I've been trying out the OnePlus 10 Pro for several weeks now, and I have been loving it. The display looks great; there's plenty of power for gaming and other everyday tasks; the photos are better than ever; and the battery life is much improved, too.
But there's one thing that has been irritating me about the phone, and that's the always-on display.
Always-on displays (AODs) are something many Android phones, including past OnePlus devices, have had to show you the time, notifications and other handy info at a glance when your phone is locked. But with the OnePlus 10 Pro, when you're in a darker than average environment (like my house without lights on just before sunset) the AOD's clock and notification widget start visibly flickering. It's even worse if you pick up the phone, as the flicker starts forming a weird trail as you move it.
After making sure my device and all its apps were up to date, adjusting the brightness, display refresh rate and then rebooting the phone for good measure, I couldn't get it to stop. You can get an idea of how it looks in the clip below, but bear in mind that this isn't a 100% accurate representation because of having to make the recording in the dark, and because the refresh rate doesn't sync up perfectly and causes a scrolling black bar.
I'm not the only one to have observed this flickering either. There are at least two accounts on the OnePlus forums of users experiencing this peculiar effect. Fortunately for us, one of the users involved in the discussion may have hit upon the reason why this is happening.
One of the lesser-promoted features that the OnePlus 10 Pro offers is a 1Hz refresh rate for the always-on display. A 1Hz AOD consumes less power than one with a higher refresh rate, which is important for a feature that by design will constantly drain your phone's battery even when you're not using it. However, it seems a refresh rate that low is easy to notice with the naked eye, especially when everything else around it is dark.
It's worth pointing out another user's comment, plus this Reddit thread, who says this could be a recurring bug that was also visible on the OnePlus 9 Pro. I dug out a 9 Pro to check for myself, but no matter how dim or bright the display was, I couldn't replicate what I was seeing on the 10 Pro's AOD on that of its predecessor.
We reached out to OnePlus for comment, to see if this strange visual experience was due to the 1Hz AOD, and if this was the feature working as intended. We didn't receive a reply at the time of publishing, but we'll update this article if a OnePlus representative gets back to us.
Having an odd-looking always-on display is not a dealbreaker for the OnePlus 10 Pro, let's make that clear. The fact it only happens in low light means you won't notice it much of the time, plus you can disable the AOD entirely if it's that big an issue. And it fades into the background when you start enjoying the screen, cameras and performance as I mentioned earlier. I can already tell you I'm going to keep using and enjoying the 10 Pro even after writing this.
I still feel that OnePlus has made a mistake here, whether on purpose or not. While making a 1Hz AOD is a technical achievement, perhaps OnePlus needs to up the refresh rate in certain lighting conditions to stop the flickering. After all, "Fast and Smooth" is one of the company's mottos.