Apple exploring improved outdoor LCD viewing with sunglasses-friendly screens

in Future Apple Hardware edited January 2014
Apple has shown interest in creating an improved LCD display for devices like the iPhone and iPad that is not distorted when viewed by a user wearing polarized sunglasses outdoors.

The proposed new technology was revealed in a new patent application made public by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office this week and discovered by AppleInsider. Entitled "Display that Emits Circularly-Polarized Light," the proposed invention describes a liquid-crystal display that reduces perceived distortion when viewed through linearly polarizing filters, such as sunglasses.

In the application, Apple notes that current LCDs are based on polarization optics, and typically utilize linear polarizers on their front surfaces. The problem is that the light from LCDs typically has an electric field that only vibrates in one direction, while polarized sunglasses only allow through light with an electric field that vibrates in the vertical direction.

"Hence a user looking at the LCD display of a portable device... may see a distorted image in the display when viewed through polarized sunglasses, due to the polarized filters in the sunglasses blocking the light when the display is viewed at some angles," the application reads.

When an LCD display is seen through polarized sunglasses, at certain angles the screen may be completely dark or somewhat obscured. The issue can be made even worse when a lens cover is placed in front of a display for protection or industrial design, as these plastics can compound the issue with color and gray artifacts.

Apple's solution is a display that emits circularly polarized light by placing a layer in the path of linearly polarized light.

"The layer receives the linearly-polarized light on one surface, converts the linearly-polarized light to circularly-polarized light, and then emits the circularly-polarized light from another surface," the application reads. "By emitting circularly-polarized light, the display reduces the perceived distortion found at some angles when the display is viewed through a linearly-polarizing filter."

The invention would allow for superior outdoor viewing of displays, like iPhone or iPad screens, by reducing perceived distortion created when a user wears sunglasses.

Apple's adoption of glass screen covers and glossy displays has been a point of criticism against the company, as some have complained they make viewing of devices in sunlight near impossible. The company has even brought back antiglare matte screens to some of its MacBook Pro options as an optional $150 upgrade.

By creating a screen that could accommodate sunglasses, Apple would craft a new LCD that would allow a reduced amount of light to reach a user's eye without distorting the screen. This could improve the ability to use devices like an iPhone, iPad or MacBook Pro outdoors on a sunny day.

Apple first filed for the proposed invention in January of this year. It si credited to John Z. Zhong, Wei Chen, Cheng Chen, Victor H.E. Yin, and Shawn R. Gettemy.


  • Reply 1 of 17
    rabbit_coachrabbit_coach Posts: 1,114member
    And the anti glare trolling starts in 1.. 2.. 3..

    But good on apple. I did't know that they do research in that direction. I just assumed they would depend on their suppliers, as to what possible screen optics they will use in their devices.
  • Reply 2 of 17
    bloggerblogbloggerblog Posts: 2,475member
    Yeah, I was wondering why while wearing my sunglasses when I hold my iPhone in landscape, the screen dims drastically.

    Apple should also consider applying a layer manufacturers use for "Driving" sunglasses, that layer makes glare disappear off of cars' windshields. It's very effective.
  • Reply 3 of 17
    jensonbjensonb Posts: 532member
    I think that's super cool. I love my polarised prescription sunglasses and if Apple issues an iPhone with a screen which is more friendly to them, I'd be delighted.
  • Reply 4 of 17
    galleygalley Posts: 971member
    I was very disappointed the first time I used my iPad outdoors. I couldn't see a damned thing! Later, I realize it was due to my polarized sunglasses.
  • Reply 5 of 17
    Try holding the iPad in landscape. I can't see a thing with my Maui Jim's in portrait, but all is well in landscape.
  • Reply 6 of 17
    This was a pretty major issue on my iPhone before the retina screen. Something about the doubled display has made it much less noticeable. I so see it occasionally on my iPad, but I don't use it in direct sunlight a fraction as often as my iPhone.
  • Reply 7 of 17
    Originally Posted by AZtransplant View Post

    Try holding the iPad in landscape. I can't see a thing with my Maui Jim's in portrait, but all is well in landscape.

    Strange but true.. good tip
  • Reply 8 of 17
    myapplelovemyapplelove Posts: 1,515member
    better antiglare in the glass, that's what's required, period.
  • Reply 9 of 17
    charlitunacharlituna Posts: 7,217member
    Originally Posted by Galley View Post

    I was very disappointed the first time I used my iPad outdoors. I couldn't see a damned thing! Later, I realize it was due to my polarized sunglasses.

    I can't see a damned thing with or without sunglasses.

    I would rather see Apple improve the backlight and the glare first and worry about fancier stuff later. As would probably a lot of people.

    but I will give them points for not ignoring the detail that their stuff really isn't awesome to use outside. Admittance of the problem is an important first step. Even if they won't admit it out loud to the customers
  • Reply 10 of 17
    joelsaltjoelsalt Posts: 827member
    Originally Posted by Boogerman2000 View Post

    Strange but true.. good tip

    Well the iPad only emits light in one direction, so when held vertical the light is vertical, and when in landscape, its horizontal (or vice versa, i dunno).

    The accelerometer flips the screen, the but the backlight doesn't "flip," if you know what I mean.

  • Reply 11 of 17
    nagrommenagromme Posts: 2,834member
    I like the screens (I think the iPhone but not the iPad?) that are diagonally polarized. They are affected by sunglasses in either orientation, BUT they can at least be seen in both orientations. (They go dark at the 45-degree angle you don?t generally hold your device at.) I can?t remember which of my many devices has that!

    Circular sounds even better though.
  • Reply 12 of 17
    prof. peabodyprof. peabody Posts: 2,860member
    Originally Posted by bloggerblog View Post

    Yeah, I was wondering why while wearing my sunglasses when I hold my iPhone in landscape, the screen dims drastically. ....

    This could actually be a good test of sunglasses. If the polarisation is done right, the image should disappear almost completely in one orientation. If it just dims a bit, then the glasses are not doing their job as well.
  • Reply 13 of 17
    jerseymacjerseymac Posts: 408member
    Originally Posted by Rabbit_Coach View Post

    And the anti glare trolling starts in 1.. 2.. 3...

    Okay, I'll bite. If apple wants to improve the display for outside viewing then get rid of the gawd awful gloss.

    I know. I'm totally wrong on this matter.
  • Reply 14 of 17
    brookstbrookst Posts: 62member
    I use both iPad and iPhone outdoors quite a bit. Turns out the iPad is polarized so it works well in landscape and is invisible in portrait, while iPhone is the other way around. Neither is visible in direct sunlight, but both work fine in bright environments where sun isn't actually hitting the screen.
  • Reply 15 of 17
    haggarhaggar Posts: 1,568member
    Would this also improve indoor glossy screen viewing?
  • Reply 16 of 17
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 33,407member
    Wait a minute... wouldn't this be a vast improvement over current LCD 3-D TV's?
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