While the Dynamic Island is still in its early stages, it’s clear that it’s going to be a major iPhone feature for years to come. With iOS 16.1, developers will be getting the ability to make their own Digital Island interactions with Live Activities and now rumors say Apple will be bringing it to all iPhone 15 models next year.
What’s not clear is how much freedom Apple will allow with the Dynamic Island. As it stands, it’s more of a visual multitasker to show things that are going on in the background, such as timers and music, but the vibrant, always-on nature of the Dynamic Island lends itself to much more.
For example, take the Apollo app. This Reddit reader (designed by Christian Selig) allows you to add a digital cat, dog, hedgehog, fox, or axolotl that hangs out around the Digital Island while you browse the app. It’s cute, clever, and a great way to add a touch of personalization to the iPhone if Apple would allow it at a system level. Selig’s pets are a workaround but imagine an app that let you keep a tiny animal walking around inside the Digital Island while you worked. Maybe the Live Activities API will allow Selig to create an app that minimizes to the Digital Island and lets a little pet live in there, but it’s doubtful.
In a Twitter thread over the weekend, Parker Ortolani put a picture of what everyone who owns an iPhone 14 Pro was thinking: The Dynamic Island could be so much more. In a series of GIFs, Ortolani demonstrates how the Dynamic Island could be a primary UI rather than a secondary one, creating a home for Siri, Messages, Calculator, and Notes.
Like Selig’s pets, Ortolani’s concept brings a level of fun that isn’t possible with the Dynamic Island as Apple envisions it. For as fun as the Dynamic Island is on in product videos and demos, interactions with it are fairly infrequent, and most of the time it’s as empty and lifeless as the notch. With the exception of phone calls, you need to do something in order to activate the Dynamic Island.
The Dynamic Island has caught everyone by surprise. In an announcement that brought a new 48MP camera, always-on display, and next-gen processor, the Dynamic Island is the thing that everyone wants to see in action, and Apple should embrace its fun side. Animations are nice, but the Dynamic Island could be so much more than a fleeting multitasking interface. And all it took to show us was a very tiny cat.