What’s Always-On Display, the latest expected feature of the iPhone 14 series

Always-On Display, as AoD is expected to be one of the key features coming later this year to select models of iPhone 14. While those who have been using iPhones for a long time may be new to the term, Android users have been enjoying Always On Display for years.

In fact, Apple has used the technology in the past. Every Apple Watch since the Apple Watch Series 5 has had the feature and we can now expect it to come to the next iPhones as well. But what is Always-On Display and how does it work? Why has Apple not enabled the feature all these years and most importantly, will older iPhones get the feature? Let’s find out.

What is Always-On Display and how does it work?

Always-On Display illuminates selected pixels on the screen of your phone when it is off, to alert you to elements such as time, incoming calls, notifications, and so on. The feature was made popular on Android years ago by phones such as the Motorola Moto X series. When AoD is turned on, the majority of your phone’s screen stays off without using force, while a small portion of the pixels light up to see your information. Since the pixels that are out are really off, the feature does not have a huge impact on your battery, even though it is on all day.

Apple brings this feature to iPhones that have two key technical specifications in their display panels – OLED (organic light emitting diode) and LTPO (low temperature polycrystalline oxide)

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What are OLED panels?

The display panel on your smartphone is made up of many small pixels, however, it is how these pixels illuminate that distinguishes between the two major types of screens used today on phones – LCD panels and AMOLED / OLED- panels.

LCD panels have backlights behind the screen that emit white light, and the backlight panel only works with the LCD panel, because the liquid crystal panel does not emit light. With OLED panels, each pixel is essentially its own light source, using organic compounds to illuminate at different intensity levels depending on the current flowing through it.

Due to this difference, OLED panels offer more minute pixel-to-pixel adjustment. What does it mean? It basically means that every pixel in an OLED panel can be configured to turn on or off, and even display a particular color.

This allows manufacturers to implement Always-On Display on phones that have an OLED panel and these offer controlled adaptability of each individual pixel. The feature would be redundant on LCD displays, because even if you want to show a single pixel in the middle of the screen “always on”, the full backlight should be on all the time, and drain your battery very quickly .

Apple did not make the transition to OLED panels until the iPhone X, which also included a complete design change and the transition from TouchID to FaceID. However, it was not until the iPhone 12 series that Apple made OLED mandatory in the series. The iPhone 11 series only had OLED panels on the Pro models.

But now that OLED panels for the last two generations have come to all iPhones in the series, why do we still have Always-On display? The answer is the second requirement of Apple that we mentioned above – LTPO technology.

What are LTPO panels?

Placing an OLED panel only on a phone should use the Always-On Display (like so many Android phones out there). However, Apple probably only wants to add AoD to phones that have both OLED and LTPO, yet another technology that helps save energy.

apple iphone 14, iphone 14, iphone 14 always on display, While Always-On Display is possible with just OLED technology and no LTPO, recording LTPO helps significantly with battery drain. (Express Photo)

An LTPO panel allows a view to accurately switch between very low and very high refresh rates based on the content offered. Therefore, if you display a desktop page on a web page as your settings panel, an LTPO panel may drop the refresh rate below the normal 60Hz (as low as 1Hz on the newer LTPO 2.0 panels), and save a lot of battery.

Using LTPO panels in conjunction with OLED provides the lowest energy consumption and thus the least battery drain. This is because in addition to having only selective pixels on, LTPO lowers the panel’s refresh rate as low as possible, since you practically do not need anything above 1-10Hz to see the time and notifications.

Which iPhone models could we see Always-On Display?

As we mentioned above, it is rumored that Apple Always brings On Display only to phones that have both OLED + LTPO panels. The ‘Pro’ models of the iPhone 14 series are the top performers for the feature, but two of Apple’s current iPhones may also get AoD with an update in the future.

These are the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max. The first iPhones to implement LTPO and OLED panels, phones from the iPhone 13 Pro series last year offered the benefits of OLED displays such as rich colors and deep blacks, as well as higher refresh rates up to 120Hz via Apple’s ProMotion feature. These two models should be able to get the feature with a future update.

However, other iPhone variants (including newer ones like the iPhone 13 mini and iPhone 13) will not get AoD support because they do not have an LTPO panel, an OLED panel, or both.

We should have more information on Always-On Display and which devices will support the new week during WWDC 2022, where Apple also expects to make the next iOS update official.


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