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iPhone 13 leak reveals huge display upgrade — watch out, OnePlus 9 Pro

iphone 13 render
(Image credit: LetsGoDigital)

The iPhone 13's display is tipped to feature a super-smooth 120Hz refresh rate, just like the OnePlus 9 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S21. And in fact, it will be Samsung who's building it.

It's long been rumored that the next iPhone will get LTPO panel technology, which allows the screen to vary its refresh rate automatically based on what it's being used for. But the new report in The Elec goes a step further, claiming that the orders for the new panels have now been placed with Samsung Display, while another leak noted LTPO panel testing is already underway.

Samsung Display already has a production line dedicated to making screens for previous iPhones, such as the iPhone 12. However, The Elec's report states that this "A3" line will be converted from producing LTPS displays to making LTPO ones instead, with the change happening "within the first half of 2021." A production target of 70,000 substrates a month has reportedly been set.

LTPO (low-temperature polycrystalline silicon) displays allow mobile devices to dynamically alter their refresh rate. This then results in a lower power draw, because the phone can drop the refresh rate down when the user won't see the benefit. We've seen this technology used on the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, the Galaxy S21 Ultra and the Asus ROG Phone 5, and it works excellently, providing surprisingly lengthy battery life even with a phone running at 120Hz or higher.

Apple already uses LTPO panels on the Apple Watch 6, and offers 120Hz "ProMotion" refresh rates on the iPad Pro. We've yet to see Apple use both technologies together, but previous rumors have suggested that the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max will be the beneficiaries of these LTPO panels.

LG Display and BOE are also providing OLED displays for the iPhone 13, but according to The Elec, these will be less-advanced LTPS displays — presumably for use in the basic iPhone 13 models. This type of OLED display can still provide dynamic refresh rates, but it requires extra components that Apple may not be willing to use on its cheaper iPhones.

Testing is going ahead

If that wasn't enough, there is also a claim that Apple is testing these LTPO displays right now.

Leaker Digital Chat Station (via Mukul Sharma on Twitter) claimed Apple is currently trying out Samsung Display Co. (SDC) screens on the iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max. These models have the codenames D63x and D64x according to DCS, so keep a look-out for these names in the future when we inevitably get more iPhone 13 leaks.

News of current testing is encouraging news that we'll get 120Hz iPhones this year. It was suggested early last year, that the iPhone 12 series, or at least the iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max, would get these displays. But a few months later, this rumor lost credibility, before finally being proved wrong at the phone's launch. It's still early in the year before the iPhone 13's expected September debut, but the rumors are, for now, encouraging.

Beyond its display, the iPhone 13 is also rumored to have a smaller notch than previous notched iPhones, letting you enjoy more of the display. Also be on the lookout for a new A15 chipset, and camera improvements in the form of new lenses, larger sensors and improved software.

We'd expect the iPhone 13 series to appear in September, the usual month for Apple's iPhone launches. There are a lot of excellent phones due to launch before then, but assuming Apple doesn't make any uncharacteristic slip-ups, the iPhone 13 will likely be one of the best phones released in 2021.

Richard Priday

Richard is a Tom's Guide staff writer based in London, covering news, reviews and how-tos for phones, gaming, audio and whatever else people need advice on. 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.