This is how the iPhone 14 always-on display will work

More reasons to buy the iPhone 14 Pro / Pro Max instead of the standard model just dropped

iPhone 14 Pro Max
(Image credit: Parvez Khan)

With just days to go before the iPhone 14 launch event we've got a pretty good idea of what to expect from the iPhone 14 Pro and the iPhone 14 Pro Max. But a last-minute leak to MacRumors has put some meat on the rumour bones regarding the pro models' always-on display and how it'll work.

If you haven't been following the rumour mill, the cheapest two iPhone 14 models – the iPhone 14 and the iPhone 14 Max – will have similar 120Hz displays to the current Pros, but the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max will be getting always-on OLEDs that display widgets even when the phone is asleep. They can do that because their displays will have variable refresh rates capable of going down to positively glacial slowness, which means the widgets won't be a significant drain on the battery.

I really like the widgets in iOS 16 and they're a big reason why I intend to buy the iPhone 14 Pro when I can afford it, and from what I've read via MacRumors it sounds like the always-on display is going to be really useful and really rather clever too.

How always-on widgets will work on the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max

According to MacRumors' source, when the phone is asleep the widgets will be displayed almost constantly, but they will fade out from time to time to prevent OLED burn-in. The background of any wallpapers with a depth effect will be removed completely, and the foreground will be dimmed considerably; you'll be able to customise the foreground "with colour and feature edge highlights".

You won't be able to have different designs for your Lock Screen and your Always-on screen – they can't be separated – but the always-on display will show notifications as well as your widgets. They will be displayed according to how you've configured them in Settings > Notifications, so will appear as a counter, a stack or a list depending on how you've set the feature. 

According to the leaker, the always-on display is unusually buggy for a headline feature this close to launch: Apple is apparently "scrambling engineers" from other teams, including the Apple Watch 8 team, to fix the always-on experience before it's unveiled next week. That may mean a rushed iOS 16.0.1 or 16.1 update shortly after the 7 September event: the iPhones shipping after the launch event will have already been installed with iOS 16, so they won't get any changes made to the OS between now and launch.

We're expecting the new iPhone 14 range to be announced next week on 7 September with pre-orders starting on the 9th and deliveries beginning the following week, 16 September.

Carrie Marshall

Writer, musician and broadcaster Carrie Marshall has been covering technology since 1998 and is particularly interested in how tech can help us live our best lives. Her CV is a who’s who of magazines, newspapers, websites and radio programmes ranging from T3, Techradar and MacFormat to the BBC, Sunday Post and People’s Friend. Carrie has written more than a dozen books, ghost-wrote two more and co-wrote seven more books and a Radio 2 documentary series. When she’s not scribbling, she’s the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR (