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Samsung Galaxy S7 Always-On Display Vs Motorola Active Display



Always-on display, you would be hearing a lot about this word in the coming days. What is it? And how similar or different it is from the Active display that Motorola offers on its Moto handsets. We find out in this comparison. This new feature might be the favorite new thing for the Samsung consumers. But it is highly likely that the South Korean brand would be keeping it for the precious; Galaxy S7 & Galaxy S7 Edge handsets only. Don’t expect them to come jumping to other Samsung Galaxy phones, at least not in near future.

Why is this huge deal? Well, you got us there, we are making the fuss out of this new feature, is because it brings a whole new experience for the Samsung users that have been missing in the handsets for years. Motorola had this great idea when they were working to make a comeback in 2013; that ’s when the first Moto X was introduced. The motion-activated display, when hovered or tap on the screen, the display would light up to give you a basic set of information; time, date and notifications. Design for convenience they offered few other benefits as well.

Note: For the purpose of this story, I used the Moto X Style to bring you the comparison with Galaxy S7’s Always-On display.


As the name implies, the display on the Samsung Galaxy S7 is an always-on display. Even after locking the display screen will remain dimly lit. The default settings allow the feature to display the current time, which moves around on the display every few seconds. You also get alerts for missed calls, text messages on the same screen with couple caveats.

Diving into Settings app is the easiest way to familiarize with this feature. Open the Settings app on your S7 or S7 Edge, tap on Display, followed by Always On Display. Now at the top of the settings window, you’ll see the toggle button. You can either keep it ON or switch it off. But we would recommend you keep its switch ON. In the content to show option, you’ll see a pop-up list open once you tap on the option. This drop-down menu has three options; Clock, Calendar and Image.

Samsung Galaxy S7 -  Always-ON Settings

If you have opted for a clock or either calendar, then you can further change the look by tapping on the respective clock or calendar style button. There are total seven styles of clocks, varying from basic digital to analog clocks, to dual-clock view. Additionally, you can also set a background image for the clock on the display, which is limited to four. For calendar, you get two different options, both of which have a digital clock. While if you’re selecting the image, it would turn into a screensaver-like feature that you see on your computer. There are only three images that you can choose out of currently. We played around with all items and thought, calendar style with big digital clock suits us.

Note that currently, the only notifications that appear on the screen seem to be from Samsung’s in-house apps, like missed calls, messages and calendar notifications in specific. No third party apps notification support is added for now, but we hope Samsung will expand into it.

Active Display

Motorola was the first to optimize the always-on display technology; it is enabled by default on the Moto devices like Moto X Series and Moto G as well. As you switch off the screen, you’ll notice a white digital clock flash on your display. It’s not literally the always-on display like the latest Samsung Galaxy phones, but they define the convenience much better than them. The minimal display light up like it’s breathing, ON for few seconds, then Off for few seconds. This cycle of breathing continues till the battery lasts. The display on Motorola is pretty smarter than the “always-on display“, they show you time only when you take out the device from your pocket, or while picking it up when left face-down.

Looking at notifications wasn’t easy until the Moto Display came along. It not only notifies you minimally that you have a new email but also lets you peek a little to see who it is from. Isn’t that what ease of use means, you don’t have to unlock screen and open the app to check whether the email needs an urgent attention or not. You can do that by peeking from the active display. That’s why it is named Active Display, rather being called as an always-on display.

To see the notifications, you have to tap & hold on the symbol that’s showing in the middle of the screen. If you have tons of notifications waiting for you, then you will see some at the top, while some at the bottom. You can swipe while holding on that icon; it will straight take you to the app, which was notifying you. Or else, just swipe down to unlock the phone.


Samsung has played with always-on screen technology before, but on its new handsets, it has implemented it the first time. While on the other hand Motorola has been offering its Active Display feature since a couple of years now. We also saw OnePlus dabble with this technology on their OnePlus X handset, as well as LG G5 is also sporting the always-on display. We would definitely like to test that out once it releases in the country. Even, the good old Nokia toyed with something like it, they named it Glance. But with big brands like Samsung and LG adopting such technology, it will go mainstream.


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