How to use and turn off the Apple Watch Always On display

Learn to control the new Series 5 feature
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The headline feature of the new Apple Watch Series 5 is the Always On display, a first for any Apple smartwatch. But using the feature can affect battery life, which has caused readers to ask us whether they should turn it off.

Turned on by default when you first load up your device, Always On does exactly what it says – keeps the display lit even when your wrist is down.

However, the watch face is simplified to hide sensitive information and save power – and there can be a small lag when turning your wrist.

It's a feature we've craved since the first iteration, and below we'll be offering a few tips on using it, as well as the steps required to turn the Always On mode off on the Apple Watch.

More reading: 48 Apple Watch tips and tricks

Using Always On display on Apple Watch

How to use and turn off the Apple Watch Always On display

As we say, this is a fairly straightforward feature to control. The Apple Watch Series 5 now has both dim and a full brightness modes, though interaction in these two does differ slightly.

You'll pick up some of the tricks to using both as you play around with the smartwatch, but here are four things that can help you along.

1. Most complications will be hidden

When the smartwatch goes into dim mode, you'll notice that most of the complications on your wrist will turn blurry.

The only things you'll be able to see on the screen are your watch face, if you're already on it, and a digital view of the time in the top-right if you enter the mode when, say, running a third-party app.

One quirk to this is the Workout app, which will show a simplified view of your activity even when the screen isn't activated. For example, the time of your workout won't show the seconds.

2. You can hide sensitive complications

Though the likes of notifications and other information won't be readily glanceable when in the dim mode, you do have the option to put the lid on 'sensitive complications'. Apple indicates these include the likes of calendar events, messages and heart rate.

To hide complications:

  • Open the 'Settings' app on the Apple Watch.
  • Tap 'Display & Brightness'.
  • Tap 'Always On', followed by ticking the 'Hide Sensitive Complications' switch to green.

3. Some complications won't update

With the Apple Watch conserving some battery when in dim mode, it means that elements of the watch face will update differently.

So, time-related complications, like the Stopwatch and Timer, round information to the nearest minute – much like the simplified Workout app. Ones that like to show real-time data, such as the new Compass app, won't be active.

Meanwhile, other complications, like the weather or third-party ones, refresh in the background once per minute.

4. There are four ways to wake the display

Did you know the dimmed display won't react to swipes? That's to avoid any accidental wakes. If you want to turn the screen from dim to bright, there are four ways:

  • Raise your wrist
  • Tap the screen
  • Press the side button
  • Press the Digital Crown

How to turn off Always On display on Apple Watch

How to use and turn off the Apple Watch Always On display

While the new Always On mode is incredibly useful for getting a sneak peek at the time and, well, making the Apple Watch feel more like an actual watch, there are occasions – like when you want to save battery life – when you'll want to switch it off.

1. Open the Settings app on the Apple Watch.

2. Tap 'Display & Brightness'.

3. Tap 'Always On', then tap the 'Always On' switch from green to white.

More Apple Watch guides

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Conor Allison


Conor moved to Wareable Media Group in 2017, initially covering all the latest developments in smartwatches, fitness trackers, and VR. He made a name for himself writing about trying out translation earbuds on a first date and cycling with a wearable airbag, as well as covering the industry’s latest releases.

Following a stint as Reviews Editor at Pocket-lint, Conor returned to Wareable Media Group in 2022 as Editor-at-Large. Conor has become a wearables expert, and helps people get more from their wearable tech, via Wareable's considerable how-to-based guides. 

He has also contributed to British GQ, Wired, Metro, The Independent, and The Mirror. 

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