The United States Patent & Trademark Office has granted Apple a patent that suggests a future iPhone could get a screen with a variable refresh rate going up to 240 Hz—or twice as much as in the iPadPro’s ProMotion display. While iPhone screens have remained stuck at 60 Hz, all iPad Pro models have had screens with a variable refresh rate of up to 120 Hz.

If this technology gets implemented in an iPhone, then a future model may bring even smoother scrolling and more precise gameplay because the smartphone would be able to automatically pick the best refresh rate based on what you’re doing.

“The native refresh rate may be 120 Hz and the high refresh rate may be 240 Hz,” Apple notes. “The native refresh rate may be 60 Hz and the high refresh rate may be 120 Hz, 180 Hz or 240 Hz.” A higher refresh rate is also important for augmented reality applications.

How a 240 Hz iPhone may work?

A photo of an iPhone X laid flat on the table with the Lock screen shown

If this gets implemented on an iPhone, it should work like on the iPad Pro. If you’re reading or scrolling something, a lower refresh rate will suffice. But as soon as you start playing a game or watching a video with a high frame rate, the device will ramp up the refresh rate.

While only a fraction of Apple patents gets used in actual products, this one could explain why we haven’t seen iPhone screens with a variable refresh rate.

What is ProMotion technology?

ProMotion is Apple’s marketing term for variable refresh rates. A refresh rate tells you how many times a display is redrawn every second (one Hertz equals to a single refresh). Displays featuring higher refresh rates are capable of delivering smoother motion content.A screenshot of the section of the Apple website explaining ProMotion technology on the iPad Pro

Rumors have been calling for a 120 Hz iPhone for years, but nothing concrete has materialized as of yet. We’re now waiting for the iPhone 13 family to reportedly bring ProMotion screens.

A display with a refresh rate higher than 60Hz will inevitably consume more power, and not just the display — the CPU, the GPU and the RAM are all under additional strain when the refresh rate goes up. Apple might be able to offset much of the increased battery life consumption by outfitting the next iPhone with a more power-efficient backplane along with a power-sipping LTPO display technology that should also enable always-on functionality.