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iPhone 14 reportedly won't get 120Hz display — and that's ridiculous

iPhone 14 Pro front and back in white
(Image credit: the Hacker 34)

I’m a big fan of 120Hz displays on all manner of screens, but I love them on smartphones. From the Oppo Find X3 Pro’s almost-too-fast panel to the Google Pixel 6 Pro’s balanced 120Hz adaptive display, high refresh rates just make smartphones feel faster, more responsive and just better to use. 

But until the iPhone 13 Pro, Apple has kept its iPhones stuck at 60Hz, while the likes of Samsung, OnePlus, Xiaomi and more adopted 90Hz or faster screens. And despite my hopes, the standard iPhone 14 could sport a 60Hz display. If this turns out to be true I think it would be a huge disappointment bordering on a travesty. 

Despite my initial thoughts of wanting to hold out for the iPhone 14, for work purposes I recently swapped from a Google Pixel 6 Pro to the iPhone 13 Pro. And I’ve stuck with it; Apple offers slick software, fast performance and a killer trio of cameras that are hard to ignore. But the reason the iPhone 13 Pro resonated with me, when my experience with the iPhone 12 didn't, is all down to its 120Hz LTPO display. 

I’d have switched back to the Pixel 6 Pro in a matter of days had Apple not embraced 120Hz, as I’m now too used to high refresh rate displays to go back to 60Hz on a smartphone. It’s just too jarring. 

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Apple’s implementation of the speedy refresh rate is also flawless in my experience, with it never scaling down in a jarring fashion. And the touch sampling rate (which Apple doesn't list) seemingly matches the screen perfectly. 

Overall, the iPhone 13 Pro feels wonderful to use — responsive without feeling like it’s trying to rush things, as can be the case with some phones in my experience. Zipping through a variety of apps, flitting between Safari tabs and just swiping through the days in the Weather app all feels like my fingers are interacting with the actual software and not tapping on a glass screen. 

I’ve been skeptical of why it took Apple so long to embrace high refresh screens. But it appeared to be waiting until LTPO panels were widely available and thus adaptive displays (which can scale from 120H to 10Hz or 1Hz) could be added to the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max. Apple doesn't comment on such things, so I’m left with some educated speculation here. 

So it would be absolutely baffling to me if Apple decided not put a 120Hz display into the standard iPhone 14. Display analyst Ross Young recently tweeted (opens in new tab) that Apple display supplier BOE doesn't have enough LTPO capacity to ship any LTPO panels, and it's allegedly giving Apple panels for the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Max.

In addition, leaker Dylan on Twitter (opens in new tab) (who has a decent track record) says that "ProMotion willbe exclusive to the iPhone 14 Pro models."

I get that it introduces higher-end features to the Pro phones first. But come the fall of this year, I’d be surprised if any Android phone above $400 comes without a high refresh rate screen. So if Apple sticks to 60Hz for the iPhone 14, it would be effectively sticking two fingers up at its users who don't want to splash some $1,000 on a iPhone 14 Pro.  

Granted, if you’ve never used a phone with a 120Hz screen, you’d be left comfortably in the dark and this won’t be an issue. But I’d still argue it would be wrong; Apple would effectively be denying its loyal users a very neat feature, potentially basking in the knowledge that through blind loyalty or being locked in the ecosystem, they'd have to put up with it or go for the Pro phones. 

And with LTPO tech now offering the ability to use 120Hz screens without compromising on battery life, I can’t think of any reasons why Apple wouldn’t fully embrace 120Hz across the rumored iPhone 14 range. 

Furthermore, the iPhone 14 is almost certainly getting a new powerful A-series chip. But the extra performance would almost go to waste and the current A15 Bionic already chews through games and apps running at 60hz or 60 frames per second. 

While some upgrades touted for the iPhone 14 range will seemingly not leave the standard phone to be overshadowed by the Pro phones, there’s still an argument that the iPhone 14 Pro could be in a league of its own

I’m not against that, but if Apple keeps a proper screen upgrade only for Pro models, I’m going to be disappointed. Combine this with rumors that the iPhone 14 might not have an under-display fingerprint sensor, and the phone isn't looking that appalling to me. That's a tad ironic, given I’ve come back to the iPhone after seven years of being an Android user. 

Of course, it's still early on in the year and thus the iPhone 14 rumors are still spinning up. That means we need to take these rumors with a degree of skepticism. And I’m hoping that Apple has some surprises up its sleeve, especially if it’s to challenge the Samsung Galaxy S22 range, which is shaping up to be rather impressive. And all three of those phones should be getting a 120Hz panel.

Roland Moore-Colyer a Managing Editor at Tom’s Guide with a focus on news, features and opinion articles. He often writes about gaming, phones, laptops and other bits of hardware; he’s also got an interest in cars. When not at his desk Roland can be found wandering around London, often with a look of curiosity on his face.