The difference between LCD and OLED screens (and why they matter to your iPhone)

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Photo: LDECA studio (Shutterstock) – The fact that not all iPhone screens are created equal alters things. How frequently do you consider the display on your iPhone? Unless you’re a tech freak like me, or have already lived with a broken display, you might not have given it much attention. Otherwise, everything appears to be in good condition—what more do you need to know? You don’t have to be a techie to be concerned about the display on your iPhone. In fact, if you don’t know what sort you have, you might be missing out on some fantastic benefits.

What is an LCD display?

Let’s get this party started. iPhone screens are divided into two categories. The liquid-crystal display (LCD) is the first. Let’s have a look at two of the components that make LCDs operate to simplify the discussion (and this is a big simplification). The first are their pixels, which determine which colors show onscreen. Each pixel has three subpixels: one red, one green, and one blue, all of which have different intensities. When you go through Instagram, watch a YouTube video, or look at your photographs, that color mix generates the images that appear.

The backlight is the LCD’s second component. The backlight is a panel that lies behind the pixels and beams light through them so you can see what you’re looking at. When you alter the brightness of your display, you’re actually changing the backlight, which covers the entire display; think of it like a lightbulb—you can’t make one portion of it brighter while the other goes dimmer.

What is an OLED display, and how does it work?

OLED stands for organic light-emitting diode and is the other type of iPhone display. The primary distinction between LCD and OLED displays is that OLED panels do not have a backlight. The pixels, on the other hand, self-illuminate. Because each pixel stands out on its own rather than having a backlight that covers all surrounding pixels, you may have more finely detailed pictures. The largest advantage, and the one you’ll hear about the most, is that OLED cells can switch off on their own, providing remarkable contrast between light and dark pictures. iFixit provides a wonderful disassembly of each display type if you want a nice picture of how it works.

On an iPhone, the advantages of OLED

Here’s why: Assume you’re on your phone, watching a movie. When there are dark parts in the movie, your display will switch off. A night sky fades to black; if the film is widescreen or 4:3, the top and bottom bars, as well as the left and right bars, fade to black. It produces a really nice image, especially if you’re watching in a dimly light environment.

These are some of the reasons why I choose OLED TVs. The image is stunning, and letterboxing bars vanish when viewed in complete darkness; you only see the portion of the screen that you should see (whether it be super widescreen or the old square format).

When it comes to iPhones, the difference between an LCD and an OLED iPhone may be easily shown by filling each display with a black rectangle. The OLED iPhone would appear to be switched off, while the LCD iPhone’s display would remain black yet lit.

The ability of OLED pixels to turn themselves off has major consequences for battery life. You may save some battery life on your iPhone simply by utilizing dark mode, especially dark mode with black backgrounds. (Grey elements won’t turn the pixels off, so you’ll need all-black elements to keep your iPhone’s battery from needing to power every single pixel.)

What are the drawbacks of OLED technology?

Burn-in has always been the major issue with OLED panels. Unfortunately, you’ll notice this a lot with OLED TVs; after a long period of usage, the “shadow” of static pictures will appear on your screen. People who watch a lot of news, for example, complain that the chyron, news ticker, and outlet logo are always visible on their televisions.

However, Apple has done an excellent job of preventing burn-in on OLED iPhones, and it isn’t a popular issue. The first OLED iPhone, the X, has been on the market since 2017, and leftover images haven’t been a problem in that time. To put it another way, if you’re worried about burn-in, you don’t have to go out of your way to get an LCD iPhone.

What sort of screen is on your iPhone?

I’ve included every iPhone Apple has ever manufactured, along with the display type, in the table below. I’d like to know whether you’re still using any of these iPhones, as some of them are pretty old. There are no new LCD iPhones; the last one Apple released was the 2020 iPhone SE, and before that, the iPhone 11. OLED screens are used across the iPhone 12 and 13 lines.

iPhones with LCD displays

iPhone (2007), iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPhone 5C, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6S, iPhone 6S Plus, iPhone SE (1st Gen), iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone XR, iPhone 11, iPhone SE (1st Gen), iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone XR, iPhone 11, iPhone SE (2nd Gen).

iPhone with OLED Display

iPhone 11, iPhone 12 mini, iPhone 12 Pro, iPhone 12 Pro Max, iPhone 13, iPhone 13 mini, iPhone 13 Pro, iPhone 13 Pro Max, iPhone X, iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, iPhone 11 Pro, iPhone 11 Pro Max, iPhone 12, iPhone 12 mini, iPhone 12 Pro, iPhone 12 Pro Max, iPhone 13, iPhone 13 mini, iPhone 13 Pro, iPhone 13 Pro Max