The iPhone’s Dynamic Island Isn't Living Up to Its Potential

Almost six months since the launch of the iPhone 14 Pro, one of Apple's new flagship design ideas has not been given the support it deserves.


It’s lonely on Apple’s Dynamic Island. What was credibly pitched as an “iconic” new piece of design and was a perfect example of Apple’s unique ability to meld hardware and software into great experiences has not taken the world by storm.

Sure, the Dynamic Island was the next, much smaller, version of Apple’s FaceID camera, but it was also supposed to illustrate a new way the company thought about notifications and contextual information. A home for “nibbles of information,” as I described it in the afterglow of the iPhone 14 Pro launch, that could change shape, color, or size on the fly depending on whatever developers needed. A dedicated space on your iPhone that helped you know what was happening on your phone but didn’t get in the way of whatever you were looking at.

Nearly six months since the launch of the iPhone 14 and 14 Pro, that hasn’t played out for the Dynamic Island, and unless things change, there’s a risk the feature could be left on the sidelines permanently.

Where’s the support?

The Dynamic Island sounds exciting, but it only works if people use it.


Rewatch Apple’s keynote, and it’s easy to be convinced that the Dynamic Island might be a bigger change than a better camera, but that hasn’t panned out. And how could it? You don’t need developers for a new iPhone 14 Pro user to appreciate and use a new camera, but you need them to make the Dynamic Island feel helpful and make sense.

Uber just announced its adding support for the Dynamic Island and iOS 16’s Live Activities feature months after they were both available. The lineup of apps with Dynamic Island support is limited in general, too. Outside of Apple’s implementation, it's hard to find popular apps that either support the new region of the iPhone 14 Pro or do so in a novel way. However cute, it’s maybe a problem when one of the most popular use cases for your new design element is a pet app inside a Reddit client.

Apple is partially to blame. Full access to Live Activities and the Dynamic Island in iOS 16 wasn’t available to developers at launch. There’s also a compelling case that the current method for interacting with the Dynamic Island (a long press to expand and a tap to go back to the app) also doesn’t is backwardsmake a ton of sense. These are issues that are easy to address, but there needs to be a reason to fix them in the first place, and if no one is visiting the Dynamic Island, why would you?

“The Apple Graveyard”

3D Touch was supposed to change how you used your phone, but it didn’t work out like that.

gilaxia/iStock Unreleased/Getty Images

While it has fewer residents than Google’s collection of failed and canceled products, over the years Apple’s rack up a body count of its own of “revolutionary” new interactions and interface elements that were later abandoned.

However controversial, you could argue the Touch Bar should have seen better support from Apple to convince non-believers. It made sense to offer contextual controls that could change from app to app and were as easy to use as Apple’s touchscreen devices. It was just never refined from there.

3D Touch, a feature introduced on the iPhone 6S, was similarly supposed to upend how people interacted with their devices, offering glimpses inside of apps with a firmer press and easy access to functions from the home screen. It devolved into a sort of “right-click for your iPhone” at a certain point and Apple eventually replaced 3D Touch with Haptic Touch, a lesser version without the pressure-sensitive layer. But the notion of “peeking” at links without opening them was clever enough to be copied. The Browser Company just rolled out a Peek feature for its Arc web browser that does more or less the same thing as 3D Touch, minus the extra hardware layer.

There’s Hope

While it seems like a perfect storm is brewing that could reduce the Dynamic Ssland to just a pill-shaped camera hole, rumors suggest Apple could be bringing the hardware-software-combo to the entire iPhone 15 line. Analyst Ross Young tweeted last year he believed Apple would spring the display feature to non-Pro iPhone 15s, and Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman reported similarly in his newsletter this January.

More iPhones with the Dynamic Island is more reason to develop for it. Selling every iPhone with 3D Touch capabilities wasn't enough to make it catch on, but the Dynamic Island is highly visible and a part of what’s become an iconic (post-home button) visual signifier of Apple’s phones — the camera cutout. Maybe all it needs is a little more oomph to become the vital component it was sold as.

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