the first thing you do when you get the dreaded low-battery message is dim the screen.

Whether or not it makes a difference, it feels good to think that you may have snatched more screen time from the jaws of phone death.

Fortunately, the tech gods are aware of our dilemma and are working on a fix. A new report claims Apple may borrow a feature found in high-end TVs to boost the brightness of future iPhones without sacrificing power.

To pull off the feat, LG and Samsung - which supply displays to Apple - have offered to apply micro-lens array (MLA) to the iPhone’s OLED screen, claims Korean outlet The Elec.

The upgrade could arrive as soon as next year with the launch of the iPhone 16. Apple hasn’t commented on the report.

MLA was the talk of this year’s CES tech conference in Las Vegas as far as OLED TVs were concerned. LG and Panasonic said it helped to produce sets that were up to 150 percent brighter, with over 2,000 nits of brightness in some cases.

LG says it has crammed thousands of microscopic lenses inside its latest TV to capture lost light (LG)
LG says it has crammed thousands of microscopic lenses inside its latest TV to capture lost light (LG)

MLA and OLED explained

So, what exactly is MLA and OLED? Let’s start with the last of those: Instead of using a backlight, each pixel in an OLED display is a small organic light-emitting diode that is individually lit, coloured, or shut off to form the image. This results in stunning colours, deep blacks and enhanced contrast.

For its part, Apple has been using a “Super Retina” OLED display since the iPhone X, and an enhanced “Super Retina XDR” OLED screen on the iPhone 11 Pro and beyond.

Despite their strengths, OLED TVs have attracted criticism from some quarters due to their inferior brightness and higher energy consumption compared to Samsung and Sony’s priciest TVs.

Basically, the light being emitted through each organic diode was getting lost as it traveled through the various layers in the display. Seeing as ramping up the brightness of each pixel can reduce the shelf life of an OLED TV, and increase its power consumption, LG decided to do something different.

LG says micro-lens array OLED TVs are 22 percent more efficient than existing OLED models (LG)
LG says micro-lens array OLED TVs are 22 percent more efficient than existing OLED models (LG)

It added a layer of microscopic lenses, also known as an MLA, on top of the OLED pixels. This thin film, combined with a new software algorithm, is designed to capture the light that was being scattered and direct it out toward users. The convex lenses themselves are so tiny that LG claims it can fit more than 5,000 of them on a single pixel, which works out to 42.4 billion lenses on a 77-inch TV.

As a result, LG says that it doesn’t need to use more power to achieve the increased brightness on its latest OLED sets.

Apple’s dilemma

Using the technique on a smartphone isn’t as easy as it sounds, although Apple’s rival Samsung has already done it on some of its Galaxy S Ultra models.

While MLA can straighten the route of OLED light, it can also decrease the intensity of light when viewed from other angles, leading to a limited field of view for users.

If this obstacle can be overcome while maintaining the energy-efficient max brightness of the screen, then Apple may go ahead with the tech, the new report suggests.

To complicate matters further, Apple is dealing with two separate suppliers, each with its own unique expertise. Samsung has used MLA on its own phones and provided it to Chinese smartphone brands such as Vivo, reports MacRumours.

On the other hand, LG has brought it to larger TVs rather than small or medium-sized panels.

At the same time, Apple is also considering another display tech called microLED as part of a push to make more of its own parts. This technique provides extreme levels of peak brightness, matched with the incredible contrast of OLED.