The Dynamic Island wasn’t the only big change to the screen that Apple made with the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max – the company also gave them an always-on display. As with the Dynamic Island, this was exclusive to the Pro models, but will it remain a Pro-exclusive with the iPhone 15 line?
After all, the Dynamic Island – which we were big fans of in our iPhone 14 Pro review and iPhone 14 Pro Max review – is rumored to be trickling down to the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus, so it’s not unrealistic to think the always-on display could as well.
Below then, we’ll look at the rumors to see whether we're likely to get an iPhone 15 always-on display, and which models specifically will and won't have this feature. Before that though, we’ve included an overview of what an always-on display actually is, and what Apple’s take on it is like.
What is an always-on display?
An always-on display is much like what it sounds – a screen that’s never (or rarely) actually off. In practice, what that means is that when you press the power button to turn the screen off (or it turns off on its own through inactivity), it will still display some information, rather than going totally black and blank.
This could include things like the time, the date, and notifications. It’s a feature that Android phones have had for a while, but it only arrived on iPhones with the iPhone 14 Pro line.
Different phones handle it a bit differently, with most Android phones displaying the screen in black and white when the always-on display kicks in. This is likely both to conserve battery and make it not look like you’ve simply left the screen fully on. However, Apple’s approach involves color, albeit more muted shades than when you wake the phone up.
With Apple’s always-on display, you can optionally show the lock screen wallpaper and notifications, or you can disable one or both of those options. With both disabled, the always-on display will just show the time and any other widgets you’ve set up on your lock screen, against a black background.
Things like timers will also be shown, but you won’t see the seconds count down, you’ll just see the nearest minute.
Whether looking at Apple’s take or Android’s, a key aspect of an always-on display is a low refresh rate, so that the battery doesn’t drain as much as with the screen on.
In the case of the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max, the refresh rate drops all the way to 1Hz. That’s down from a maximum of 120Hz, when you’re actively using the phone, and it means there’s minimal pull on the battery – though there’s still some, so if you prioritize battery life above all else, you might want to disable the always-on display.
Will the iPhone 15 have an always-on display?
As noted above, Apple drops the refresh rate to 1Hz with the always-on display, and for that reason it’s looking unlikely that we'll get an iPhone 15 always-on display, because a leak suggests the iPhone 15 will stick with a 60Hz screen – one that can’t deviate from that refresh rate.
Slightly more recently, display expert Ross Young claimed on X (formerly known as Twitter) that the standard iPhone 15 will be stuck with an LTPS (Low-Temperature Polycrystalline Silicon) display, like last year. While no specific mention of an always-on display was made, that essentially rules out the ability to drop to 1Hz, as Apple requires LTPO (Low-Temperature Polycrystalline Oxide) displays for that.
In fact, Young went so far as to say that the standard iPhone models won’t get LTPO screens until the iPhone 17, in 2025.
With years and models this time: pic.twitter.com/hhSzXOWfwDApril 3, 2023
If these leaks are true, then the iPhone 15 almost certainly won’t have an always-on display, as it would probably drain too much battery.
That said, while no leaks have explicitly suggested the phone will have an always-on display, we haven’t heard anyone specifically say it won’t either, and only a couple of sources have even talked about the refresh rate. So while unlikely, it’s not impossible that the iPhone 15 will have an always-on screen.
What about the iPhone 15 Plus?
The leaks above specifically say that only the Pro models will have the ability to drop to a 1Hz refresh rate, and based on past form, we’d expect the iPhone 15 Plus to use the same screen technology as the standard iPhone 15 anyway.
All of which is to say, the iPhone 15 Plus probably won’t have an always-on display, and if the iPhone 15 doesn’t (as has been rumored) then again, the Plus almost certainly won’t either.
As with the iPhone 15, we can’t completely rule out this feature, but it’s looking unlikely, and with Apple rumored to be bringing the Dynamic Island and a 48MP camera to the standard and Plus models, it makes sense that it would hold some other features back, to ensure the Pro models still stand out above the standard and Plus phones.
Will the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max still have an always-on display?
Apple doesn’t often remove features from its phones, and with the always-on display feature only having been introduced last year, it’s very unlikely the company would ditch this for the iPhone 15 Pro and the iPhone 15 Pro Max. So while we probably won't see an iPhone 15 Plus or iPhone 15 always-on display, the Pro models will almost certainly include an always-on display again.
With StandBy, you can essentially turn your iPhone into a smart display when it’s charging. In this mode it can display a lot more things than the standard always-on display (since battery drain is much less of a concern), and it doesn’t mute colors either.
It’s unlikely that Apple would keep building on the always-on display idea if the feature wasn’t going to be supported by future phones, so we’d be shocked if the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max didn’t include it.
We may well see other upgrades beyond StandBy as well, but that remains to be seen. Regardless, we’d guess these would be software changes – meaning that as with StandBy, they’ll probably also come to the iPhone 14 Pro and the iPhone 14 Pro Max.
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James is a freelance phones, tablets and wearables writer and sub-editor at TechRadar. He has a love for everything ‘smart’, from watches to lights, and can often be found arguing with AI assistants or drowning in the latest apps. James also contributes to 3G.co.uk, 4G.co.uk and 5G.co.uk and has written for T3, Digital Camera World, Clarity Media and others, with work on the web, in print and on TV.