Patent application suggests Apple Watch may be gaining an always-on display

Late last week, the United States Patent & Trademark Office published two patent applications that relate to Apple Watch either remotely or specifically. Put together, online chatter now suggests an always-on display mode could soon be coming for the wearable device.

According to a patent application published on Aug. 30, Apple is addressing the so-called “burn-in” situation long associated with organic light emitting diode (OLED) displays. The company envisions compensating for burn-in by artificially adjusting the brightness and colors of areas of the screen and then store the burn-in statistics more efficiently.

Apple explains:

Notably, such burn-in statistics can take the form of a high-resolution, multiple-channel image that consumes a considerable amount of storage space within the computing device in which the OLED display is included. For obvious reasons, this consumption can dissatisfy users as their overall expected amount of available storage space is reduced for seemingly unknown reasons. It is therefore desirable to store the burn-in statistics in a more efficient manner.

Patently Apple was the first to point out the five solutions detailed by Apple in the application, including:

In particular, a first operation involves applying an invertible transformation to the at least two sub-pixel values for the modified pixel to produce an equal number of transformed sub-pixel values.

A second operation involves applying a predictive coding to at least one of the transformed sub-pixel values of the modified pixel, where applying the predictive coding involves establishing a differential value by subtracting a corresponding and previously-processed sub-pixel value from the at least one of the transformed sub-pixel values.

A third operation involves encoding the differential value into two corresponding bytes, and encoding each of the other transformed sub-pixel values (different from the at least one of the transformed sub-pixel values) into respective two corresponding bytes.

A fourth operation involves serially storing the corresponding bytes as a data stream into a buffer.

Finally, a fifth operation involves compressing the data stream in the buffer, where the outputs of the compressed data streams for each of the modified pixels are continuously joined together to produce a compressed image.

Some Apple Watch users have long wanted Cupertino to offer an always-on display mode. Others, however, have questioned whether it’s even needed since activating the Apple Watch display is as simple as shifting your wrist to look at it. On Reddit, where a discussion on the Patently Apple post began, there are messages from those in both camps.

Of an always-on display, one poster says, “I hope so. My watch currently looks like an alarm for old people. Having a watch face that’s always on would make things look a little better.”

Still another: “If you’ve worn a normal watch for any length of time you’ll realize why people are clamoring for an always-on display. It might not seem like a big deal but in practice it’s so much more convenient to look down and always have the time visible.”

Others are concerned about battery life, with one noting, “i dont see the need for an always on setting and the battery life would be problematic, but hey if people want it no bother to me :)”

Nonsense, says another: “It wouldn’t affect battery life. Android watches have had it since the first gen. OLED minimalist monochrome display mode would only activate a few pixels at low brightness.”

Apple’s burn-in patent application arrived on the same day as one associated with larger Apple Watch displays and how they relate to smoother edges.

The company explains that “hardware-based antialiasing techniques may be used to smooth the appearance of images along the curved edges of display 14. In particular, the strengths of pixels along the curved edges may be arranged in an antialiasing pattern that visually smooths content that is displayed on the display along the curved edge and reduces undesired jagged image artifacts.”

For months, rumors have suggested the next Apple Watch would include a display that’s 15 percent larger than the current model. Last week, an image leaked apparently showing the new wearable device with a larger display.

We will certainly hear more about the next-generation Apple Watch at the company’s Sept. 12 “Gather round” event. It’s almost certain Apple’s next wearable device will have a larger display. However, the publication of one patent application doesn’t necessarily mean an always-on display is coming at the same time.

In the meantime, where do you stand? Do you want an always-on display on your Apple Watch? Let us know below.