iPhone 12 leak says 120Hz display is dead — here’s why

iPhone 12
(Image credit: EverythingApplePro)
  • The iPhone 12 series will reportedly not feature a 120Hz display, according to Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo.
  • A faster refresh rate results in smoother scrolling as well as better performance when playing games and watching videos that support the feature.
  • Several Android phones already offer 120Hz screens, including the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, but the panels tend to negatively impact battery life.

Just in case you were holding out hope that the new iPhone 12 Pro lineup was going to feature a 120Hz display, we have bad news.

According to a new research note by analyst Ming-Chi Kuo (as reported by 9to5Mac), Kuo does not expect the iPhone 12 models to feature a 120Hz display due to battery life concerns. But it's not all bad news.

The analyst says that this year’s iPhone 12 battery capacity is smaller than the iPhone 11 and that 120Hz panels would have “significantly hurt the user experience.”

In our own testing we have found that Android phones in 120Hz mode last anywhere from 1.5 hours to 3 hours less on a charge than when set to 60Hz mode, such as the Galaxy S20 Ultra. So perhaps Apple was not willing to take that risk, especially since 5G radios can also such down power.

Kuo says that 120Hz displays could be offered on 2021 iPhones, which means you will likely have to wait until the iPhone 13 for this feature.

There is a bit of good news in this latest report. The 5.4-inch iPhone 12 will allegedly sport a narrower notch, which would be an improvement on Apple’s design. This move will apparently make it easier to display info in the upper left or right corner.

However, Kuo says that the notch will stay the same size on the 6.1-inch iPhone 12, the 6.1-inch iPhone 12 Max and the 6.7-inch iPhone 12 Pro Max.

There could finally be some clarity around 5G connectivity on the iPhone 12 lineup as well. Kuo believes that there will be two versions of every iPhone 12 model for a total of eight devices.

One version will support only sub-6 GHz 5G, which offers wider range but slower speeds, while the other batch will support both mmWave and sub-6 GHz. Right now Verizon 5G leads the way with mmWave deployments, offering blazing 1Gbps and faster speeds in a growing number of cities, but only in limited areas.

The iPhone 12 Pro should stand out from the regular iPhone 12 in other ways should the 120Hz display truly be dead. The iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max should offer a third telephoto camera along with a LiDAR sensor that should help with photography as well as augmented reality applications.

We can also expect the iPhone 12 Pro models to feature more RAM than the regular iPhone 12 lineup as well as a stainless steel band for a more premium look. 

An Apple Event is happening tomorrow (Sept. 15), at which it's expected to debut the Apple Watch 6 and iPad Air 4, and the new iPhones will likely get their own event in October.

Mark Spoonauer

Mark Spoonauer is the global editor in chief of Tom's Guide and has covered technology for over 20 years. In addition to overseeing the direction of Tom's Guide, Mark specializes in covering all things mobile, having reviewed dozens of smartphones and other gadgets. He has spoken at key industry events and appears regularly on TV to discuss the latest trends, including Cheddar, Fox Business and other outlets. Mark was previously editor in chief of Laptop Mag, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc. Follow him on Twitter at @mspoonauer.