Apple is debuting its first ever AMOLED screen in the forthcoming Apple Watch. But despite this new technology, the company is trying its best not to use the edges of the screen, surrounding apps and pretty much everything on the screen with a black border.
Developer Craig Hockenberry has published a post looking at the limitations of different types of screens. He points out that Apple is moving away from LCD screens (which are found in iPhones and iPods) in favour of the new AMOLED tech. And it’s a bigger change than you might think.
For starters, a key difference between the Apple Watch screen and the iPhone screen is that there’s no backlight behind the Apple Watch screen. It’s the screen itself that lights up, reducing the space needed to store all the different layers. Hockenberry makes an interesting point about the kind of screens used for the Apple Watch: They don’t last forever. In fact, he says that the lifespan of OLED screens is “tens of thousands of hours.” “Don’t expect your [Apple Watch] to become a family heirloom,” he says.
There have also been reports that the AMOLED screen in the Apple Watch has been causing problems for Apple. A story in UDN Mobile claimed that Apple halved its shipment targets for the Apple Watch from between 2.5 to 3 million units to between 1.25 and 1.5 million units. UDN Mobile says it talked to supply chain sources who claimed that issues with the AMOLED screen had caused the issue. (Even if UDN Mobile’s estimates are overblown, another source has told Apple Insider that the device has seen production issues “at every stage of development.”)
The Apple Watch’s screen is also touched on in the New Yorker’s lengthy profile of Sir Jony Ive and Apple’s design team. Ive is quoted as he turns on the screen of his iPhone: “The whole of the display comes on,” he says. “That, to me, feels very, very old.”
Hockenberry writes that the Apple Watch screen relies on black pixels where possible, unlike the iPhone. Black pixels use far less battery because they require less energy to light them up. Most of the menus on the Apple Watch have black backgrounds, and screen elements rarely extend to the edge of the device, leaving a black border around apps that helps to save battery.
Here’s a photo from the original launch event for the Apple Watch, which shows black background and black borders around three apps:
The New Yorker profile of Apple’s design team also discusses the black borders on the Apple Watch’s screen. Designer Alan Dye says that he decided with Ive to leave the borders black and “avoid the edge of the screen as much as possible.”