Discover more from Legendary Scoop
The iPhone 14 Pro's always-on display is great
I never thought I'd say that, but here we are.
The subject of this post is one that I never thought I’d type.
When the iPhone 14 Pro and 14 Pro Max came out, many were excited about the always-on display. It’s a feature that Android phones have had for more years than I can count, yet Apple is just now bringing it to the iPhone five years after it switched to OLED. Better late than never, I suppose.
Early impressions were mostly positive, with many expecting to see a delightfully unique AOD whenever they put their iPhone to sleep thanks to Apple’s customizations. Unlike other manufacturers, the Cupertino company decided to integrate your lock screen’s wallpaper to make it feel unique. It was a bold choice to begin with, but I’m not sure Apple was expecting the response it got once the feature reached the general public.
Finding a reviewer who actually likes the iPhone’s always-on display is virtually impossible, because it’s not good. The wallpaper, coupled with the persistent clock and notifications, makes it seem like your iPhone isn’t asleep at all. Instead, because there’s so much going on, it feels like you just received a notification and your phone lit up. Plus, it was plagued with battery drain issues while enabled, with many reviewers reporting their iPhones drained around an extra five to 10 percent by having the feature on.
Here’s what I said in my review of the iPhone 14 Pro Max:
The final product is an always-on display that, oddly, takes some getting used to. If you’ve used an always-on display in the past, you’re probably used to it fading to black before a simple white clock appears with a few other tidbits of information. The iPhone does this a lot differently: it just darkens your lock screen, keeping things like notifications and widgets perfectly visible.
It’s pretty jarring compared to something like the Pixel 7 Pro’s always-on display which is just a clock, the date, and weather. If your iPhone’s sitting on your desk, it’s easy to get tripped out and think it never went to sleep and the lock screen is still active. There’s also
no way to customize itwithout making changes to the lock screen itself. There’s a single toggle in the Settings app to turn it on or off, so you can’t ask it to avoid showing your wallpaper or notifications if you want.
The worst part is it drains your battery. It’s a difference of about 5-10 percent depending on how much time it spends out of my pocket (it turns itself off when inside your pocket or bag), and that’s way to much for me to keep it turned on. For a vast majority of my testing period, I had AOD disabled. It’s just not worth the battery sacrifice.
You’re probably wondering why I think the AOD is great all of a sudden with a review like that. Well, if you’ll notice, I crossed out five words in the second paragraph because, as of this week, that changed: there is a way to customize the always-on display, all thanks to iOS 16.2.
It’s easy to get distracted by a few of the big features shipping in iOS 16.2 - Advanced Data Protection, Apple Music Sing, and Freeform are some of them. But to me, the biggest new feature is one exclusive to the iPhone 14 Pro series: the ability to customize the always-on display
If you go to Settings > Display & Brightness > Always On Display, you’ll notice a couple of new toggles when you turn it on. You can individually turn off the wallpaper or notification list if you don’t want them to appear, which instantly makes the AOD a billion times better. All I ask for from an always-on display is a black background with a clock on top of it, and that’s now possible thanks to iOS 16.2.
Unfortunately, there’s nothing else you can do to the AOD beyond what you can already do with the lock screen, but to say this is a step in the right direction almost minimizes its significance. These controls are precisely what users were asking for, and Apple delivered them.
Given the fact the update was just released (and I’ve been running a beta version of iOS 16.2 up until this point), I can’t say whether battery life is any better without the wallpaper constantly on. I’ll be testing for that over the next week (follow me on Twitter for updates), but I suspect it’ll at least improve by a small margin.
At the end of the day, I’m just glad I have some control over the iPhone’s always-on display. No, it’s not as extensive as something like a Samsung or OnePlus phone, but I don’t care. When my iPhone is sitting on my desk, I’m not longer fooled into thinking I just got a notification; I can tell that my phone is asleep and just showing me the time, nothing more, nothing less. And that’s great.