Always-on displays explained

We explore the latest phone screen trend...
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Always-on displays explained

Always-on displays are set to become the next big thing, with the LG G5 set to launch with one this weekend. But what is an always-on display and why would you want one?

What is an always-on display?

An always-on display is exactly what it sounds like, a screen that’s always showing information. In your smartphone, that means the screen would always be showing you notification symbols so you don’t miss anything.

How does an always-on display work?

The biggest challenge with always-on displays is how to keep them on without using too much battery power. At the moment, there are three ways to do this:

Yotaphone e-ink always-on display1. Use an e-ink screen

Way back in 2012, Russian phone maker Yotaphone came up with an ingenious battery-saving idea for smartphones – put a secondary e-ink screen on the back for emergencies.

E-ink screens, like the ones found on Kindle eReaders, use no power at all to show a still image. That means they can show your latest notifications and only use power to update the image when new ones come through.

LG V10 always-on display2. Use a tiny second screen

Last year, LG launched the LG V10 smartphone in certain parts of the world. This high-end handset had an extra strip of screen next to the front-facing camera – a tiny always-on display.

Because it was so small, it could keep you updated with notifications, news and more with hardly any battery drain.

AMOLED always-on display3. Use OLED or AMOLED screens

OLED and AMOLED screens feel like the perfect solution to always-on displays’ power problems. They work in a unique way that means you wouldn’t need a second screen.

With both of these screens, each pixel lights up individually (regular screens are either completely lit or completely off). That means a small part of the screen could be left on to show notifications without using much battery.

Why would I want an always-on display?

With an always-on display, checking notifications would become a simple case of glancing at your phone’s screen. The average adult unlocks their phone 110 times a day, so checking notifications with a glance would save a lot of battery and time.

What are your thoughts? Join the conversation here…

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