iPhone 16 — this is the one upgrade Apple needs to make

iPhone 16 prototypes
(Image credit: MacRumors)

For years now, people have been complaining about the standard iPhone’s display refresh rate. I’m referring to the 60Hz refresh rates on the iPhone 15 and 15 Plus displays. It’s a specification that painfully stands out on paper when it’s compared to the faster rates we get in other phones, like the 90Hz refresh rate with the much older Pixel 7a. But it should be the least of Apple’s worries for the iPhone 16. Instead, Apple needs to focus on upgrading it with an always-on display.

In my iPhone 15 review, I said how its 60Hz refresh rate really isn’t a deal breaker for the average person — mainly because if they’ve never been exposed to faster display refresh rates on other phones, then it shouldn’t matter. I will admit that it lends a helping hand to making scrolling animations with the software appear more fluid, as well as contributing to a smoother gameplay experience. But with an always-on display, it would add more utility that the standard iPhones haven’t been able to tap into before.

Everyone who’s been using a pro-series iPhone can attest to the benefits of an always-on display, so here’s why Apple needs to bring it to the iPhone 16.

Glanceable information all the time

iPhone 14 Pro always-on display

(Image credit: Future)

Always-on displays aren’t new, but their implementations can vary from phone to phone. With the iPhone 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max, the display goes into a low power state and continues to show the clock, wallpaper, and notifications — while the Galaxy S24 has the option to engage its always-on display when it’s turned off by tapping on the screen.

The best part is that I don’t have to power on the display in order to see them. I know I’ve become spoiled by this feature over the years on my past iPhones, but I know those who haven’t could finally benefit in a tremendous way from it. These glanceable details reduce the need for me to constantly unlock my phone.

Making full use of StandBy Mode

Apple iPhone on MagSafe charger showing iOS 17 StandBy mode.

(Image credit: Apple)

One of the biggest reasons why I love testing some of the best MagSafe chargers is because of how StandBy Mode kicks into gear. Right before I close my eyes for the night, I always place my iPhone 14 Pro Max into my bedside 3-in-1 MagSafe charging stand — and in landscape mode, too. That’s because iOS 17’s StandBy Mode kicks into gear while it’s charging overnight, giving me a makeshift alarm clock that won’t blind me if I happen to be awoken by a slap from one of my cats in the middle of the night.

While StandBy Mode technically works on iPhones that don’t have always-on displays, including the iPhone SE (2022), the drawback is that StandBy Mode eventually times out. Therefore, the only way to get it back is to physically power on the iPhone briefly. By giving the iPhone 16 an always-on display, it will consistently stay in StandBy Mode throughout the night.

On my desk at work, I also lean into StandBy Mode as I’m busy working throughout the day — always quickly glancing at the time and calendar widgets that I’ve set up. That saves me a little time from normally unlocking my iPhone. And the coolest part about using StandBy Mode with an always-on display? It works perfectly as a digital photo frame on my desk.

iOS 18 could make it better

iOS 18

(Image credit: Getty Images)

And finally, the release of Apple’s latest mobile software could make the always-on display even better on iPhones. iOS 18 rumors hint to a major visual redesign of the interface, which would improve the home screen customization — trickling down to the lock screen.

With the current iteration, the lock screen’s customization in iOS 17 limits users to a few different widgets to choose from. However, if rumors about iOS 18 giving users the ability to add in blank spots within the grid layout of the home screen, it could be brought to the lock screen as well. This could mean more widget options and layout personalization to better tailor the lock screen to your needs.

Regardless if that ends up happening, I would be okay with another year with the standard iPhone models offering 60Hz displays — just as long as Apple brings an always-on display to the iPhone 16. With WWDC 2024 officially happening in June, we could get a better idea if this could happen when Apple previews iOS 18.

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John Velasco
Senior Channel Editor for Phones

John’s a senior editor covering phones for Tom’s Guide. He’s no stranger in this area having covered mobile phones and gadgets since 2008 when he started his career. On top of his editor duties, he’s a seasoned videographer being in front and behind the camera producing YouTube videos. Previously, he held editor roles with PhoneArena, Android Authority, Digital Trends, and SPY. Outside of tech, he enjoys producing mini documentaries and fun social clips for small businesses, enjoying the beach life at the Jersey Shore, and recently becoming a first time homeowner.