The Apple Watch might be getting always-on mode
The patent in question is called “Compression Techniques for Burn-In on OLED Displays”. Burn-In is an effect that can happen to regular displays as well but is more common in OLED Displays. The pixels that emit the main colors in an OLED display are made from different materials and they degrade at a their own rate. If a display has the same image on it for a prolonged time, it can cause the pixels to degrade to a point that they can’t display other images properly.
For example, if an OLED watch is displaying the time constantly, the number showing the hour or the colon between the hour and the minutes can cause burn-in. Phone manufacturers that have the always-on function for their OLED displays avoid that by having the displayed information slowly move up and down the display, but smart watch displays are much smaller.
The way Apple wants to avoid that is by improving the methods of gathering and storing data about each pixel’s usage. This will allow the device to automatically make adjustments to the pixels that are subjected to burn-in, so that the display doesn’t have any changes noticeable by the user.
This isn’t limited to the always-on functionality, Apple’s data could have showed uneven degradation during regular use of their current models as well, so it might be looking to improve on that rather than adding a new feature.
The patent was published this week, but that doesn’t mean we can’t potentially see the always-on functionality in the new Apple Watch, which is about to be announced next week, since it was filed by Apple in August 2017.