The Dynamic Island on the iPhone 14 Pro transforms the reviled display ‘notch’ into the phone’s most desirable feature. Could any other tech company produce a turnaround like this?
While the iPhone 14 Pro is much more refinement than revolution – indeed, the overall design feels old, there’s no fast-charging uptick and you certainly can’t fold it in half – Apple has gone from tragic to magic in one key area.
The display notch, the iPhone’s most maligned feature has been transformed into a genuine ‘wow’ factor for the iPhone 14 Pro series, and perhaps even an upgrade-worthy feature.
The Dynamic Island for the new display cutout is a wonderful example of the hardware and software synergy that showcases Apple at its very best. It brings that little bit of UI magic and elegance fans absolutely swear by.
Apple often does this, with elements of the je ne sais quoi that lift a piece of technology beyond its physical components and endless lines of code. At a time when smartphones – including Apple’s – have been criticised for their homogenous nature, this goes a lot further than the flashing lights on the back of the Nothing Phone (1).
Retort to criticism
For all those people (myself included) who have criticised the notch – from its ugly inception within the iPhone X in 2017 to its continued presence in the iPhone 14 base model – this is quite the retort. Apple has turned a hated feature into a headline and I think it’s the only tech company capable of it.
Apple hasn’t just changed the display just because smaller cut outs look tidier than the notch and its design is dated; it has waited until it has perfected a genuine reason for doing so. The change was made here because Apple was able to deliver something much, much better.
Your Apple Music album artwork, the running stopwatch, your next Maps instruction, your live voice recording, the connectivity status of your AirPods, how your sports team is getting on, when your Lyft is getting there, when your phone is silenced (no more checking the mute switch) and so on. Your incoming calls and Face ID notifications are beautifully expanded from here instead of existing as separate banners.
Need more info than this discreet snapshot? Want to interact with those apps further? You can dive in with a little tap and hold to expand and them and swipe them back into their Island home. Indeed, this has turned a previously unavailable space where the sensors sit, into an incredibly useful tool that will make users’ lives easier with at-a-glance information and fewer taps to access more of it.
Apple trolled everyone
There’s almost an element of trolling in this. It’s as if Apple is taking pleasure in telling the world it can take one of the least desirable features, something others made fun of, and utterly transform it into something better than anything available on a rival phone. It takes the longstanding criticism about the lack of room for important status bar icons and flips it on its head.
Android phone manufacturers *cough* Samsung *cough* and users have been crowing for years on end about how the punch holes and cut-outs offer a superior experience to the tired and ugly notch first introduced with the iPhone X five years ago. They had a point too. There wasn’t a reason to keep this around, but in Apple’s mind there wasn’t a big enough reason to change it either.
Now there is a specific reason, Apple has simply exposed the absence of cohesive UI imagination behind the hardware precision and excellence of those Android manufacturers, who haven’t made effective use of their space-saving hardware revisions. How long until the Android manufacturers, and Google itself, copies this?
This doesn’t make Apple above criticism; far from it. This is the third-year in a row the iPhone’s basic design has stayed exactly the same. And, at a time when Samsung and others are truly innovating with foldable displays, this form factor is starting to feel a little tired.
However, we do know that when Apple does decide to make the leap to an iPhone Fold, the synergy between the hardware and software will be perfectly executed and we’ll be treated to sublime integrations like the Dynamic Island.