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Unannounced iOS 18 tweak lets you see the time even when your iPhone is dead

Apple’s upcoming iOS 18 software update brings a lot of major changes to the way the iPhone behaves, and a few less heralded ones that are still worth knowing about. But one eagle-eyed beta tester has spotted a tiny but brilliant tweak that didn’t make either of those lists.

According to the Reddit user ant_t99 (and backed up by a photo) iPhones running the first iOS 18 developer beta display the current time, even when they’re out of juice. For those who don’t wear a watch and rely on their smartphone to tell the time, this could be a crucial bonus feature.

When an iPhone is considered to have run out of battery, it actually still has a little power left–a sort of emergency supply. And in iOS 18 it will use this to display an icon telling you to charge it up, as well as to pulse out tiny Bluetooth signals so it can still be located by Find My iPhone. In effect, it shuts down all non-essential features to simply act as an AirTag.

All that’s happened this year is that iOS 18 has added to that list of low-power emergency functions the ability to tell the time. (The Apple Watch has long been able to do this when it enters Power Reserve mode, but it’s new for the iPhone.) This should make very little difference to the length of time before the iPhone is truly out of power but could make all the difference to an inconvenienced owner of a drained phone.

There is one extremely minor fly in the ointment that ant_t99 highlighted under questioning: the time appears to be restricted to a 12-hour clock only, at least for this US-based user, so anyone who relies on a 24-hour clock may be slightly confused at first. (There doesn’t seem to be any indication of AM or PM either but that doesn’t show in the iPhone status bar either.) Besides, if you can’t work out whether it’s 8 in the morning or 8 in the evening from other clues, we really don’t know how to help you.

If you’re wondering whether to try out the new software, take a look at our guide discussing whether you should install the iOS 18 beta. And for coverage of all the new features and other changes, together with an evolving timeline of the various beta upgrades, read our iOS 18 superguide.