When it comes to smartphones, one major feature that is compared across brands is the camera performance. However, lately, another area where manufacturers are trying to outdo each other is in the display department. From a shift from LCDs to AMOLED panels; to special chips that upscale SDR to HDR; and to screens with high refresh rates – the display of a phone is now more important than ever.
The upcoming OnePlus 8 Pro will have a 120Hz refresh rate, just like the Galaxy S20 series and the OPPO Find X2. This refresh rate is even higher than that of the OnePlus 7 Pro, which has a 90Hz refresh rate.
While a display with a higher refresh rate brings a whole new experience to users, there is not a lot of content out there that takes advantage of this new feature on your phone as most videos you watch play at 24 fps or 30fps. To solve this problem of lack of content, OnePlus has come up with a solution, albeit not a unique one, but a first for the phone industry.
MEMC (Motion Estimation, Motion Compensation)
MEMC is a feature found in a lot of TVs and is infamously called the “Soap opera effect” because of the way it makes what you are watching look like a soap opera. On some TVs, it is called motion smoothing, and how it works is by artificially adding frames to a video with a low frame rate so that it has a higher frame rate and gives it that smooth effect.
As you can see, the clips are shown in the video above when the feature is turned on play much smoother than when the function is turned off. However, when playback is set to slow motion, you can see the level of detail is low when MEMC is on.
However, it has its disadvantages, and a lot of movie directors are against watching a movie with the feature turned on.
MEMC in phones
Back in January, Pete Lau, CEO and founder of OnePlus, revealed that they had created a custom MEMC chip that can “push ordinary 30fps video to 120fps, so the video takes advantage of our 120Hz Fluid Display”.
Since we know the OnePlus 8 Pro is the one with a 120Hz Fluid Display, it will come with the MEMC chip. The OnePlus 8 has a 90Hz display and most likely won’t have the chip.
Up until now, no smartphone has launched with a feature to upscale the frame rate of a video you are watching. The highest we have seen on the phone is the upscaling of SDR to HDR. Some of HMD Global’s new phones, including the Nokia 7.2 and Nokia 6.2, can do this with the aid of a built-in Pixelworks visual processor.
OnePlus’s MEMC chip will use what it calls High Frame 2.0 to convert content from a lower frame rate to a higher frame rate. The manufacturer even released a list of apps that are supported, and it includes YouTube, Netflix, Hotstar, MXPlayer, VLC, Prime Video, and also the Gallery app on your phone.
OnePlus is not limiting the feature to just video players and streaming apps but also includes games such as Vain Glory. At launch, the function will work with a total of 12 video players and streaming apps and 12 games. More apps and games are expected to be added in the future.
Disadvantages of MEMC in phones
The significant and only problem we believe it will bring is a reduction in battery life. Just as using your phone at the highest refresh rate will affect battery life, High Frame 2.0 is also expected to drain your battery further faster.
OnePlus has not yet said anything about it yet and may have actually found a way to minimize battery drain, but it will still be there. However, we expect there will be a way to turn off the feature to conserve battery or if you do not like it in the first place.
Will more manufacturers follow in OnePlus’ footsteps?
Most likely. If the feature is well received, we may see other phones with high refresh rates come with a similar or improved function. A lot more people consume content on their phones from movies to TV shows and even sports games, which benefit most from motion smoothing. So this looks like a feature that may become standard in flagship phones in a year or two.