The battle between component performance and battery drain is hotter than ever. We want ever more powerful processors and bigger, brighter displays, but these components run on batteries, after all, and draw increasing amounts of power. It’s an escalating problem, but an Apple patent revealed today shows one way Apple could provide relief.
Using a hybrid OLED display, Apple could get power savings of up to 30 percent in future iPhones and iPads. Such an OLED-based display would also allow Apple to make an ultra-thin iDevice.
These power-saving possibilities come at a time when battery life issues are at the forefront of many iOS 5 and iPhone 4S users’ minds.
In today’s patent reveal, we see an iPhone display that would include an “opacity switching layer” sandwiched between a transparent OLED layer and a solid background layer (like a reflective white sheet). When no current is running through the switching layer, black would be displayed. The layer could be switched to be transparent or semi-transparent to reveal white beneath.
With an LCD display, like those in current iPhones and iPads, backlighting is always on when the screen is in use. Thus, it’s always draining a little bit of power. But OLED displays (like Samsung’s Super AMOLED Plus) work differently.
OLEDs operate at a lower voltage than comparable LCDs and only use power when pixels are turned on — two factors that translate into battery-power savings. With current OLED technology, however, power can be quickly gobbled up in applications that display a lot of white space, such as in word processor, email and e-reader apps. You know, because of all those turned-on, white-displaying pixels. This can make OLED an inefficient choice in some situations.
But because the two technologies function so differently, directly comparing OLED power consumption with LCD power consumption is “like comparing apples to oranges,” DisplaySearch’s Jennifer Colegrove says. This makes it difficult to tell which method is really the most efficient overall.
Apple’s OLED display would work differently, though, minimizing the instances when OLED pixels need to be brightly fired up.
One other quirky benefit of a possible Apple OLED display: It could enable the Apple logo on the back of a device to be illuminated — much like this clever hack, but even when the OLED is powered off.
Display tech seems to be a hot area for Apple’s R&D teams. A previous Apple patent detailed a hybrid LCD and electronic paper display that would also help conserve your smartphone’s precious battery life (e-ink is a very low-power technology). Another patent showed how Apple could keep future displays smudge and fingerprint-free using an oleophobic coating.
via Patently Apple