iPhone 13 might have the highest refresh rate of any phone

iPhone 12
The iPhone 12 (Image credit: Future)

Despite phones like the Samsung Galaxy S21, OnePlus 8T and many others having a 120Hz refresh rate, the iPhone 12 range is stuck at 60Hz, but with the iPhone 13, Apple might leapfrog its competitors.

That theory comes from a recently-published Apple patent granted by the US Patent and Trademark Office, and spotted by Patently Apple. It’s a patent that details a phone display with multiple refresh modes, offering both a native refresh rate and the ability to operate at potentially several times that rate.

So, as an example, the native refresh rate might remain 60Hz, but the phone might be able to operate at two times that (for 120Hz), three times that (for 180Hz), or four times that (for 240Hz). In theory it might even be able to go higher, though 240Hz is the highest example given.

Some of the examples suggest that the native refresh rate could also be higher than 60Hz. If it’s 120Hz then it could reach 240Hz by simply operating at two times that.

By having two (or more) different refresh rates offered, you’d potentially be able to choose which you prefer. A higher refresh rate means the screen refreshes more frequently, which can make interactions feel smoother, but can also affect battery life, so you may want to stick with a lower rate.

Alternatively, it’s possible that this would function as a variable refresh rate – automatically switching refresh rates based on what’s most appropriate for the app or features you’re using.

A big upgrade

While some phones have edged above 120Hz, with, for example, the Lenovo Legion Phone Duel having a 144Hz refresh rate, no widely available ones have yet reached 240Hz, so if the iPhone 13 does go that high it could be a big win.

That said, there’s no guarantee that it will, or even that anything will come of this patent at all, But it’s not the first time we’ve heard that the iPhone 13 range might have at least a 120Hz refresh rate.

And while this patent primarily talks about the iPhone, it also mentions that these higher refresh rates could come to other Apple devices eventually, such as the Apple Watch or the iPad – though the iPad Pro range already has a 120Hz variable refresh rate.

James Rogerson

James is a freelance phones, tablets and wearables writer and sub-editor at TechRadar. He has a love for everything ‘smart’, from watches to lights, and can often be found arguing with AI assistants or drowning in the latest apps. James also contributes to 3G.co.uk, 4G.co.uk and 5G.co.uk and has written for T3, Digital Camera World, Clarity Media and others, with work on the web, in print and on TV.