The new Always-On Displays on the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max provide a nifty way to keep tabs on your smartphone without needing to interact with it. However, Apple’s original design choice was odd: By default, the 14 Pros dim your wallpaper in addition to the clock and notifications, which is both confusing and a presumed battery drain.
Apple “fixed” the problem with iOS 16.2, offering users the option to disable their wallpaper on the AOD. Since the 14 Pro has an OLED display, it can turn off the pixels that aren’t in use. You’d think, then, disabling the wallpaper for AOD, and thus leaving a lot of the display black, would net big battery savings.
Well, apparently not. PhoneBuff recently ran a test comparing battery performance of three iPhone 14 Pro Maxes: One with the default AOD with wallpaper enabled, one with only text enabled, and one with the AOD disabled. For added measure, PhoneBuff reset all the phones to be free of apps and iCloud Accounts, put all of them into Aeroplane Mode, and set the lab to an average brightness of indoor lightning, since the AOD automatically adjusts its brightness based on lighting conditions.
After 24 hours, the iPhone with the wallpaper AOD had 80% charge remaining, while, surprisingly, the iPhone with text only had 84% charge left. After a full day, the wallpaper had only drained the battery an extra 4%, even though it kept the entire display on throughout the test.
The negligible effect on battery levels is likely attributable to Apple’s impressive hardware and software performance. The iPhone 14 Pros’ displays have a variable refresh rate, which means they can change the amount of times they refresh the information visible on the display. Older iPhones had a refresh rate of 60Hz, which refreshed the display 60 times per second. The 14 Pros can ramp that up to 120Hz when you want fast and smooth motion, or all the way down to 1Hz in times of inactivity. The latter is what enables the power efficient AOD: What you’re seeing is really the display refreshing once a second, which, coupled with the efficiency of Apple’s A16 Bionic chip, allows you to keep an entire image on the screen without much impact on your battery.
Of course, this was a controlled test in a lab, so your daily use likely won’t match this exactly. Since they used iPhone 14 Pro Maxes for the test, you might also see increased battery drain on the smaller iPhone 14 Pro. PhoneBuff also needed to keep waking the phones throughout the test, since the AOD automatically turns off after an hour of inactivity. With that in mind, so you might actually save more battery than you think if you keep your phone in your pocket or on a table.
If all you’re looking for is to maximise your 14 Pro’s battery life, sure, disable AOD altogether — if you look at PhoneBuff’s test, the 14 Pro Max without AOD enabled ended the 24 hour period with a battery level of 100%. Gold star. Again, that was achieved in a controlled environment without cellular or wifi connections, apps refreshing in the background, etc. However, it does go to show that never using AOD at all does save a good chunk of battery in the long run. So if you want to keep your 14 Pro or 14 Pro Max running longer, think about flipping the switch in Settings > Display & Brightness > Always On Display.