5 months later, is the iPhone 14 Pro’s Dynamic Island any good?

“Welcome to a transformative, multitasking, eye-popping and groundbreaking iPhone experience,” reads the introduction to Dynamic Island on Apple’s website. While it’s a shape-shifting experience, it’s in no way mind-blowing or groundbreaking. And it’s not “multitasking” in any way.

The dynamic island is nice to look at when it’s working, but five months into its lifespan, the feature hasn’t lived up to the promises Apple made at launch. There’s a lot of potential for this, but we’re still waiting for it to actually become something.

The Dynamic Island is still not what I expected Prakhar Khanna/Digital Trends

Apple says, “Dynamic Island marries fun and function like never before, consolidating your notifications, alerts, and activity into one interactive place.” Unfortunately, that’s marketing fluff, and the hype on paper doesn’t translate to real-world experiences.

I wrote in September 2022 that Dynamic Island only worked with three of my apps – Apple Music, Spotify and WhatsApp. I was expecting things to get better over time and more developers incorporating activity into their apps. Fast forward to February 2023 and the dynamic island is mostly pretty animations for things you already know – and that’s about it.

For example, Uber should leverage Live Activity and integrate travel information for your trip at the top of your iPhone 14 Pro’s display. But all I get now after booking a ride is the location icon in the dynamic island to indicate that an app is using location services in the background. It’s no different than the location icon in my notification bar in the top left corner on any iPhone without a Dynamic Island. That’s not very dynamic of the island, is it?

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The dynamic island is mostly made up of pretty animations for things you already know – and that’s about it.

Uber reportedly started rolling out Dynamic Island support in December, but as of February 2023 it’s still nowhere to be seen on my iPhone 14 Pro. It’s also not available on Digital Trends Editor Joe Maring’s iPhone 14 Pro Max, even if the Uber app has been updated to the latest version available.

The camera pane shows pleasing voice animations when I’m on a WhatsApp call, with colors changing depending on who’s speaking. They are pretty animations but have no functionality.

Prakhar Khanna/Digital Trends

The only time I interact with the dynamic island is when I’m playing music. A long press gives me the playback controls in a little box, and tapping it takes me to the app. The former is no quicker than swiping down from the top to access music controls from the notification shade. If Apple needs that to label a feature “multitasking,” it really needs to rethink the meaning of that word.

Multitasking on iPhones still feels like a distant dream, as Apple considers providing music controls through the app you’re running to be “multitasking.” The dynamic island doesn’t do anything faster or something that wasn’t possible before. It doesn’t give me the ability to quickly trigger the Notes app in a window and jot down my thoughts while researching a story on Safari. It doesn’t allow me to see the ETA while using Uber.

In some ways, the waterfall display on the right edge of the Galaxy S7 Edge was more functional in 2016 than the Dynamic Island was in 2023. It at least allowed me to run one app over another, which is still not possible on iPhones.

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A Big App Problem That’s Not Getting Better Prakhar Khanna/Digital Trends

None of the apps I use regularly support the dynamic island – yes, zero. And I use a few apps every day. To give you an idea, I hop between Twitter, Instagram, Asana, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Gmail and more throughout the day. The only exception currently is Google Maps, which will show a pop-up for directions while navigating. While the dynamic island does indicate I’m on a Zoom call when I close the window, its practicality is questionable at best.

The Dynamic Island didn’t turn out the way Apple had hoped.

At launch, Apple promised Dynamic Island would become more useful “by the end of the year.” We’re two months past the deadline, and it appears to be a per-app issue rather than an Apple issue as a whole. But if there’s one company that can rally developer support to make a software feature a hit, it’s Apple. Unfortunately, things didn’t turn out the way Apple had hoped.

“The Dynamic Island is one of the main reasons to consider the iPhone 14 Pro over the cheaper iPhone 14, and one of the few differences when considering an upgrade from a newer iPhone. If it’s really only used by system apps, then its desirability and with it the desirability of the latest phone as a whole diminishes,” wrote Digital Trends’ Andy Boxall in a December 2022 article.

But it still applies because of the slow, near-nonexistent rollout of new Live Activities support for existing apps. Time is up for Dynamic Island as of February 2023, and it’s still not the must-have or game-changing feature Apple would have you believe it is.

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