We knew the Dynamic Island on the iPhone 14 Pro/Pro Max would be getting more functionality toward the end of the year. The latest iOS Beta and developer documentation give us a glimpse at what’s to come, including being able to run up to two Live Activities at once.
Apple released iOS 16.1 Beta 3 to developers earlier this week, and it includes support for the Dynamic Island’s Live Activities, a feature Apple promised would come when it announced the iPhone 14 Pro. Live Activities will display “up-to-date information” for any app that utilizes the API. You’ll be able to track your ride, delivery en route, or sports scores from the notch area at the top of the screen. Currently, the Dynamic Island is limited to only a handful of apps that employ the Call Kit and Now Playing APIs.
Live Activities will have three main modes of use: compact, minimal, and expanded. According to the developer documentation, the system will use the compact presentation when there’s one active Live Activity and the minimal presentation when there are two in use—one on each side. You can tap either side to open the corresponding app in full. The last mode is the expanded presentation, which opens up some space below the camera cutout for extra information. You may have already seen it in use with some apps, like the Timer, if you’re currently on an iPhone 14 Pro. To use it for a Live Activity, press and hold on it.
The Dynamic Island isn’t a major innovation as far as software capabilities go, but it is Apple’s clever way of making use of the display area that houses the camera so that it’s not just dead space. Apple encourages developers to “present only the most essential content” within a Live Activity. It expresses that its users “don’t expect to receive a lot of details or to perform actions in a Live Activity.” The company also urges avoiding “displaying sensitive information” and “using a Live Activity to display ads or promotions.” The idea is not to overload that part of the interface.
This documentation is part of Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines (HIG), which Apple introduced earlier this year at its developer conference. The HIG offers recommendations on how to make iOS apps that don’t drive iPhone users back to Android (that’s a joke—it’s about best practices).
I’m not a “sports” person, so I can’t claim to fully understand what it’s like to follow a game in real-time—or two games at once, for that matter. But the primary example for Live Activities is following along with a game that’s currently in session. It’s unclear when Live Activities will be publicly available, however. The full feature will release with iOS 16.1 when it arrives later this year.
iOS 16.1 will also include new features like Matter support for the smart home, just in time for the launch this winter, access to the iCloud Shared Photo Library, and the battery percentage indicator for older versions of the iPhone.