Apple Watch could get always-on display mode

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Apple is fighting OLED burn-in for an always-on display.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Apple is developing an always-on display mode for Apple Watch, a new patent application reveals.

The feature would give users the ability to see the time — and possibly other information — without having to raise their wrist every time. But Apple wants to make sure OLED burn-in doesn’t become a problem.

Rival smartwatches already offer always-on displays, but in its three-year history, Apple Watch has failed to catch up. There are several reasons for that, such as its impact on battery life and the risk that the feature could ruin Apple Watch’s OLED display.

But it seems Apple is working on a solution to one of those problems.

Apple fights OLED burn-in for Apple Watch

Apple hasn’t found a way to prevent to burn-in entirely, but it is working on ways to fight it using brightness and color adjustment methods.

“Organic light-emitting diode (OLED) displays–which are becoming a popular choice for computing device displays–can degrade in a non-uniform manner over their lifespans and lead to unwanted color/brightness artifacts,” Apple explains.

“To address this concern, burn-in statistics–which record historical usage information associated with a given OLED display–can be used to artificially adjust the operation of the OLED display to substantially restore visual uniformity throughout its operation.”

Apple notes that these statistics, which can take the form of a high-resolution, multiple-channel image, consume a “considerable amount of storage space” that can “dissatisfy users as their overall expected amount of available storage space is reduced for seemingly unknown reasons.”

Apple wants to find a way to store these statistics in a more efficient manner.

Always-on Apple Watch

Unsurprisingly, this patent application has led to all kinds of speculation about an always-on display for Apple Watch, which some fans believe to be the most-requested feature for a future model.

It would certainly be handy to see certain information at all times, without having to raise your wrist. However, Apple Watch’s raise-to-wake functionality is so good that an always-on display isn’t exactly missed.

We’ll find out whether this feature will be available on the next Apple Watch on September 12, when we expect Apple to make its Series 4 models official. Recent leaks have hinted at larger, edge-to-edge displays that offer more room for additional complications.