Also known as the ‘Dynamic Island’, this new hardware feature has incredible UI/UX potential. Now that the notch is gone, Apple has arrived at a more meaningful “pill-shaped” camera notch called Dynamic Island…and it’s not just a camera notch, it’s an interactive part of the operating system, providing a unique way to experience notifications, multitasking and apps in the background. The notch ran so that the Dynamic Island could run.
Of the 22 minutes spent on the iPhone 14 Pro, VP of Human Interface Design Alan Dye spent 3 full minutes talking about the Pill, or what the company officially calls the “Dynamic Island.” For reference, that’s more time than they spent talking about their new A16 Bionic chip (which clocked in at around 2 and a half minutes). Heck, the Dynamic Island even has its own separate video on Apple’s YouTube page, showing exactly how important it is to the company and how integral it is to the future iPhone experience.
For years, phone companies have tried to hide their notches and camera perforations using clever tricks and illusions. Apple is conveniently guilty of using dark stock wallpapers to make the notch disappear in phone ads, and Android companies even designed wallpapers that cunningly camouflaged the punch-hole camera cutout. I don’t think anyone thinks the pill is a step back. Pretty much everyone agrees that the Dynamic Island is an advancement – to what extent is something that is debatable.
There are two currents regarding the island and its dynamics. There’s one group of people who think Apple is making the best of a bad situation, and then there’s the other group that I’m a strong, vocal member of – that instead of ignoring or hiding behind the cutout, Apple has a way found it to celebrate it in a way that feels refreshing and truly inspired. The Dynamic Island isn’t just a front camera cutout anymore. It is not an area that resembles the lack of a display. It is its own interaction element that forms the practical backbone of the operating system. Apple actually created a new button. A button that serves as a dynamic notification bar, a means of accessing and viewing important information, switching between running apps and multitasking seamlessly. It almost seems like a secondary function that this button also clicks selfies and scans your face to unlock your phone. The name ‘Dynamic Island’ is incredibly corny (even Marques Brownlee thinks so), but hey, it describes the pill’s shape and purpose perfectly. Apple has a strong ethos of either doing something brilliantly or not doing it at all – which is why they still haven’t made a calculator app for the iPad and have waited four long years to ditch the notch. In parlance that young people would understand, it’s either a hell yes or a hell no.
The Dynamic Island relies on the iPhone 14’s OLED screen, which has the ability to turn off individual pixels, turning them pitch black. This is what drives the island’s shape-shifting effect, allowing it to magically expand and contract in different ways and shapes. The execution, at least from what Apple has shown us, is impeccable. The island stores background apps and gives you hints of context regarding information that may be important, such as the music you’re listening to, charging stats, how far along your Lyft is, and whether your phone is on silent. Unlike the MacBook Air’s new notch that sometimes obscures menu buttons and bits of text, Apple’s presentation of Dynamic Island hides the cameras and sensors perfectly in plain sight. Digital elements are not blocked by the camera, so you don’t even notice the camera is there. The Dynamic Island is an evolved version of Apple’s iconic home button, but placed on top.
That said, there is a small problem with the Dynamic Island. No, it’s not the fact that it still overlaps on top of videos on YouTube. It is in fact the placement of the island. The island is at the very top of your phone’s screen and is hard to reach with your thumb. Like Apple’s sadly placed “back” button, users with medium-sized hands will struggle to tap notifications and access other apps with one hand. Since this zone is now the de-facto hotspot for all app-related activity, the island is easy to see, but you’ll need your non-holding hand while interacting. Is that a deal breaker though? Not even close. Apple has managed to pull off something remarkable here, and you could argue that it will probably set the standard for other phones in the future, because the pill has absolutely everyone talking…more than just 3 minutes of talking. !