When Apple launches its next high-end phones, the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max, it looks like the new handsets will steal a march from the company’s smallest screen, the Apple Watch. According to Mark Gurman in his latest Power On newsletter, this year’s Pro iPhones will have an always-on display.
Just like the Apple Watch Series 7—and lots of Android phones, by the way—the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max will show information on the screen persistently.
No longer will you need to tap the screen to show the time, which many of us do every day, more often than we imagine.
On the Apple Watch, it means that the full-brightness Watch face fades to something rather less bright but still visible, allowing a crafty glance at the Watch under the desk in a dull meeting, say.
With this new phone feature, you’ll be able to flick your eyes down to the iPhone 14 Pro on the table and catch sight of the time. Apple has already shown us that iOS 16 will have new-design lock screens, with more information shown through widgets.
We don’t yet know exactly how it will look on the phone, but since the widgets that are on offer include world time zones, weather, battery life and more, I’d say it’s likely the new iPhone lock screen will fade from full -color images to subtly muted versions with the time still visible.
I’d also guess that the solid digits of the clock will switch to hollowed-out numbers which are still easy to see but use less battery power. Note that the new iOS 16 lock screen clocks tend to feature thicker digits that can be hollowed out more easily. This new design is for me the clearest hint that always-on is coming.
Hollowed-out writing is how Apple does it on some Watch displays, so it seems likely to be replicated on the phone, I think. This has the benefit that it’s unlike the way any other phone shows an always-on screen.
Additionally, the new widgets are almost all monochrome, so they would look rather good on an always-on screen, right?
With Android phones, always-on displays tend to be just the time and digital indications of how many emails, texts or other notifications remain unread.
There are exceptions, notably Huawei’s P50 Pro, for instance, with cute, colorful animations that play on the screen at times.
Of course, the essence of the always-on screen is that it is only worth having if it doesn’t deplete the battery to any significant degree. Has Apple realized a way to maintain a graphically interesting display without reducing precious battery life?
It may be that the display on the iPhone 14 Pro will be able to slow the refresh rate to as low as 1Hz, instead of the 10Hz minimum on the iPhone 13 Pro. This may be enough to save battery life.
On the Apple Watch, it’s this system which means the Watch faces, in always-on standby mode, don’t show the second hand wheeling round, so the face is static. Something similar, surely, will be used on the iPhone 14 Pro, assuming it comes to pass.
Apple never worries about not being the first to launch a feature, but the company will likely want to have an always-on screen that betters rivals.