Live Activities explained: this is how the Dynamic Island of the iPhone 14 Pro will come alive


The introduction of the Dynamic Island on the iPhone 14 Pro and 14 Pro Max (we recently reviewed it) brought with it the first real renewal in the experience of using iOS for some time nowthanks to the inclusion of a new software element that can give us a real window about what happens in some of the applications running on the smartphone.

At present there are still few applications able to make the most of the possibilities offered by the Dynamic Island, also because Apple has not yet enabled the API dedicated to Live Activities, which will instead be available to everyone on the occasion of the release of iOS 16.1. Until then, the third party apps will be able to interact with the island only when they use one of the APIs dedicated to call management or music controls, but it will be with the next iOS update that developers will be able to start publishing applications that can offer a better user experience thanks to the functions of the Dynamic Island.

As the release approaches – expected in October -, Apple has published some interesting guidelines that explain how to make the most of Live Activities on their apps, drawing a first distinction between what is possible, what is not and what is should not be made. Let’s see what it is:


Before going into the details of the guidelines it is good to make a due clarification: the news related to Live Activities will not be the exclusive prerogative of the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Maxbut they will relate all devices compatible with iOS 16. In fact, remember that the widgets of the apps that will exploit the Live Activities will be visible on the unlock screen, as shown by Apple during the presentation of the operating system at the last WWDC. What changes in current and future models equipped with Dynamic Island, is the way in which it will be possible to access the contents, since these smartphones will be able to recall them more easily through an interaction with the island.

The new guidelines therefore cover all iPhones compatible with iOS 16, since they also describe for what types of content you can take advantage of this new feature and which ones it would be best avoided for, as well as providing one set of indications on some good practices to be respected. The list includes:

  • Use Live Activities only for activities and live events that have a specific beginning and end
  • Show only essential content
  • Update the content only when there is something new, so as not to distract the user without real reasons
  • Provide control to the user over the start and end of content displayed as a Live Activity
  • Make sure that the tap on the activity takes you to the right section of the app
  • Have the activity disappear from the lock screen when it ends
  • Avoid showing sensitive information within the business
  • Avoid using Live Activities to show advertisements and promotions

The list does not include particular curious aspects, except for the last point, that is the invitation not to show ads or other advertising content. It is strange that Apple used such vague and unclear terminology about this practice, suggesting that there is the possibility of doing so but it would be better to avoid, a fact that opens up to a scenario of discretion that is never positive in these cases. The story has raised more than a few questions and it is likely that Apple will adjust the game, but for the moment the doubt remains.

Apart from that, the guidelines also include some information on how a Live Activity must be designed in order to be useful for applications that will use it. Apple’s recommendations include:

  • Use animations sparingly, just to bring the content to the user’s attention
  • Offer full support for the dark theme and always on display
  • Choose colors that might also work well on custom lock screens
  • Make sure your content is legible, in line with standard margins
  • Adapt content to various screen sizes
  • Use a consistent design between the unlock screen widget and the Expanded layout (we’ll get there soon)
  • Use consistent designs among other display modes in the Dynamic Island as well
  • Be careful to use the same radius of curvature between the contents and the Live Activities windows

We have mentioned the different layouts related to the Dynamic Island, as Apple also showed the three viewing modes of Live Activities that can be found on devices equipped with this element. In general we talk about Compact, Minimal and Expanded modes. Here’s what they look like:

From top to bottom the 3 stages of the Dynamic Island and the contents of the Live Activities: Compact, Minimal, Expanded

In short, net of some small doubts raised by the terminology used by Apple, Live Activities promise to make the experience of using iOS apps much more interactive even when these are not in the foreground, providing the user with useful information regarding aspects that in the past he would have had to consult directly from the application.

We can’t wait to find out how the developers will exploit this possibility and what the real limitations of the system will be. But for this we will have to wait for the official release of iOS 16.1 and for the apps to update accordingly.

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(update of September 27, 2022, 1:55 pm)