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iOS 16.2 Makes the iPhone 14 Pro's Always-On Display So Much Better

Apple released iOS 16.2, which finally lets you have an always-on display with a black screen.

iPhone 14 Pro showing its always-on display
An always-on display is one of the main features on the iPhone 14 Pro and 14 Pro Max.
Patrick Holland/CNET

The iPhone 14 Pro and 14 Pro Max have a handful of flashy software changes, such as the Dynamic Island for showing system alerts and a highly anticipated always-on display. That latter feature isn't exactly new. For years, Android devices have had always-on displays that show essential information when the screen is off. What you typically see is a black screen with the time and date and sometimes icons for notifications. But the iPhone's version has Apple's own twist.

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The 14 Pro's always-on display shows the time and date (along with widgets) against a darkened version of your wallpaper photo instead of a black screen. I've been using the iPhone 14 Pro for nearly three months, and it took about half that time to get used to the always-on display because it looked like my phone was unlocked. While Apple deserves praise for figuring out a way to make the always-on display look nearly identical to the regular lock screen, there's a problem. Some of us want an always-on display that's more discrete and doesn't draw attention.

Thankfully for us, iOS 16.2 is the answer. Apple released iOS 16.2 earlier in December and it now has controls that let you turn off the wallpaper when the always-on display is active. That means you can finally have a solid black background for your iPhone's always-on display without changing your lock screen's photo.

If you want to try it out, go into Settings, tap Display and Brightness and choose Always On Display. From there, you will see options to show wallpaper or notifications. Disabling Show Wallpaper gets you a black always-on display.

In our tests, using the iPhone 14 Pro's always-on display didn't shorten battery life. But some people have had the opposite experience. For those who have experienced battery life issues, hopefully substituting the lock screen with a solid black background will address those concerns. I should also add that, in general, our tests found that the iPhone 14 series has a shorter battery life than the iPhone 13 series.

The iOS 16.2 update comes with several other interesting features including a karaoke mode called Apple Music Sing and a new white boarding tool called Freeform.

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