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Dynamic Island on the iPhone 14 Pro: How to use the iPhone's latest software trick

There's a new name for the notch on the iPhone 14 Pro that brings with it new features and fancy animations. Here's what you need to know.
Written by Jason Cipriani, Contributing Writer

Apple's iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max have plenty of shiny new features, but the most noticeable is that Apple lowering the "notch" cutout on the display, surrounding it with the screen, and giving it the name of Dynamic Island. 

Surely, Apple gave the camera cutouts a name so that the press and public didn't end up naming it something worse than the notch, as we saw happen with the iPhone X

But what's so special about the Dynamic Island? Well, Apple took what are actually two different cutouts -- you can see them if you look at the screen close up while rotating the phone -- and built software to hide the camera modules, all while making it interactive. 

Not sure what I mean by that? Let's take a closer look. 

Also: iPhone 14 Pro makes the notch come alive, finally

Which apps use the Dynamic Island?

There's currently a short list of Apple apps that integrate with the Dynamic Island, but that's sure to grow in the future. You'll see a fun animation within the island when using Face ID to unlock your phone, or plugging in your phone to charge. But those are just two of the more basic interactions. 

Open up your music app of choice, such as Spotify or Apple Music, and start playing a song. Then exit the app to keep it running in the background. 

Jason Cipriani/ZDNET

The Dynamic Island will start to show the album art for the song that's currently playing, along with a sound-wave-like animation to the right. 

I am constantly discovering new apps that use Dynamic Island, but currently, the list includes the Phone, Maps, Clock, Maps, FaceTime, Apple Pay, Screen Recording, hotspot status, and AirPods status indicators. 

Also: iPhone 14 Pro vs iPhone 14 Pro Max: Which should you buy?

Dynamic Island on Pro Max
Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/ZDNET

How to interact with apps that use Dynamic Island

When you're listening to music or have a timer active, the island doesn't just act as a place to provide a quick status update for that task -- you can also interact with the respective app directly from the island. 

For instance, when listening to music, you can tap on the island to open the respective app and make changes such as skipping the track, going back, or hitting the play and pause button. 

That's simple enough, but where the Dynamic Island really shows its potential is when you long-press on it.

Using Music as the same example, long-pressing on the island will open up a shortcut to all of the key controls you'd expect for controlling music playback, including the AirPlay button. 

But wait, there's more. If you have two apps using Dynamic Island at the same time -- say Music and a timer in the Clock app -- the island will show animations for both tasks, with the timer represented by a small animation to the right. You can use the same tap or long-press interaction for either app to interact with them. 

Pretty neat. 

Also: iPhone 14 Pro vs iPhone 13 Pro: Is the newest iPhone worth the upgrade?

Live Activities feature on iPhone 14 Pro Max Dynamic Island
Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/ZDNET

With iOS 16.1, Dynamic Island gets better

With the release of iOS 16.1 on Oct. 24, Apple added more to the iPhone 14 Pro's Dynamic Island via a new feature that's coming to all iPhone models called Live Activities. 

Live Activities adds what amounts to a live widget to the iPhone's lock screen that's constantly updated. For instance, apps like Uber can use Live Activities to update the location of your driver after you call for a ride. Or sports apps can put game scores on your lock screen, frequently updating the score or plays. 

The screenshots above were taken from the FotMob app. When you favorite an active game in the app, FotMob adds it to your lock screen. When you unlock your phone and are actively using it, you'll continue to see the score in the Dynamic Island. You can long-press to view a bigger version of the widget, or tap on it to launch the app. This is really cool and I can't wait to see more apps add support for it. 

Review: iPhone 14 Pro innovation scorecard: The homeruns and the strikeouts

There's a hidden gesture for Dynamic Island in iOS 16.1

Speaking of iOS 16.1, once you update youriPhone 14 Pro to Apple's latest and greatest software, you'll gain an extra option to interact with the island by swiping over it. 

If you have two apps open and active on the island, you can swipe toward the middle of the screen to minimize one of the activities, or if you swipe again to completely hide everything on the island. Swipe out toward the edge of the screen to bring back any of the activities.

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