iPhone 13 killer display upgrade just leaked — and there's a big surprise

iPhone 13
(Image credit: Ben Geskin)

The iPhone 13 Pro's display has been rumored to be getting some big changes, with some smaller improvements on the way for the whole iPhone 13 lineup and more in store for next year's iPhone 14.

There will be advanced 120Hz LTPO displays, made by Samsung Display, for the top two iPhone 13 models, according to a report by The Elec. While 120Hz and LTPO have been rumored before for the iPhone 13, the details on the rest of the iPhone 13 series and even the iPhone 14 are fresh.

LTPO (standing for low-temperature polycrystalline oxide) is a type of transistor that makes up part of a smartphone's display. The advantage of this type is that it enables what Samsung Display calls "Adaptive Frequency", allowing a phone to vary its refresh rate automatically.

While high refresh rates mean smoother scrolling when web browsing and a slicker experience in compatible movies and games, it's a power-hungry feature, leading to drastically shorter battery life. Allowing the phone to adapt the refresh rate on the fly, such as raising it while gaming but dropping it while on the home screen, can keep battery consumption in check.

All four iPhone 13 models are expected to have OLED displays, as is the case with the four devices that make up the iPhone 12 series. The difference is that the iPhone 13 line will use 'on-cell' OLED panels, which are thinner and cheaper for Apple to use since they have touchscreen functions built-in rather than added via a separate layer in the display. 

The Elec says it won't be until 2022 when all models get LTPO displays. That will assumedly be the year the iPhone 14 appears. The Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra uses already this technology, and rumors point to the Galaxy S21 Ultra also using it. So the information that Samsung Display will provide Apple with LTPO panel, isn't hugely surprising.  

If you're curious about some of the more specific parts of The Elec's report, it states that Samsung Display will be the only supplier of the new displays. LG Display, another company Apple was potentially contracting to make LTPO panels, won't be able to start supplying components until 2022. This may explain why only the two 'Pro' iPhone 13 models are getting LTPO this year, as Samsung working alone may not have the capacity to supply parts for all four versions.

We're not expecting the iPhone 13 to appear until the end of September this year. But with this display upgrade in mind, plus suggestions of LiDAR sensors on all models and the return of the fingerprint sensor, it's got a great chance of being one of the best phones of 2021.

Richard Priday
Assistant Phones Editor

Richard is based in London, covering news, reviews and how-tos for phones, tablets, gaming, and whatever else people need advice on. Following on from his MA in Magazine Journalism at the University of Sheffield, he's also written for WIRED U.K., The Register and Creative Bloq. When not at work, he's likely thinking about how to brew the perfect cup of specialty coffee.