We’re Going Matte to the Future

A pair of rumors are circulating about the screens on future Apple devices.

Up first, we have Chance Miller, writing at 9to5Mac:

A new rumor today says that Apple has invested billions in a new coating technology for future iPhone displays. This technology would allegedly make future iPhone displays “more scratch-resistant” and add a new anti-reflection layer, but it won’t be ready for the iPhone 16 this year.

The rumor comes from the account Instant Digital on Weibo, which has previously shared accurate information about upcoming iPhone announcements. Apple has reportedly developed equipment that adds a “super-hard” anti-reflective layer to the iPhone’s display, which is also more scratch-resistant than before.

This report notes that the work needed to create these displays at scale is just now underway, with the designs “only recently handed over to Apple’s supply chain partners,” hence the belief that this won’t be coming to the iPhone 16 line this fall.

Next, we have Hartley Charlton, writing at MacRumors on another report by Instant Digital that claims that the next iPad Pro will have a matte screen option. Charlton writes:

The Weibo user explained that the iPad Pro’s new matte display option will be offered in addition to the standard, glossy glass finish. It apparently features -4° to +29° of haze and may tout some kind of blue-light blocking technology to help protect the eyes. Matte screen protectors for the iPad have become popular, so it is possible that Apple is trying to offer such an option at the point of purchase for those who want it.

It is not known if the matte display option will be “nano-texture” glass like on the Pro Display XDR and Studio Display, but it seems plausible. Nano-texture glass is effectively a matte finish that scatters light to minimize glare, which is ideal in environments with bright light sources. While matte screen coatings effectively reduce reflections, they also make the image slightly more dull and hazy. Nano-texture glass features an etched surface to help preserve image quality.

I would expect that if these reports are true, these new matte screens would not be like the nano-texture glass used by Apple on the Pro Display XDR, Studio Display and the old 27-inch iMac. While its anti-glare properties seem very desirable in a mobile device like an iPad, it comes with a cost when it comes to keeping the screen clean. Here’s how Apple directs users to care of the screen:

If your Apple Studio Display, Apple Pro Display XDR, or iMac has nano-texture glass, follow these important guidelines to prevent damage when cleaning the screen.

To remove dust or smudges from the nano-texture glass screen, use only the polishing cloth that came with your Studio Display, Pro Display XDR, or iMac.

For infrequent cleaning of hard-to-remove smudges, you can moisten the cloth with a 70-percent isopropyl alcohol (IPA) solution.

Never use any other cloth to clean the nano-texture glass. If you lose the included cloth, you can order a replacement polishing cloth.

That said, if the iPhone report is correct, whatever Apple has cooking up for the iPhone isn’t going to be ready for iPads that are due any time now. Maybe the company would apply its existing nano-texture glass to a high-end iPad Pro, despite its complexity, and wait for something that would theoretically be easier to care for to come along for the iPhone, which vastly outsells the iPad.

However this shakes out, I think making the iPad and iPhone less glossy is very interesting. Screen brightness can overcome a lot of glare, but if Apple can make its devices less reflective, without harming what makes its displays so great, I’m all for it.