Patent published on August 17, 2023

Apple's New Watch Looking to Save Battery with Smarter Screen Updates

Apple Inc. is taking one long stride towards saving battery life on their smartwatches, with a new invention carrying the patent number US20230260452A1.

The cornerstone of this invention is what's referred to as an 'electric display', showcasing a masterstroke from Apple's side to optimize power usage. In common parlance, it's essentially a special kind of screen that can alter its picture reload rate - the speed at which it refreshes the image you see.

This might sound simple, yet it isn't. If these picture updates aren't in time, the screen display won't be crystal clear. To combat this, the smart screen uses a special illumination method ensuring the picture clarity isn't compromised, even if the updates take a little longer than planned.

Now, this process comes with its set of difficulties. Suppose the display slows down to an extent where it's revising images less than ten times a second. This could lead to what we call 'diminished black levels', affecting the contrast ratio. This ratio measures the brightness difference between the whitest white and the blackest black that a screen is capable of displaying. However, Apple found a way around this by controlling changes in voltage to maintain the picture quality.

So, why the need for this invention? The answer lies in what makes these displays - Light Emitting Diodes (LED), more specifically the Active Matrix Organic Light Emitting Diode (AMOLED) or micro-LED displays. These do not rely on backlight power, they are 'emissive', meaning their power requirements are based on the screen's contents. Therefore, it's most effective when used on display applications, especially ones like a watch screen which is frequently black, requiring minimal power.

The big advantage of this new technology is its capabilities in power conservation. Lowering the screen's refresh rate, say from 60 times per second to 30 times per second, can lead to a steep drop in power consumption, almost up to 80% if brought down to just one refresh per second. Along with reducing the need for turning the screen off when not in use, this is a game-changer in enhancing the battery life of a gadget like Apple Watch.

We are yet to see this technology in action, as all we have are illustrations diagrammatically explaining the gadget and its inner workings. According to these, all display pixels are used as needed to power the LED electronic display.

As exciting as it sounds, this technology is currently just a patent. Despite this promising invention from Apple, the company has made no official announcement regarding whether or when this technology will become available for public use. It's important to remember patents are often used to protect an idea rather than guaranteeing it's soon coming to a store near you. Only time will tell if this smart power-saving approach will revolutionize the way we view our electronic displays. Until then, we can only wait and watch.

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