How to customize the Galaxy S9's Always On Display
Samsung was one of the first on the scene with an "always-on" display, leveraging its use of AMOLED displays to show you information when your screen is "off" while also preserving battery life. The Always On Display has picked up plenty of customization and configuration options over the generations, and now on the Galaxy S9 it's worth looking at the settings to see how you can customize the look, and function, of yours.
To get started, go to your phone's Settings, then Lock screen and security and scroll down to the subsection of Lock screen and Always On Display. This is where you'll see four different actions. We're going to break down all the ones that are important.
Always On Display
Tapping the "Always On Display" section, you get three separate options: Content to show, Auto brightness and Set schedule.
Content to show
"Home button and clock" is the default layout, which gives you a big clock widget (more on customizing this, below) and a virtual home button you can press to wake the phone from sleep. If you don't find yourself hitting the home button to wake the screen, or you find yourself often hitting it on accident when picking up the phone, you can turn it off by going to the "Clock or information" option. To save battery life and simplify things totally, you can switch to just "Home button."
The whole idea of the Always On Display is that it's subtle and not bothersome. Leaving it on Auto brightness will accomplish this goal, letting the phone measure ambient brightness levels and adjust the brightness of the Always On Display to strike a balance between readability and subtlety.
If you want to turn it off and set things manually, it's probably because you want to keep it at a very low setting all the time for maximum subtlety. You can choose between four different brightness levels, and you can check how it works in the real world by letting Always On Display come on, then double-tapping the clock to get an adjustment slider.
This is primarily a battery-saving feature, letting you configure Always On Display to only come on when you feel you "need" it during the time of day when you're probably out of the house and regularly have your phone right in front of you in standby. For example, you may not want to have Always On Display on until about 9:00 a.m., and then you're happy to have it turned off by 9:00 p.m. when that information isn't too critical. By keeping it off for the first couple and last couple hours of your day, you can save some battery life.
Clock and FaceWidgets
Backing out to the main lock screen settings, you can tap into "Clock and FaceWidgets" to configure the look of the Always On Display clock(s).
You get over a dozen different clock styles to show on your Always On Display, and you can even download more from the Samsung Themes store. Scroll through and tap on one to see how it looks in full size. Some, like the multi-time zone clock, let you tap to customize them. Once you pick one, you can then tap "Color" down at the bottom to change the background color from white. There are several solid colors, then some soft rainbow-like options. Again, the changes show up live above.
This is pretty simple. You can set your "Home" time zone, and then whenever you're in a different time zone, your Always On Display will show both the local time and what time it is back at home. By default, the phone will set your "Home" time zone to wherever you are when you start up the phone for the first time.
These "FaceWidgets" are the big information-rich panels you find at the top of your lock screen and also your Always On Display if you enable them. You can have a music controller (for all media, actually), a schedule calendar, and an alarm information readout. They're all moderately useful, and can give you little pieces of information on what's going on with your phone without having to turn the screen on.
With FaceWidgets enabled for your Always On Display, you interact with them by first double-tapping on the clock, then swiping left or right to move through them one at a time. Any further interaction, beyond using play/pause on the music widget, will require the whole screen to turn on and show you more.
Samsung envisions this setting as letting you provide contact information for someone if your phone is lost and has a lock screen so that it can't be unlocked to be returned to you. You can put an alternate phone number or email address on there, and someone could contact you to get your phone back.
In reality, this is just a text field you can make say anything you want. If you just want it to say "Andrew's Galaxy S9" you can do that and it'll display permanently on your Always On Display.
The only part of this settings are that pertains to the Always On Display is at the very bottom, with "Where to show." Here you'll be able to turn off notification icons on the Always On Display, if you want that screen to simply show the clock and/or FaceWidgets, and never show what notifications have recently piled up. Most people will want to leave this on its default state, which makes the Always On Display even more useful for getting information at a glance.
Now you have the power to take that Always On Display and make it your own! Go experiment with the settings and find the best combination for your phone.
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Andrew was an Executive Editor, U.S. at Android Central between 2012 and 2020.