Perhaps the biggest advances in the iPhone 14 Pro aren’t things you can see from the outside. The main camera has four times the megapixels as any previous iPhone camera, enabling all sorts of functionality. There are other camera upgrades, too, and they’re all boosted by the new A16 Bionic chip and its associated subprocessors.
But all people will notice are the things they can see. At the Far Out event to introduce the new iPhones on Wednesday, I was able to see the biggest visual difference: the Dynamic Island–a feature that merges hardware and software while answering the question, “Do you think Apple regrets not giving the notch a brand name?”
The Dynamic Island is the replacement for the notch, a combination of two small sensor cut-outs that Apple connects with darkened pixels in the display. We’ve seen similar screens on Android phones, but Apple has created something very unique here. First, the pixels in between the two cut-outs aren’t wasted–Apple is using them to display the “recording” dot that indicates that a microphone or camera is active.
But of course, it goes beyond that—way beyond. The Dynamic Island can grow and change based on the current status of the device. It seems to be an extension of the forthcoming Live Activity widget specification in iOS 16 that lets apps display small wedges of information in the capsule-shaped Dynamic Island.
For example, if you’re currently playing music, when you swipe away from the Music app, a tiny album art will appear on the right side of the Dynamic Island, with a live music waveform–color-matched to the album art–on the right side. It’s all designed to artfully work around the space that’s taken up by the two sensor cutouts. It works with other apps as well and is extremely clever.
Just as striking is the always-on display. Rather than reduce the display to a dim, monochrome version of your lock screen, Apple still displays your lock screen image, just dimmed down. Colors are still visible and even striking. And of course, any lock-screen widgets are there to impart information. To save power, some widgets may stop updating as often–for example, the timer widget obscures the number of seconds so it didn’t have to update itself every second. It’s very much the approach Apple also took when it brought an always-on display to the Apple Watch.