The iPhone 14 Pro’s Dynamic Island solves a problem I didn’t know I had

Advanced timer for iPhone 14 Pro Dynamic Island

Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

Long before Apple unveiled the iPhone 14 Pro, the rumor mill had already predicted that Cupertino’s latest version would sport a radically different front camera. The rumors started out detailing the two camera cuts and eventually progressed to pinning down the pill shape with camera indicators in between. However, what totally came out of left field was Dynamic Island – Apple’s blending of software smarts with hardware limitations to hide the unsightly cutouts.

Some might call Dynamic Island a prime example of Apple’s infamous reality-warping field to draw attention away from the two gaping holes in the display, but I’ve been using the iPhone 14 Pro for five days, and I’m surprised to say I’m a fan of the idea.

More Apple: The iPhone 14 draws a line between experts and normal people

Notch aside, what do you think of Dynamic Island?

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Dynamic Island is not what you expect

Lead image iPhone 14 Pro Dynamic Island

Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

But first, let’s start with some context. I’m guilty of ridiculing the feature as a gimmick and nothing more than Apple’s way of obscuring the camera cutouts. To be fair, it is, but five days later, I’m ready to take my words back. There is much more to tell here.

In a major faux pas for Apple, last week’s “Far Out” event for the iPhone 14 was one of the rare times I think the company hasn’t explained its latest feature enhancement. Is it a new notification system? A better way to multitask? A whole new interaction medium or just a task switcher?

Apple’s launch event didn’t do a good job of explaining what Dynamic Island really is.

First off, it’s none of the above. It takes Dynamic Island to realize that it sits on the corner between an intuitive notification system and a multitasking switcher, without replacing either.

While I initially expected the island to behave similarly to the ill-fated MacBook TouchBar, that’s not the case here. Unlike the TouchBar, which was designed specifically for interaction, I’ve observed the island largely disappear from my peripheral vision in its native state. When expanded into a wider pill form for timers or music playback, the UI is subtle enough not to divert focus from the task at hand.

Focus only on activities that require immediate attention

iPhone 14 Pro Dynamic Island in hand with expanded music island

Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

Rather than cramming all of your notifications into a single pane, Apple has intelligently separated information that needs immediate attention into its own separate pill. To be honest, I’m surprised it took so long. I often use timers as part of my daily workout routine and it makes sense to display the countdown over a YouTube fitness video or rep counting app – Dynamic Island makes this possible.

Information that requires immediate attention is intelligently separated from other non-urgent notifications.

Similarly, for music players, it offers a single-tap context switch to get to the music, or a long press to control important functions like playback or AirPlay destinations without leaving the page you’re on.

Turn-by-turn navigation is another use case that benefits from Dynamic Island. While it was possible to get a heads-up display for navigation instructions on older phones, this previously sat under the notch. The dynamic island cleverly uses the safe space Apple already occupies to give you step-by-step information once again, without leaving the screen you’re on or obscuring important information.

iPhone 14 Pro Dynamic Island with turn-by-turn navigation

Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

The list of supported apps and integrations is pitifully small at the moment, mostly limited to system apps and settings. However, the supported integrations give users a good taste of what to expect from Dynamic Island. Additionally, I anticipate that the island will be even more useful once the Live Services API is introduced. As an impatient person, I keep opening the local grocery delivery app to keep an eye on the delivery status. So I’m excited at the prospect of this showing up as a stock ticker as I browse Reddit.

The dynamic island is not a replacement for notifications. Instead, it sits next to the standard hub for time-sensitive information.

And therein lies the real differentiator. Apple seems to be positioning the default notification center as a collection point for notifications that may not be critical. Think text messages, Twitter mentions, and Facebook updates. None of these require immediate or ongoing attention. Meanwhile, the island focuses solely on details that require you to keep an eye on an app or interact with it enough that the user would benefit from a persistent link.

It’s not an entirely new idea. Both Huawei and LG have experimented with this before, but neither have had the smooth and seamless experience offered here, and when it comes to software, implementation always matters.

Of course, the skeptic in me believes it’s just another form of forced product differentiation to give users a reason to switch to the iPhone 14 Pro. Would a system like this be workable with the older style notch? Maybe. Although I suspect it wouldn’t look quite as seamless. There’s also the issue of the enormous pill-shaped black space when watching video content. However, even with the notch cutting into the display, this was an issue.

It’s a feature worth copying, but only if done right

iPhone 14 Pro Dynamic Island Music Player via Twitter

Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

Overall, I remain cautiously optimistic about Apple’s newfangled heads-up display. We’re already seeing Android smartphone brands teasing variations on the island. There’s also genuine interest in the broader enthusiast community, with custom solutions popping up just days after the iPhone’s launch. But without the dedicated APIs and specially developed software, an Android version of Dynamic Island would be just another way to see all notifications.

In the days since I’ve been using the iPhone 14 Pro, I’ve enjoyed having persistent access to tasks that I’d be constantly switching apps for, and I hope to see an equally well-thought-out implementation on my next Android phone.

Next: Dear Tim Cook, should I throw my Pixel in a landfill? The iPhone 14 Pro’s Dynamic Island solves a problem I didn’t know I had

Chris Barrese

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