New Apple patent suggests a future Apple Watch could have an always-on mode

Image of the Apple Watch in black and white

It's official, after months of speculation Apple has sent out invites to its annual special event, and they're dated September 12. We're fully expecting Apple to lift the lid on the new iPhone XS, and potentially even iPhone XS Plus.

There's also a good chance the Apple Watch 4 will be revealed at the same time and a recently filed Apple patent reveals plans to make big changes to the smartwatch's screen. 

The patent is all about addressing a problem faced by Apple, as well as other tech companies, and that's burn-in. Put simply it's when a screen is discolored, shows ghost images, text and image outlines or other noticeable patches or patterns. It's often caused by parts of a screen ageing quicker than others, so the color can still be seen in one area and not others. 

Redditors have been digging deep into the Apple patent, as well as another on Patently Apple that addresses not only burn-in, but the size and shape of the OLED display too. 

Burn in, burn off

Some have suggested that the burn-in solution, as well as other proposed changes, could mean Apple is working on a much-requested feature: an always-on screen. 

Although an always-on screen would certainly be handy, 9to5mac explains that the two biggest hurdles would be burn-in, which Apple is already addressing, as well as its effects on overall battery life. After all, there's no point in an always-on screen if it's only always-on for a few hours. 

It's hard to say whether the screen changes outlined in the patent will ever come to fruition, particularly anytime soon. But it's interesting to speculate about the ways the Apple might address problems related to screen burn-in either in the future or at the upcoming event, as well as implement features users clearly want to see - an always-on screen being at the top of many wishlists.

Becca Caddy

Becca is a contributor to TechRadar, a freelance journalist and author. She’s been writing about consumer tech and popular science for more than ten years, covering all kinds of topics, including why robots have eyes and whether we’ll experience the overview effect one day. She’s particularly interested in VR/AR, wearables, digital health, space tech and chatting to experts and academics about the future. She’s contributed to TechRadar, T3, Wired, New Scientist, The Guardian, Inverse and many more. Her first book, Screen Time, came out in January 2021 with Bonnier Books. She loves science-fiction, brutalist architecture, and spending too much time floating through space in virtual reality.