4 Things to Know About the Apple Watch’s New ‘Always-on’ Display
No More Tapping to See Your Watch
Other Apple Watch models turned off their screens after a few seconds – a move that helped to save battery life. The difficulty was that any time you wanted to turn the Watch’s display back on to check the time or review a message, you had to either tap the screen or give the gyroscope a sudden twist to wake it up. This apparently became annoying for Watch fans, especially in social situations.
Now, with Series 5, the screen won’t fall asleep like that anymore. Instead, the Watch descends into a low power mode that still keeps the screen on and shows important information (like the time). This makes it easy to quickly check the time or notifications without distracting anyone, as you could with a regular watch.
Always-on Doesn’t Affect Your Battery Life
The Series 5 has a different screen than past Apple Watches. Like the Series 4 (which Apple discontinued), it uses an LTPO OLED screen: LTPO stands for Low-Temperature Polycrystalline Oxide, which uses efficient circuits to power the screen panel. In the Series 5, Apple took advantage of this screen’s capabilities with new circuits and power management updates. Ultimately, this means that even though the watch’s display is always-on, it’s still incredibly efficient. Older watches aimed for around 18 hours of battery life (this varies greatly depending on how you use the watch), and Apple has rated the Series 5 the same. So, don’t expect the always-on screen to lower your battery life in any significant way.
Yes, the Watch Faces and Other Apps Have Been Updated
Another concern Watch users may have is that a
low-power mode on the screen might dim or interfere with their watch face
choices and app alerts. The low-power mode does affect the brightness of the Watch,
but Apple has also adjusted its Watch face options so that they will remain
clearly visible. The redesign also applies to ongoing alerts on the Watch, like
workout tracking/instructions that need to be clearly seen to work. So you
don’t need to worry much about visibility.
Apple Can’t Use This Feature to Spy on You
Believe it or not, when smart technology is “always-on” there’s often some concern that such a feature could be used to spy on users somehow.
This is not a concern with the Apple Watch’s screen. Any features that could be used to collect information on you (like movement sensors, microphones, etc.) are 1) already as “on” as they can be and 2) Apple doesn’t appear to use these to collect any type of private data.
That doesn’t mean the Apple Watch is totally immune to hacking and spying efforts. There are concerns that the movement sensors could be hacked to gather information (although this is purely theoretical for now), and Apple has had to patch security issues with the Watch microphone in the past. But the Watch display isn’t affected by these developments, and the always-on feature doesn’t change that.
Apple has even taken the step to blur iMessage notifications on the Apple Watch Series 5 to keep your messages private on the always-on display.