iPhone 15 always-on display — will it come to more Apple phones?

iPhone 14 Pro Max
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Update: Check out our Apple Event live blog for the latest from Cupertino on the iPhone 15 and more.

Like us, you may have been crossing your fingers that the iPhone 15 would add an always-on display, matching a feature that came to the Pro versions of Apple's phones a year ago. Yet, with an Apple September event happening later today, there's not much in the way of rumors out there to convince us we're going to get our wish.

As you may remember, the always-on display came to the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max last year. And while we're expecting the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max to retain that capability, Apple's cheaper models don't sound like they're getting the necessary screen upgrades to make it possible.

Here's a closer look at what we know about the iPhone 15 and the possibility of an always-on display — including more on why it's increasingly unlikely ahead of the new phones' appearance at Apple's Wonderlust event.

The always-on display on iPhone 14 Pro

As it stands with today's iPhones, the always-on display is available on the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max, the first iPhone models to ever offer this feature. These weren't Apple's first ever products with AOD capabilities though — that honor goes to the Apple Watch.

iPhone 14 Pro

The always-on display of an iPhone 14 Pro (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

When your phone is locked, iPhones that support an always-on display (or AOD) will show a simplified version of your lock screen, including your wallpaper, notificifications, clock and widgets. Tapping the display then transitions the AOD back to your lock screen so you can interact with the iPhone normally.

You can adjust this appearance in the Settings menu, such as by blacking out your wallpaper or just turning the always-on display off entirely, as well as have it behave differently depending on the Focus Mode you've selected.

What about the iPhone 15?

A render of the iPhone 15 next ot the iPhone 15 Pro, showing the larger size of the iPhone 15

(Image credit: 9to5Mac / Ian Zelbo)

There aren't any rumors on the possibility of this feature expanding to other devices with the iPhone 15. And with less than a week to go before the iPhone 15 launch event, that's not an encouraging sign for AOD fans.

Still, this is unsurprising since we're also hearing there will be no 120Hz, LTPO displays on the standard and Plus models until 2025. An LTPO screen, and the variable refresh rate that it enables, is key to making the AOD work without draining the battery excessively, so adding it to the basic 60Hz iPhone would be disastrous for battery life.

Nevertheless, it's a big disappointment, not just because an AOD by itself is useful, but also because of a new feature coming via the iOS 17 update. Among the changes iOS 17 will introduce when it arrives about the same time as the iPhone 15 release date is a new StandBy mode.

iOS 17 standby mode photos

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

StandBy essentially turns your iPhone into a smart screen whenever you're charging it. Just put the phone in a horizontal orientation — a MagSafe stnd can help with that — and start charging it: your iPhone's display will show the time, your notifications and other at-a-glance info while charging. 

Use StandBy with an iPhone that has an always-on display, and your phone continuoulsy shows this information — it's particularly useful if you take advantage of a slideshow feature within StandBy that shows off your favorite images. But without an AOD, your iPhone screen will dim and go to sleep after a while. You've then got to jostle the phone to keep the screen visible — a limitation that keeps StandBy mode from fulfilling its true potential on most iPhones.

A big disappointment (probably)

Though we are prepared for Apple to not update the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus with always-on display tech later this year, we can't help but be a little sad pre-emptively. 

For the same price as an iPhone 15 (assumedly $800 like before), you can buy several of the best Android phones that all offer a simpler but still effective always-on display experience. It's also found on several cheaper models too, which would make the iPhone 15 (and the current iPhone 14 for that matter) look like a bad deal from a display perspective.

iPhone 15 Pro Max renders by Alpha Tech

(Image credit: Alpha Tech)

There are lots of other reasons why we still expect this year's iPhones to be as good as ever, including the addition of the Dynamic Island to the iPhone 15 and 15 Plus. . But it's a shame that iPhone users lose out on a common Android feature unless they buy Apple's latest and greatest.

For more information on what's changing with Apple's key features on the iPhone 15 series, have a look at our rumor round-ups on the iPhone 15, iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max so you've got all the details on what's rumored and expected for these new iPhones.

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Richard Priday
Assistant Phones Editor

Richard is based in London, covering news, reviews and how-tos for phones, tablets, gaming, and whatever else people need advice on. Following on from his MA in Magazine Journalism at the University of Sheffield, he's also written for WIRED U.K., The Register and Creative Bloq. When not at work, he's likely thinking about how to brew the perfect cup of specialty coffee.