I like iPhones, I really do. I have been using an iPhone since the iPhone 5s, with only a small break in between while I used a OnePlus 5 (and the Galaxy S10). However, there’s no denying that iPhone isn’t really at the bleeding edge of technology, in any way, shape, or form. If anything, Apple usually lags behind by quite a bit.
I have been something of an Apple apologist for a long time. I didn’t care much that the iPhone XR came with an (almost) 720p display. I have defended the painfully slow charging speeds as well. However, this year, Apple has managed to finally piss me off enough.
The iPhone Display
Look, there’s no denying that iPhone displays are really good. Sure, for a long time only the Pro-branded iPhones came out with an OLED panel, but, and this might be a hot-take, the LCD displays on the iPhone XR, and iPhone 11 were honestly quite good themselves. However, if you’re going to price your smartphone at a starting price of nearly $700, not having an OLED panel should be considered nothing short of an offence. Now that all iPhone models come with an OLED panel, things are way better.
Still, there are other problems here.
The History of ProMotion on iPhone
Apple introduced a 120Hz refresh rate on the iPhone with the iPhone 13 Pro — a time when I was still using my trusty (and outdated by the standards of 2021) iPhone XR. You know, the device with not only a 60Hz refresh rate, but on a display that you’d be hard pressed to find on even an entry-level Android smartphone, let alone one that costs as much as the iPhone XR did back when I bought it.
That year, Apple decided to keep 120Hz “ProMotion” exclusive to the Pro models. I didn’t quite agree with the decision, but it made sense in the way Apple does things. The company likes to gatekeep new features to try and upsell customers.
However, when the iPhone 14 Pro launched, with its Dynamic Island, Apple once again decided on sticking with 60Hz screens on the non-Pro variants. So, if you bought a nearly $800 smartphone from Apple, you wouldn’t get the brand-new Dynamic Island (sure, whatever) or a 120Hz display. In 2022!
iPhone 15: The Rumors, and the Sheer Audacity of Apple
As is the case with pretty much any iPhone launch, rumors about the next generation start almost a year in advance. And, as is the case with every single iPhone launch, I have been following the rumors since the first day they started showing up.
Of all the things I’ve read so far, whether it’s the USB-C charging, the solid-state buttons, or Dynamic Island across the line-up, one thing that stuck out to me is the 60Hz display.
Yes, Apple seems to have once again, in all its unending wisdom, decided that 60Hz is good enough for the non-Pro iPhones.
It’s not that I didn’t expect this from Apple that upsets me so much. In fact, I don’t know why this time around it feels like a step too far. However, let’s put that in perspective.
If we assume that Apple will not hike the prices of this year’s iPhones, the iPhone 15 should start at $799 (~₹79,900 in India). That puts it smack dab in the flagship smartphone category in India. At that price, Apple thinks it’s okay to not include a 120Hz display.
Android smartphone makers, on the other hand, have had high-refresh rate screens for years at this point. In fact, you can get an Android smartphone around the ₹11,000 mark that has a 120Hz display. Most mid-rangers have high-refresh rate screens, and phones that are priced around ₹80,000 to ₹90,000 have as much as 165Hz refresh rates. Not to mention, loads of RAM and a lot of storage to boot.
Apple has always been an audacious company, and a lot of the time, this has been to its benefit, but there have been moments in the company’s history that I, personally, didn’t appreciate.
The iPhone X OLED Statement
“this is the first OLED display great enough to be in an iPhone.”
Similar to how Apple is handling the high-refresh rate screens, prior to the iPhone X, Apple had been sticking with LCD panels on iPhones even though Android OEMs had switched to using OLED panels in a variety of price ranges, especially in flagship smartphones.
So, when Apple launched the iPhone X and announced that it featured an OLED screen, it was a nice addition to the iPhone. However, the company made a statement that still makes me chuckle. Talking about the iPhone X, Phil Schiller said, and I quote: “this is the first OLED display great enough to be in an iPhone.”
Bringing ProMotion to All iPhones
While that OLED statement is simultaneously funny and annoying, the situation with 120Hz screens is even more different. Apple clearly believes that 120Hz screens are good enough to be on iPhones; after all, they’ve been chucking them into the iPhone since the iPhone 13 Pro.
It’s simply too late to not have a high-refresh rate display on smartphones priced at almost ₹80,000
So why won’t they bring 120Hz screens to the non-Pro iPhones? It doesn’t make any sense. Maybe Apple believes that most customers don’t care about high-refresh rate displays. Maybe ProMotion is yet another way to upsell potential iPhone customers to the Pro variants, earning Apple more money.
At this point, it doesn’t even matter what Apple thinks about ProMotion or its usefulness. It’s simply too late to not have a high-refresh rate display on smartphones priced at almost ₹80,000 and above.
Playing the Devil’s Advocate
In thinking about this article, and throughout the process of writing it, I tried to argue with my own thoughts, just to see if I can come up with any logical reasons or excuses for the lack of a 120Hz screen on the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus.
For one, iOS’ animations are crazy good. Let’s be real here, there is simply no other UI I have experienced that does animations as well as iOS. It just feels more fluid than most other user interfaces I have seen.
As such, even on my iPhone XR, I never really felt like the display was too slow or too laggy.
Then there’s the simple fact that a high refresh rate display does affect battery life. The iPhone’s battery isn’t the biggest out there (by far), and even with optimisations and everything else Apple does with its software, a high-refresh rate screen will impact the amount of screen-on time you’ll get on your iPhone.
But It Still Doesn’t Make Sense, Apple!
While I can think of at least two arguments to defend Apple’s decision, I can think of more against it.
iOS’ animations are good, there’s no doubt about that. I used to think I don’t need a high-refresh rate on my iPhone because it looks smooth anyway. That changed when I switched to the iPhone 13 Pro. Because guess what, a 60Hz iPhone now feels weird and everything looks like it’s dropping frames.
That makes intuitive sense, right? If your animations are so good that they look good on a 60Hz screen, they will look so much more smooth on a 120Hz screen. Ask any iPhone user who has a Pro-variant, and they’ll likely tell you that they can’t go back to an iPhone that doesn’t have ProMotion.
The battery argument is even more easily countered. The Pro-variants of the iPhone have ProMotion and their battery performance is definitely okay, according to Apple. Obviously, then, it should apply to the non-Pro iPhones as well.
What’s more, ProMotion on iPhone is capable of adjusting the refresh rate from 120Hz all the way down to 10Hz. On the iPhone 14 Pro, in fact, the display can go as low as 1Hz to enable the Always on Display. These are all methods to reduce battery consumption, and these are methods Apple is already using, so there’s really no excuse why Apple is refusing to bring a high-refresh rate screen on the regular iPhone 15 models.
Falling Behind is not the Same as Waiting for Tech to Mature
Apple isn’t a company that truly innovates technologies for the most part. Generally, it waits for a technology to mature before it starts implementing it in its products. That was the case with Touch ID, and even 3G and 4G on its smartphones. However, 120Hz displays are not at a nascent stage by any stretch of the imagination, and by not offering a high refresh rate display on regular, non-Pro variants of the iPhone, Apple isn’t waiting for the tech to mature, it’s simply falling behind.
Sure, the company will still sell millions of iPhone 15 units to consumers. They will probably be amazing smartphones with excellent camera systems, great performance, and everything else you’d expect from an iPhone; but they will forever make me mad at Apple for holding out on people shelling out $800 for a phone that doesn’t seem to meet the smartphone standards of the day.
So as long as we only have to worry about 60 Hz displays, I think we are well off.