New Apple Retina displays may boast richer colors thanks to quantum dots

iPad Air
A splash of color

Apple's Retina displays have helped the iPhone and iPad reach new resolution limits, and soon Cupertino might do even more with the help of some sci-fi sounding dots.

The US Patent and Trademark Office published four new patent applications from Apple that were first spotted by Patently Apple. The most interesting of these new documents describes using quantum dots in tandem with Apple's microelectromechanical systems shutter control.

As noted in the patent, quantum dots may provide a way for enhancing the color gamut of displays. By replacing the regular LED phosphor, which often leaks out too much light and washes out colors, quantum dot screens can emit a much narrower and more specific spectrum of light.

Without getting into the scientific minutiae of nanocrystals, a quantum dot display, if used, would create richer and more accurate colors.

It's all about the backlight

Besides improving color, the other two patents suggest fine tuning the backlight with quantum dots.

More accurately, a dot-laden backlight sub-stack would produce a module with a mix of prisms, diffusers and light guides. Despite the added items it could be both thinner and more accurate.

Finally, a backlight dimming invention would fine-tune the enhanced backlight system using a stack of red, blue, and green quantum dot sheets to correct for any LED color shift.

Poppycock you say?

Before you blow off the concept as patent pipe dreams, quantum dot technology is already being used in the Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 7.

When Apple first introduced the Retina display in the iPhone 4, it grabbed eyes around the tech world. Since then though, other device makers have been catching up with 1080p capable smartphones and even higher resolution 4K tablets.

It seems now Apple is looking into newer technologies to put its Retina display back on top, and better color accuracy could be the edge it needs.

  • How do Retina displays look right now? Find out in our review of the iPad Air.
Kevin Lee

Kevin Lee was a former computing reporter at TechRadar. Kevin is now the SEO Updates Editor at IGN based in New York. He handles all of the best of tech buying guides while also dipping his hand in the entertainment and games evergreen content. Kevin has over eight years of experience in the tech and games publications with previous bylines at Polygon, PC World, and more. Outside of work, Kevin is major movie buff of cult and bad films. He also regularly plays flight & space sim and racing games. IRL he's a fan of archery, axe throwing, and board games.