One of the innovative bits of technical wizardry in last year’s iPhone 14 Pro was the Always-On display. It’s a marvel, displaying helpful information on a dimmed screen while using minimal extra power. Apple debuted the Always-On display with the Apple Watch four years ago (see “Apple Watch Series 5 Introduces Always-On Display,” 10 September 2019), and the company’s engineers must have thought, “Hey, let’s do that with the iPhone, too.” Unsurprisingly, the new iPhone 15 Pro models retain the Always-On display, and it seems no different than the iPhone 14 Pro’s version.
We have now had a year to live with the Always-On display—enough time for the novelty to have worn off—which caused me to wonder if I am unusual in not liking it. Our poll showed that I’m by no means alone among TidBITS readers. Roughly a third of respondents said they had turned off the Always-On display, but nearly two-thirds keep it on.
Always-On fans gave expected reasons for liking it—it provides valuable information at a glance, most notably the date and time. Other Lock Screen information that people like being able to see includes timers, device battery life, and tracking of delivery or ride requests. Most people appreciated seeing Lock Screen photos of loved ones and pets.
Simultaneously, many of the naysayers said they found Lock Screen information distracting, even though Apple provides switches to hide the wallpaper and notifications while keeping the date, time, and widgets visible on an otherwise black screen. Plus, I imagine that some people are like me and find that a completely dark screen doesn’t trigger as much desire to pick up the iPhone as does a visible interface. Of course, putting the iPhone face down on a surface would have much the same effect, although an incoming notification wouldn’t then wake the screen in a helpful way. When I enabled the Always-On display for a while during the poll, just to see if my opinions had changed, I found that I couldn’t stop looking at the iPhone screen when it was within my sight, which wasn’t true when it was dark.
The other common rationale for turning off the Always-On display was to improve battery life. Although Apple says it uses “new technologies that make the display incredibly power efficient,” keeping the Always-On display active does consume some power. How much that affects everyday usage seems to vary, with some people seeing no practical impact and others finding that it makes a real difference. One person reported that Apple support had suggested that he turn off Always-On to help with his iPhone 14 Pro dying after 10–12 hours.
Ultimately, there’s no correct answer here—you should do what you like. If you find the Always-On display distracting or want to make the most of your charge, turn it off in Settings > Display & Brightness. And if you like the idea but find it somewhat distracting, perhaps try turning off the wallpaper and notifications before deactivating it entirely.