What is the Apple ProMotion display?

Apple has been putting “ProMotion” screens on various devices for several years. The label is a marketing term for a technology that is not unique to Apple hardware but offers some tangible benefits over smaller screens.

Reset the ProMotion screens at 120 Hz

In order for the display to be labeled ProMotion, it must have a maximum refresh rate of 120 Hz. The refresh rate of the display indicates how often the display is updated in one second. Most displays, including standard non-ProMotion iPhones and iPads, use a 60Hz display.

ProMotion displays are also adaptive, which means they can adjust their refresh rates to suit what you’re doing. When playing games, you can use a full refresh rate of 120 Hz for smooth gaming, but if you just stare at a static screen, your tablet or smartphone can reduce the refresh rate to your liking.

That’s why the ProMotion display in the iPhone 13 family is advertised with a range of 10 Hz to 120 Hz. At the lowest refresh rate, iPhone 13 will refresh the screen only 10 times per second.

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Advantages of the ProMotion display

The obvious advantage of a higher refresh rate is smoother scrolling on the screen, whether you’re browsing social media, browsing the web, or playing a game. When you double the refresh rate, you effectively double the amount of feedback that your clicks and swipes generate.

This leads to a more pleasant user experience, where performing various tasks is smoother and quicker. It can even give you an advantage when playing games, because you have twice the theoretical output of images compared to a 60Hz display. This is only the case if the tablet or smartphone has a GPU that is powerful enough to match the higher refresh rate.

Advantages of the ProMotion display
Photo by XPS on Unsplash

Drawing with the Apple Pencil also benefits from a higher refresh rate because the latency is lower before digital ink appears on the screen (only 20 ms on the latest models). This leads to more natural writing and drawing.

Because the screen adjusts the refresh rate according to what you do, ProMotion devices can extend battery life by avoiding unnecessary refreshes. For example, iPhone lowers the refresh rate when you’re looking at a still photo, and then swipe to the next to dynamically return it to “smooth” levels.

It is similar to the variable refresh rate technology that is now common on most game monitors and the latest consoles. The big difference is that players use this technology to prevent the screen from tearing and not to save battery power.

Available for iPhone Pro and iPad Pro (for now)

ProMotion displays can be found in both iPad Pro and iPhone 13 Pro models. The regular iPhone 13 does not have a ProMotion display.

Apple obviously loves the brand’s features, such as higher refresh rate displays with its own terminology, as was the case with AirPods and Adaptive EQ.

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