No, it’s not as dumb a question as it seems. While keeping the full iPhone display on full-time would quickly drain the battery, there are ways of keeping a partial display on all the time to display time and notification alerts – and LG has today confirmed that its upcoming G5 flagship handset will do just that.
LG hasn’t explained the technology, but the graphic it teased on Facebook shows a mono display, which raises a couple of possibilities that perhaps the iPhone could consider …
The first possibility is an e-ink display on the back of the handset. This is the approach that Yota took with its phones: white on black in the first generation, black on white in the YotaPhone 2. Yota’s solution isn’t ideal when most people use cases, but LG’s graphic shows a relatively small display – something that could be accommodated by a cut-out in the back of cases.
The second possibility is to use a low-power mode on an OLED display. An OLED uses no power to display black pixels, so devoting a small area to a low-light mono display when the phone is not in active use could be a viable approach. (While the tiny battery means it’s not always-on, this is the approach Apple takes with Power Reserve mode on the Watch.)
It’s long been rumored that Apple plans to switch from its existing IPS LCD displays to OLED, and while these have come to nothing so far, the company is said to be close to agreement with suppliers. The smart money, however, is on Apple not making the switch until 2018, so we shouldn’t expect OLED on the iPhone 7.
Apple could also use a similar approach to the Watch, which switches on the display when you turn your wrist to face you. It could leave the screen totally off when the light sensor indicates that it’s in a pocket or bag, but when the light sensor says it’s in front of you, any motion could immediately light up the mono display of clock and notifications. If you just wanted to check the time, or see whether you’ve missed any notifications, simply picking up the phone or nudging it on your desk would do the job.
Would an always-on or motion-activated time-and-notification display be a good move for future iPhones? Take our poll, and share your thoughts in the comments.