The Dynamic Island iPhone’s biggest mistake in years | ENBLE

The Dynamic Island iPhone's biggest mistake in years | ENBLE

The Disappointing Reality of the iPhone’s Dynamic Island

iPhone 14 Pro Dynamic Island Image courtesy of Christine Romero-Chan / ENBLE

In 2017, Apple celebrated the 10th anniversary of the iPhone by introducing the iPhone X, a device that marked a significant shift in design and features. With the iPhone 8 series still sporting the iconic Home button, the iPhone X boldly eliminated it and introduced Face ID as a replacement for Touch ID. However, along with these changes came the controversial notch at the top of the display, housing the selfie camera and Face ID sensor.

My initial reaction to seeing the notch for the first time was less than enthusiastic. “Wow, that’s ugly,” I remember thinking. At the time, I chose the iPhone 8 instead of opting for the iPhone X. Little did I know that Apple had further plans for the notch.

Fast forward five generations of iPhones, and we arrive at the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max, which finally eliminated the notch. In its place, Apple introduced the Dynamic Island, an elongated, pill-shaped cutout at the top of the display. The Dynamic Island had the potential to display various information such as timers, music or podcast playback, and more.

However, after almost a year of experiencing the Dynamic Island, I find myself disappointed by its lack of functionality. What was initially an exciting feature has turned into a letdown.

Dynamic Island app support is lacking

iPhone 14 Pro Dynamic Island - Sports Scores Image courtesy of Joe Maring / ENBLE

Having reviewed numerous apps throughout my career, I have collected a considerable number of them on my iPhone. But the apps I use most often, the ones I rely on daily, barely utilize the Dynamic Island. It seems that most apps either haven’t integrated support for the Dynamic Island, or the information displayed is irrelevant to me.

As someone who isn’t particularly interested in sports, the popular use case for the Dynamic Island, I have little use for viewing sports scores. Outlook/Spark, Microsoft Teams, Ivory for Mastodon, Threads, and my other social media apps also do not take advantage of the Dynamic Island. So, for the majority of the day, the Dynamic Island remains blank and barren.

A few apps, like Instagram, now briefly utilize the Dynamic Island to show upload progress for Stories. And I have Pixel Pals, which uses the Dynamic Island to house a cute pixelated pet, but that’s more of a novelty than a useful feature.

Surprisingly, apps like DoorDash, which would greatly benefit from real-time tracking or status indicators on the Dynamic Island, have yet to integrate such features. Ordering food through the app becomes a disappointment every time, as the Dynamic Island remains inactive for this purpose.

Currently, I only find real use of the Dynamic Island when playing music on Apple Music, using turn-by-turn directions in Apple Maps, authenticating with Face ID for Apple Pay, or setting a timer. However, these limited use cases are not enough to fully exploit the potential of the Dynamic Island.

The Dynamic Island: Is it the new Touch Bar?

MacBook Pro with Touch Bar Image courtesy of Malarie Gokey / ENBLE

The Dynamic Island gives me a sense of déjà vu. It reminds me of the Touch Bar introduced on 2016-era MacBooks. The concept of a touch panel above the keyboard, providing quick access to various functions in applications, seemed interesting. However, similar to the Dynamic Island, the Touch Bar didn’t gain much favor among users.

There were several reasons why the Touch Bar faced criticism. Firstly, despite its name, the Touch Bar required constant visual attention as users had to look at it to interact with it. Additionally, the lack of physical feedback due to its glass surface made touch typing impractical for “pro” users who were accustomed to typing without looking at the keyboard.

After a few years, Apple acknowledged the limitations of the Touch Bar and eliminated it in 2021 with the introduction of the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros, marking the return of the function row on the keyboard.

It feels like the Dynamic Island could follow a similar path as the Touch Bar. Its limited space means that any displayed information will always be condensed or minimal. Moreover, the lack of support from third-party developers, even after almost a year, raises concerns about the long-term viability of this feature.

Falling short of lofty expectations

Dynamic Island - Swiggy Image courtesy of Prakhar Khanna / ENBLE

When Apple first introduced the Dynamic Island, it held great promise as a replacement for the unsightly notch. The potential applications seemed exciting and innovative. However, a year later, my experience with the Dynamic Island has been underwhelming, limiting its usefulness to native apps.

To me, the Dynamic Island has transformed from a whimsical feature into a dull and unimaginative addition. As rumors circulate about the Dynamic Island becoming a standard feature across the entire iPhone lineup, including non-Pro models, there is hope for more comprehensive support from developers. However, until that happens, the Dynamic Island continues to feel like a missed opportunity.

In conclusion, the Dynamic Island on the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max falls short of its initial promise. App support remains lacking, and the limited real estate available fails to deliver the immersive and informative experience users hoped for. As we wait to see how Apple addresses these shortcomings in future iterations, the Dynamic Island risks becoming another forgettable feature, much like the Touch Bar on MacBooks.