Apple Watch Sport has better display than pricier models

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Is Apple Watch demand waning?
Apple Watch already has a ton of apps. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Apple is pushing into new territory with the Apple Watch, by making it the first device to come from Cupertino that uses an OLED display. One of the reasons Apple’s never brought OLED displays to the iPhone is they’re more challenging to engineer than long-established LCDs.

Apple hasn’t given us too many details about the Apple Watch’s display yet, other than telling us it’s a ‘Flexible Retina Display’ but the team over at DisplayMate have put the new display to the test, and came away with a shocking discovery: Apple Watch Sport has a better display than the Apple Watch Edition.

The regular Apple Watch and Edition models are more scratch resistant than the Apple Watch Sport thanks to their sapphire crystal displays. Using sapphire does come with it’s drawbacks though, as DisplayMate notes it reflects about twice as much ambient light as glass.

After running a myriad of tests, DisplayMate found that the reflectance of an Apple Watch with sapphire crystal is 8.2 percent, which is nearly double the reflectance of Ion-X glass.

“Apple has done an excellent job in optically bonding the sapphire to the OLED display without an air gap. However, the Reflectance of the iPhone 6 with Ion-X cover glass is only 4.6 percent, so the Apple Watch with a sapphire crystal reflects 178 percent of the amount of light reflected by the iPhone 6.”

DisplayMate didn’t test an Apple Watch Sport with Ion-X glass but expects they’d get similar results to the iPhone 6. Rather than using sapphire in the Sport, Apple used the same ‘Ion-X’ strengthened glass that’s used in the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. Using sapphire instead of glass can be a major issue for smartwatches because doubling the amount of light reflected will significantly wash out the display’s own light, leading to worse contrast and saturation, and making it harder to see the image.

For a full rundown on DisplayMate’s exhaustive testing, head over to their Apple Watch shootout recap.