What is the Dynamic Island? Dissecting Apple's latest iOS feature and exploring the potential it holds.
Apple introduced the latest iPhone at their annual event conducted in early September, and along with the launch of their latest smartphone came a number of other changes. Among the changes presented at the event was an innovative solution to one of Apple’s biggest iOS problems: the notch.
After much criticism from loyal iPhone users, Apple will now replace the notch with a pill shaped cutout that powers a more relevant, app specific notification experience. Apple is naming this new iOS feature Dynamic Island.
Why Dynamic Island? The new feature changes shape to meet the unique needs of each application and use case, creating a whole new notification experience for iPhone users. The Dynamic Island is the future of notifications; animations that reflect the real time state of an application, helping users get the information they need, easier and faster.
Although the Dynamic Island turned a lot of heads, not all feedback was positive. Apple faced a lot of criticism that the announcement was an excuse to keep the cutout and delay moving towards an in-display camera and sensor.
Does Apple think the technology is not yet ready to be hidden behind the screen? Or do they just not want to get rid of the cutout as it has become a brand look? These uncertainties aside, one thing is clear: Dynamic Island is here to stay. And it has some great applicability, too.
So what should we do with Dynamic Island? This article seeks to better understand exactly what Dynamic Island means when building on iOS, how it can be most effective, and a few of our ideas on how it can create a more sticky, engaging experience on iPhone devices.
So what is Dynamic Island? Our take.
At first glimpse, we were quite skeptical. While the rollout showcased a number of great use cases, we immediately saw its limitations. Let’s start with what we thought Apple got wrong.
The position. While the addition of the pill shaped cutout provides a more useful medium for information, the Dynamic Island itself sits in the most difficult to reach part of the screen: the top.
The iPhone 14 Pro boasts a 6.1 Inch screen, with the iPhone 14 Pro Max a 6.7 Inch screen. These larger devices are going to make reaching the top of the screen a painful task for those with smaller hands.
Despite this, we did not push away Dynamic Island for a bad UX decision. Instead, we looked deeper into Apple’s decision to better understand what drove the creation of Dynamic Island. As a continued pioneer of user experience, Apple most certainly knew these limitations, yet still went forward. We had to understand the why behind the decision.
We believe that this feature, above all else, was driven by its ability to empower developers to deliver users a more engaging notification option that can be tailored to many different use cases. Looking at it objectively, the Dynamic Island is the perfect medium to deliver crucial information at a glance; whether it be a simple charging notification or crucial data from an active application.
The more we looked at it, the more it made sense. Dynamic Island will be a winner if adopted correctly. Like most iOS features, success is determined by those that develop within its ecosystem. So we asked our team, how should we use Dynamic Island?
Implementing Dynamic Island. Our Research & Process
The first step to implement Dynamic Island was educational; what is this new feature and how does it work?
Apple being Apple made the educational step easy. Like most releases, they dedicated and released an entire page on how it worked, and updated the specifications in Apple’s Human Interface Guideline: https://developer.apple.com/design/human-interface-guidelines/components/system-experiences/live-activities#
For adoption to occur, empowering designers and developers to experiment with the Dynamic Island and explore it further is a must for Apple. By following Apple’s Guidelines, we designed a base for the Dynamic Island states: Compact, Minimal and Expanded.
With a base set, ready to explore ideas and execute implementations, we took an additional step of researching how leading apps and big brands had been looking at Dynamic Island. To our surprise, a lot of ideas were put forward but only a few had perfected it. This gap in adoption gave us an idea: how would we use Dynamic Island if we could overhaul our favorite iOS apps?
We made a list of popular apps that we believe could benefit from a more intelligent, engaging notification experience using Dynamic Island.
More than a notification. A whole new experience.
On Demand Food Delivery
The first thing that came to mind were delivery applications. Specifically, food delivery applications given the amount of relevant real-time information that can be delivered. The implementation is quite simple; the compact mode displays estimated delivery time of an active order, and with a single tap, a whole array of information is displayed with an expanded view. Nowa customer gets all the information they want, without having to open the app.
On Demand Rides
This one was a no-brainer. We used the same logic as the previous use case, and the goal of maximizing information, but this time with the ability to quickly interact with a driver. Live location tracking indicates how close a driver is to the pick-up location, and an ETA to show arrival times. To go one step further, the Dynamic Island implementation could also include the Ride-Code that is shared between driver and passenger before a trip commences.
WhatsApp Audio Playback
How many times have you had to minimize WhatsApp to listen to another audio source, only to have to go back into WhatsApp to pause, stop or control the sound?
With Dynamic Island, WhatsApp audio playback can be more effortless and efficient, allowing users to focus on their needs beyond a written message. By executing only the audio playback, and not including the message notifications, the user can more quickly access a highly used WhatsApp feature without being overwhelmed with duplicate message notifications.
Building all audio controls into the expanded Dynamic Island view, along with audio waveform, enables users to go forward or backwards on an audio file, giving full control of their listening experience.
Live Sports Scores and Stats - NBA
Missing your favorite team play and don’t want to ask Siri who’s winning? Want to quickly know how they’re performing beyond the score? What better way to leverage Dynamic Island than enabling sports enthusiasts to follow their team play, without having to open an app. The thought process and execution on this was straight forward – a compact mode presents a Live score with an Expanded mode filled with relevant stats…all with one tap.
After further examination and lots of experimentation, it’s safe to say that Apple has put that little space on the top of the screen to good use. Despite skeptics, Apple believes the Dynamic Island is the logical evolution of the notch.
Like many things Apple, it feels like a feature we didn’t know we needed so much, and will be integral to improving our iOS experience. Beyond aesthetics, this feature does exactly what it’s intended to do; help users quickly find the information they need – with less friction.
Although the Dynamic Island is far from a perfect feature, the possibilities it opens are endless. It is highly customizable, enabling savvy brands to experiment different ways to customize their product to help their users get what they need faster and easier.
But like any new technology or service, it can be a double edged sword. A bad implementation, or overused feature, can leave quite an unappealing impression on users. By working with an experienced team like Two Point One, you can ensure you’re maximizing the experience you’re putting in the hands of every customer.
Bottom line: we think Dynamic Island is here to stay and is sure to become a favorite for Apple users.