Your iPhone 14 Pro's Always-On Display Just Isn't as Good Without This Simple Trick

Many have complained that the always-on display on the iPhone 14 Pro and 14 Pro Max isn't as good as it should be. You can make it better.

Nelson Aguilar
Nelson Aguilar is an LA-based tech how-to writer and graduate of UCLA. With more than a decade of experience, he covers Apple and Google and writes on iPhone and Android features, privacy and security settings and more.
Nelson Aguilar
3 min read
The always-on display on the iPhone 14 Pro

The always-on display on the iPhone is Apple's first on a phone.

Nelson Aguilar/CNET

Apple's approach to the always-on display for the iPhone 14 Pro series is different from what we've seen from Android -- and it's not necessarily a good thing.

On the Samsung Galaxy S22, for example, AOD exists as an entity separate from your usual lock screen, showing you limited information, such as the date and time, while your phone is still asleep. It works almost like a productivity feature, allowing you to quickly glance at your phone to check out what's important without sucking you in.

And that's what an always-on display should be, in my opinion.

Read moreiPhone 14 Pro vs. Galaxy S22 Ultra: Which Camera Wins?

However, on the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max, Apple has redesigned what the always-on display is supposed to be, for better or worse, depending on who you ask. 

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In Apple's iOS 16 envisioning, the always-on display is essentially a dimmed version of your lock screen: The date and time are illuminated, but you can also still see notifications pile up at the bottom of the screen and your wallpaper a tiny bit.

For some people, that sort of always-on display feature might be perfect. It lets you see what's going on, without having to tap your screen or wake your phone up.

But here's the big "but" for me. If you look at the always-on display as more of a productivity feature, the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max miss the mark. To me, it's a bit too distracting, with all of the notifications that pile up and wake up the screen, and simply too damn bright, which is a problem if you have your iPhone on your nightstand while you're trying to sleep.

And Apple has listened to the complaints. iOS 16.2, which is currently in developer beta, will allow you to turn off the wallpaper background and notifications whenever AOD is enabled. However, this software update isn't expected until sometime in mid-December.

Fortunately, you can fix some of AOD's issues right now by toggling on a certain feature, which not only makes most of your display completely black, but also stops all notifications from distracting you. And it's more obvious than you think.

How to make your iPhone's always-on display darker on iOS 16

To make your always-on display darker and less distracting, we'll be using Focus, which helps to reduce distractions by silencing most notifications on your iPhone, like Do Not Disturb, while allowing separate profiles and customization.

In the Settings application, go to Focus and then choose a profile: Do Not Disturb is the easiest option, but you may also select Personal, Sleep or Work. In whatever Focus profile you choose, hit Options and then toggle on Dim Lock Screen. Whenever this specific profile is enabled, your lock screen will be dimmed at a level that's darker than usual.

Dim Lock Screen feature on iOS 16

You can choose Do Not Disturb or any other Focus profile.

Screenshot by Nelson Aguilar/CNET

To turn on your Focus profile, swipe down from the top-right of your screen to bring down the Control Center, and then either tap on Do Not Disturb (if you used that profile) or hold your finger down on Do Not Disturb to bring up your other Focus profiles. 

After picking the proper Focus profile, your iPhone 14 Pro or Pro Max's always-on display should now be entirely black, showing you only the date, time and Do Not Disturb icon.

If you want to learn more about the iPhone 14, check out our review of the iPhone 14 Pro and 14 Pro Max and a cheat sheet for everything you need to know about the iPhone 14 series.