This messy Android feature could make the iPhone 14 a winner... if Apple gets it right

iPhone 13 Pro
An iPhone 13 Pro (Image credit: TechRadar)

It sounds like the iPhone 14 is going to bring a fair few changes from the iPhone 13, something we're all for, and one thing I'd love to see is an Always-On Display... if Apple can crack something that Android manufacturers seemingly can't.

An Always-On Display - or an AOD, as the feature is commonly shortened to - is a feature that shows some important pieces of information on your phone's display when it's not in use. Generally, this means the time, the battery percentage, and any new notifications that you need to see.

The vast majority of Android manufacturers offer phones with this feature, and it's something that even Apple does support in its newer Apple Watches, though currently neither iPhones nor iPads offer it.

But if the next iPhone does support this useful tool, Apple will need to learn from Android makers.

The Always-On gambit

When they work well, Always-On Displays can be pretty useful - when they don't, they can be an irritating feature that I've come to quickly deactivate. So far, I don't think I've tested a phone that does it just right.

I've tested ones that are good. Google Pixel phones, for example, have a useful feature so that if you tap on a notification icon, you can see some extra information - this saves you from having to unlock your phone to see if that WhatsApp message is an important communique from your mom, or just the nth comment in a busy and boring group chat.

The LG G5 with its always-on display

The LG G5 with its always-on display (Image credit: Future)

Lots of AODs offer some great customization too - the Oppo Find X5 Pro and OnePlus 10 Pro let you create line drawings based on portrait pictures, then use these sketches as your always-on display. Most other phone brands also let you put images, either your own photos or ones from a pre-designated list, to create a distinctive AOD.

But there are lots of problems that certain AODs face. They can increase battery drain quite significantly on certain phones, and I've also faced issues on loads of devices where they sometimes fail to load all the time.

So far there hasn't been a good mix between functionality and aesthetics, and for an AOD to be perfect, it needs to be both. That's where Apple could step in.

The iPhone 14 Always-On Display

Apple has shown a clear focus on software functionality in the last few years, introducing widgets in iOS 14 and actually making them useful sometime later. But design has also been important: consider iPadOS, which was a spin on iOS that makes the interface better designed for larger tablet screens, and the introduction of system-wide dark mode to Apple's devices.

If Apple could dip into both these points of interest, it could design an Always-On Display that looks good and works well - is that too much to ask?

There's no certainty that Apple is looking to introduce an Always-On Display to the iPhone 14, despite display tech changes making it much more plausible. But it is a surprising area where Apple hasn't caught up to Android makers, due to the (potential) usefulness of the feature, so we'd like to see it soon... if Apple can crack the code.

Tom Bedford

Tom Bedford was deputy phones editor on TechRadar until late 2022, having worked his way up from staff writer. Though he specialized in phones and tablets, he also took on other tech like electric scooters, smartwatches, fitness, mobile gaming and more. He is based in London, UK and now works for the entertainment site What To Watch.

He graduated in American Literature and Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia. Prior to working on TechRadar, he freelanced in tech, gaming and entertainment, and also spent many years working as a mixologist. He also currently works in film as a screenwriter, director and producer.