Home General The Surge of Fast Refresh Rates on Mobile Devices

The Surge of Fast Refresh Rates on Mobile Devices

by Olufisayo
Antrix Corporate Solutions Ltd
mobile refresh rates

Innovation is not a word I’d use to describe today’s smartphones.  Sure, Samsung tried something new with their curved screens, and some companies have toyed with ways to hide the front-facing camera, such as the pop-up camera, but that’s it.

And while smartphone manufacturers have been trying to breathe some life into the dormant industry, they’ve all been considered a gimmick or haven’t found their wings.  Take the Galaxy Fold, for instance, an innovative idea that failed with reviewers and is now delayed indefinitely.

However, there is one trend that, while I wouldn’t call in innovative, is a change that phones have been needing for quite some time: high refresh rates.

Starting a Trend

In 2017, there were two companies that released mobile devices with high refresh rates: Apple and Razer.

Apple released the first lineup of its iPad Pro models, and what separated the iPad Pro from the regular iPad was its screen.  The screen sported a high resolution, vivid colors, all that jazz, but what really set it apart from the iPad was its high refresh rate.

Dubbing the 120hz screen as “ProMotion” technology, the iPad Pro used an adaptive refresh rate that could go all the way to 120hz, creating a smooth user experience.  Go use an iPad Pro and then go back to a regular iPad.  It’s almost as hard as using a public network after your VPN trial has expired.  You can do it, but it doesn’t feel right.

But that was a tablet.  The high refresh rate has its use on tablets besides feeling smooth; artists and designers need high refresh rates to draw with as low a latency as possible, for example.

However, gaming-centric company Razer released the Razer Phone at the end of the same year.  The phone was marketed towards the gaming market(duh!), and high refresh rates are valuable to competitive gamers.  As a result, the Razer Phone sported an adaptive 120hz screen, with the Razer Phone 2 following its footsteps.

Raising a Trend

Ever since then, high refresh rate screens have become more popular in the mainstream market as opposed to before, where the only people worried about refresh rates were gamers and professionals.

ASUS released their 90hz ROG Phone in 2018, with the imminent ROG Phone 2 having a 120hz screen.  Other companies have joined in that are not gaming-centric though, such as OnePlus with the 7 Pro and Nubia with the Red Magic 3.

Apple’s 2020 iPhone is even rumored to be incorporating the aforementioned ProMotion display.  So, with major smartphone companies jumping onto the refresh rate bandwagon, there’s one question that needs to be asked:

Why now?

Affording a Trend

A major obstacle to adopting high refresh rate screens is power.  A 120hz screen will take more horsepower to run than the standard 60hz.

And while you may not need much power to hit the 120hz cap, smartphone manufacturers need to manufacture their phones in a way that satisfies the general audience.  You can hit 120hz on a phone’s home screen with low-power components, but what about in games?  Design programs like Photoshop?  What if you have multiple apps open?

With an increase in power also comes an increase in the need for cooling.  Early phones could get away with passive cooling i.e. no fans or heat-pipes.  However, modern smartphones use fans, heat-pipes, water-cooling and various other methods to keep the components inside cool.

Keeping components cool in such a small area is difficult and achieving perfect cooling with high-power components is difficult.  Until now, keeping the processor cool while sporting a high refresh rate screen and powerful components was a tall task.

However, just like computers, manufacturers have incorporated new designs to make sure that phones won’t burn your hand while you’re playing the latest game or taking notes.

I’m all for this trend, though.  Having used an iPad Pro for a while, I loathe my iPhone not sporting the same ProMotion technology.  But hey, maybe in 2020.

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