5 ways Apple can make the iPhone 14 Pro Always-On display better with software

Now that I’ve had ample time to get used to my iPhone 14 Pro Always-On display, I have a few thoughts and feelings about how Apple could make a few simple software tweaks in order to make the overall user experience better.

Before we get into it, I must say that I do love the idea of the Always-On display. And no, I do not wish to turn it off entirely. At the end of the day, my main grip against the Always-On display is that it is confusing. It often leaves me wondering what’s going on. Is it on? Is it off? Can I tap here and do this? Why is it still completely black? Why won’t it wake up? I’m confused, and I bet I’m not the only one.

So here are 5 things that I believe Apple can do to make the Always-On display of iPhone 14 Pro less confusing, and overall better.

iPhone 14 always on display

1) Add a system toggle to hide the wallpaper

Coming in as low-hanging fruit number one, this is the most obvious way Apple can improve the user experience. Simply add a toggle in system settings to make it so instead of displaying a dimmed version of the wallpaper, the background goes entirely black. Not only this will save battery, but it will also make the dimmed display less confusing to look at.

2) Add a toggle to hide notifications

Notifications on the dimmed display on the iPhone 14 Pro are confusing for the simple reason that you can’t really see them enough to make up what they really are about. And personally, I’d much prefer not seeing them at all until I wake the display. This is personal preference obviously, but I don’t believe it is too much asking to keep things simpler by allowing the user to choose whether or not they want to see notifications when the Always-On display is dimmed.

3) Add a toggle to hide the Now Playing widget

If you are playing any audio while the Always-On display is dimmed, you will see the Now Playing widget at the bottom of your screen. This is a nice touch because it shows you what you are listening to. But at the same time, it is pointless as you can’t actually tap that widget to skip to the next song, for instance. Instead, you have to tap the screen once to wake it, and then one more time to skip to the next song.

This is again another example where the user experience is confusing. I can see it, yet I can’t do anything about it in one tap. This takes me to my next point…

4) Make the dimmed screen interactive

To go back to my previous example, how confusing is it that I can see the Next button on the Now Playing widget, yet nothing happens when I tap it? I have to tap it a second time to actually skip to the Next song. Same thing with widgets right below the clock. I see the widget. I tap on it, yet nothing happens. Sure the screen wakes up from its dimmed state, but clearly it registered my touch, so why not open the target behind my touch?

5) Make the screen wake faster

I often find myself waiting on the dimmed Always-On display to actually wake up. We are talking fractions of a seconds here, but the bottom line is I am waiting, and I shouldn’t have to wait on a nice animation to run its course to be able to use the device.

This gets even worse if you have your iPhone 14 Pro in your pocket. In this situation, and according to Apple, the display is completely off. But as you pull your iPhone out of your pocket to skip to the next song for example, it takes literal seconds to turn on. Not fractions of a second. Seconds! As someone who walks a lot and takes his phone out of his pocket multiple times on my daily walks, this has to be without a doubt the most frustrating experience with the Always-On display. Just make the thing wake faster!

I am hopeful

I realize that the five points above can come across as whiny. However they are real issues that I imagine thousands of Apple employees and users are now experiencing on a daily basis.

That said, I am hopeful that Apple will gather enough feedback to make some slight changes to the way the Always-On display works, or the way it can be configured through settings. The most obvious one that I am pretty sure we will see in iOS 16.2 is the first point I made: an option to hide the wallpaper when the display is dimmed.

What about you? What do you think? Can you see ways the iPhone 14 Pro Always-On display could be made better?