ProMotion or Demotion: What Apple "needs" next year

by Uluroo — December 28, 2017

The first car was not the best. The first computer was not the best. Clearly, the first phone to have a 120Hz refresh rate will be the best.

New Year's resolutions are great. They're a chance to encourage change and improvements — and people like having goals to achieve or ignore. Well, Uluroo would really appreciate it if someone would introduce the concept of a New Year's resolution to some people in the technology press, because some pundits can't seem to shake the same old incorrect arguments about what Apple "must do."

Writing for The Motley Fool, Ashraf Eassa discusses "1 Feature Apple Inc. Needs to Bring to the 2018 iPhone X."

Ahead of the launch of Apple's hotly anticipated iPhone X, Bloomberg reported that it would include what Apple refers to as a ProMotion display. ProMotion display technology, which first debuted in the iPad Pros that Apple introduced in mid 2017, is simply Apple's marketing name for a display that can update its contents at a rate of 120 times per second (120 Hertz) -- twice as fast as current iPhone displays can.

Actually, ProMotion is more than just a 120 Hertz display, it's a display that can dynamically adjust its refresh rate to save power consumption. For example, it can boost the refresh rate when the user touches the screen to make gestures feel smoother.

Unfortunately, for whatever reason, the technology ultimately didn't make it onto the iPhone X.

Actually, it did, at least in the form Ashraf knows it. The iPhone X, like the iPad Pro, can boost the refresh rate of the screen whenever user interaction happens. This is, of course, not ProMotion because it doesn't have any more adaptability than that. But it still makes touch interaction really smooth on the iPhone X.

Uluroo mentions this because the 120Hz interaction refresh rate on the iPhone X significantly reduces the need for a full ProMotion display; it's nearly as good.

I think that if Apple can bring this technology to next year's iPhone X models, it could prove to be a huge selling point. Indeed, if a customer uses a next-gen iPhone X with a 120 Hz display in-store, she or he will probably find it uncomfortable to go back to using a phone with a 60 Hz display.

Well, if ProMotion does come to next year's iPhones (Uluroo certainly hopes it does), it will be less of a leap forward than the displays on the iPad Pros were. The smoothness Ashraf is talking about is already there for the most part — at least, where it matters. Uluroo already thinks the iPhone X's swipe-based gestures feel really smooth compared to the iPhone 8's from his tests in-store.

If Apple isn't first, then some other smartphone company -- probably either Samsung or Huawei -- will be able to market this important selling point. Apple would, of course, eventually follow, but not before the Android vendors could potentially capture share at Apple's expense.

Again, this would be less of a huge selling point for Samsung or Huawei because the iPhone X is already noticeably smoother. And Uluroo doubts that a ProMotion display would be enough to convince someone to choose Android over iOS, especially given that the iPhone X has a semi-ProMotion display already.

More generally, there seems to be a perception among some premium smartphone buyers that Android vendors are first to adopt new technologies and form factors and then Apple "copies" those features/characteristics.

This perception of Apple the copycat is another main reason a ProMotion display is not a "must" for the 2018 iPhone. Apple does not copy Android smartphone manufacturers. It takes its time to do better than them. Examples of Apple "copying" Android include OLED displays and facial recognition, and Apple skeptics will be quick to point out that Android had those first. But Uluroo is quick to note that the iPhone X's OLED display is better than any other one on the market. And that Face ID is superior to any Android phone's facial recognition.

Uluroo isn't saying Ashraf Eassa is one of the skeptics who think Apple copies Android, but he places too much value on Apple positioning itself as a company that does things first. Apple does not care about being first. It didn't make the first computer; it made the Macintosh, the best of its time. It didn't make the first smartphone; it made the iPhone, the best of its time. It didn't make the first smartwatch; it made the Apple Watch, the best (in Uluroo's opinion, at least) and bestselling ever. Apple does not need to be first in order to be innovative. It takes its time and doesn't rush features to market.

Uluroo hopes the 2018 iPhone has ProMotion, but so far, the technical constraints that come along with 120Hz don't seem to be worth it. The Razer Phone, the first to have a constant 120Hz refresh rate, has less than half the maximum brightness of the iPhone X's display. This is why Uluroo thinks Apple should make sure ProMotion on the iPhone will be an improvement, not a compromise. If that takes two more years, who cares if it's better?

Every year pundits tell Apple, along with other tech companies, what it "needs to" put in its products. Ashraf is telling Apple, "Oh no, someone else might beat you to this!" What he's ignoring is thats omeone — Razer — actually has beaten Apple to it — but the display has half the brightness of the iPhone X. While features like ProMotion would certainly be great, it doesn't seem that people consider that sometimes these things are not possible without compromise and Apple does not need to be first to have a feature. Also, it looks like we can add that they overplay the importance of such a feature.