updated 12:45 pm EDT, Thu November 3, 2011
Apple OLED patent would go opaque, translucent
A new Apple patent application published on Thursday hints that Apple may have a clever trick to let it solve the problems of OLEDs on the iPhone or other devices. Its "power efficient" display would have a transparent OLED with an opacity control and a solid white background layer. By exposing or blocking some or all of that layer, Apple said, an OLED screen could show white pixels without having to put the relevant part of the display at full power.
The approach could solve problems when using apps that have primarily white or bright backgrounds, such as book apps, e-mail, or text editors.
OLED screens have been valued for being potentially more efficient than LCDs by not needing to light up black pixels, which has the side benefit of producing very high contrast ratios and less strain in dark scenes. The technology has been a cornerstone of phones like the Samsung Galaxy S II, which still gets moderately good battery life in spite of its large screen. Many companies, however, end up designing their interfaces for OLED devices to carry a large amount of blacks and dark colors to avoid using more power than an LCD.
As with most patents, the OLED technology isn't necessarily a direct indicator of Apple's future product plans. Filed in April 2010, however, it does point to Apple at least keeping OLED open as an option for its mobile devices. The company has alluded in fiscal results calls to making a major investment similar to that it made for flash memory in 2005 that many have speculated could be in displays, although not necessarily OLEDs.