The latest beta of Xcode 14 all but confirms that an always-on display (AOD) will arrive with the iPhone 14 Pro lineup.
AODs have featured on numerous Android devices since around 2016. Over in the Apple garden, the only device to feature an AOD is the Apple Watch (Series 5+)
Rather than have to fully wake up your display to obsessively check for information, AODs enable data to be seen at-a-glance.
AODs require very low refresh rates to preserve battery. The upcoming iPhone 14 Pro models are expected to come with a new variable refresh rate OLED panel that can go from 120Hz all the way down to 1Hz.
With iOS 16, Apple is introducing third-party lock screen widgets. A clever new feature called ‘Live Activities’ also enables temporary information – like a sports match score or Uber arrival time – to be displayed on the lock screen.
Developers will be able to use both of these iOS 16 features to provide information to users when they’re not actively using their apps. Combined with an AOD, the third-party widgets and Live Activities should be able to continue providing basic information even when a user’s screen isn’t fully awake.
As spotted by iOS developer @rhogelleim, the SwiftUI preview in the latest Xcode 14 beta has a new behaviour that will enable a developer to see how their widgets will look when a screen is in always-on mode:
Interestingly, hidden flags have been found in the iOS 16 beta that indicates Apple is testing the always-on display feature for the iPhone 13 Pro.
The iPhone 13 Pro supports refresh rates down to 10Hz. Such a refresh rate could support an AOD, but with far less efficiency than one that can tick along at just 1Hz.
Apple may enable AOD on the iPhone 13 Pro – albeit with a battery drain warning – to increase the marketshare of compatible devices. The combined marketshare of iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro devices out there will entice more developers to work on AOD-compatible widgets and activities.
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