Dynamic Island: iPhone 14 Pro’s biggest new feature or Apple’s latest trick

Dynamic Island: iPhone 14 Pro’s biggest new feature or Apple’s latest trick

Now that it’s been a month since the official launch iPhone 14 Pro, it’s time for sober thinking. I’ve been using the latter as a daily driver for a full month now, and I finally feel comfortable talking about the elephant in the room: the Dynamic Island.

For those who are not familiar AppleThis year, the Cupertino company’s Pro models are said to have ditched the iconic notch in favor of a new cutout. Honestly, though, the iPhone 14 Pro has not one, but two cutouts: one for the selfie camera and the other for the Face ID sensors.

Dynamic Island appears (pun intended) when iOS merges the two cutouts and creates a feature that is a “seamless blend between hardware and software” in Apple’s own terms.

Admittedly, the aforementioned statement is strictly speaking true – the blend is truly flawless. The problem is that both the software and hardware behind Dynamic Island are suboptimal for a number of reasons.

In the following paragraphs, I’ll give my thoughts on why Dynamic Island, in its current state, is more of a gimmick to cover up lazy design than a genuinely useful feature. Now would be the time for two disclaimers.

First, this is just one man’s opinion, based on personal experience with the iPhone 14 Pro. Second, this is in no way an Apple rant – I actually consider myself an Apple fanboy and am very deep in the Apple ecosystem.

Now, after a rather lengthy introduction, I’ll lay out my case for why Dynamic Island represents a (particularly rare) example of poor execution on Apple’s part.

Dynamic Island’s imperfect hardware

Islands versus peninsulas

On the hardware side, I want to address a very obvious gripe that many have with Dynamic Island. The whole point of introducing the notch is to maximize the amount of usable screen space and achieve an optimal body-to-screen ratio. In a sense, almost every smartphone manufacturer is working towards the Holy Grail: a full edge-to-edge display.

It should be noted that Apple has actually increased the screen-to-body ratio in the iPhone Pro line by implementing Dynamic Island. But did this maximize the amount of usable screen space?

The answer is clearly “no”. The Dynamic island may be narrower than the notch on the previous generation, but the pixels above the former are practically unusable. This means that Dynamic Island effectively takes up more vertical space than its predecessor.

Based on the image above, we can clearly see that Dynamic Island uses the screen space quite poorly and is, in some aspects, inferior to the notch. This became apparent to me while using third-party applications. Content that would otherwise be visible on a “notched” iPhone is pushed further down. However, this issue is likely to be resolved soon as developers increasingly optimize their apps for the new iPhones.

Progress to obsolescence

In fact, I’d venture to say that if Apple had simply put a Dynamic Island on the top bezel, the iPhone 14 Pro would have had a more usable screen. However, then Apple would be criticized for recycling the same design it adopted some 5 years ago with the iPhone X. A big reason why Apple moved to Dynamic Island is the need for a tangible change in design. Well, Dynamic Island is different, that’s true, but not necessarily in a good way. Moreover, as Apple is already working on it Face ID under the screenit would make more sense to wait for the technology to develop before changing the iPhone’s front design.

Many other Apple products have only recently adopted the notch (the MacBook Air did so this year), so keeping something that has become iconic and more usable would, in my opinion, be better than resorting to a temporary solution just to make a design change.

By this I mean no one expects Apple to keep Dynamic Island after figuring out a way to put Face ID under the display. So Dynamic Island has built-in obsolescence by design.

The last part also ties in nicely with another element of my critique. If Dynamic Island isn’t built to last, there’s really no point in making it particularly useful. In fact, by keeping its functionality limited, its removal will be received quite positively. Therefore, Apple really has no incentive to step up its software game – hence my next point.

Dynamic Island Limited Software

What should Dynamic Island do?

The biggest reason I have a problem with Dynamic Island being called Apple’s latest “feature” is pretty simple – it doesn’t bring anything new to the table, it just gives a new look to existing features.

Apple explained that they wanted Dynamic Island to show “Live Activities”. A developer’s blog a post released by the company envisions Dynamic Island being used to track “tasks and live events that have a defined start and end,” presenting “only the most essential content.”

Live activity displayed by Dynamic Island should update “only when new content is available, alerting people only if it’s necessary to get their attention” and should “give people control over the start and end.”

This all sounds good on paper, but there’s just one problem. All this can be done through persistent banners. There is absolutely no reason for Dynamic Island to constantly torture your UI, solely for the purpose of displaying live activity.

The Live Activities feature is there to justify Dynamic Island’s existence, not the other way around. This makes them both more of an excuse than actual features – at least in theory.

Using Dynamic Island in practice

But theory doesn’t mix well with practice, so I wanted to see if Dynamic Island made sense in everyday use. Admittedly, there are a few instances that I enjoy.

Keeping track of timers set through the Clock app is really nice, and being able to interact with Apple Music without opening the app is even better. I loved being able to change the song while reading the news without having to pull up the Control Center.

However, that’s about it. Is it all that important? Truth be told, I don’t need to know how much time is left until the alarm goes off – I just need to hear that it’s up.

That said, most of the time I’ll be listening to music with the iPhone locked anyway (funny, Dynamic Island is at the top of the screen, but the player on the lock screen is at the bottom of the screen instead).

Maybe I’m the exception, but many reviewers have also noted that Dynamic Island doesn’t have a ton of useful uses, Mark Gurman sums it up nicely in his Power On newsletter – “there are only four compelling reasons to use it… phone calls, music playback, map directions and a timer”.

Final judgment

Dynamic Island could have real potential, especially if third-party developers find a way to use it creatively. However, it’s primarily a clever way for Apple to hide the ugly truth: that the iPhone 14 Pro has two large, unattractive cutouts on the front.

It’s a seamless marriage between imperfect hardware and limited software that introduces functionality that could have been achieved with a simple iOS update.

In a way, it reminds me of when Apple first introduced AssistiveTouch. Since the Home Button has become an integral part of the iPhone, a virtual deployment option has been added to ensure that users will always have access to it. Interestingly, the physical Home button is long gone, but many iPhone users still use AssistiveTouch to this day. I sincerely doubt that a similar situation will occur when (not if) Apple removes Dynamic Island.

Anyway, I’m still in love with my iPhone 14 Pro. I honestly think it’s one of the best smartphones of 2022 and I look forward to using it every day. But the reason for that is definitely not Dynamic Island.

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