Apple’s new iPhone 14 Pro series’s most recognisable feature is not the new A16 processor or 48-megapixel main camera, it is the pill-shaped cut-out that Apple has implemented in the flagship phones. Called Dynamic Island, the feature has made its rounds around the tech community for weeks now and it seems the feature could ‘inspire’ Android phone-makers to deploy a notch-based indicator-plus-multitasking feature of their own.
But is that really necessary?
Both Xiaomi and Realme, two popular smartphone brands that cater largely to affordable and mid-range segments may be considering implementing a version of Apple’s Dynamic Island on their own phones. “Can you imagine what if Realme UI added a software trick to turn the camera cutout into a multifunctional feature?” a Realme blog post asks users, suggesting the feature is probably in the pipeline.
Meanwhile, as per a report by Pocket Lint, Xiaomi President Lu Weibing was spotted asking if users “really need a smart island?” on Weibo. While fans may be excited to try the popular Apple software feature on their phone, keep in mind why Dynamic Island is here in the first place – because of a notch Apple cannot remove.
Why Apple still has a notch
The front camera, coupled with IR emitters that power Apple’s FaceID biometric authentication require a cut-out above the display, as both the camera as well as the IR setup must directly point at users. Unlike the trapezium-like notch we have been seeing since the iPhone X, the new iPhone 14-series implement a circular notch for the camera as well as an adjacent pill for the IR setup.
But it is the software-powered black pill that envelops both these elements into one shape that makes the Dynamic Island what it is, with the shape now able to fluidly morph into larger, rectangular shapes to deliver more contextual information, such as incoming calls and running apps.
This is a great implementation in all honesty, and helps Apple not only disguise the notch during many use-cases, but also turn it into something fun and in some cases, useful. However, that doesn’t mean the Dynamic Island is a good idea for all phones.
Notch UIs on Android could be a nightmare for developers
To begin with, displays on Android phones already come in many combinations of size, shape, resolution and notch cutouts, one of the reasons why you will likely not see the same level of developer support for third-party apps delivering notifications and more via a new UI element. Imagine Spotify, Otter or Snapchat having to develop a new interactive UI extension for a handful of phones.
The implementation is easier on Apple devices, since there are much fewer iPhone screen variants than Androids, and while only two models right now support the Dynamic Island, it is still half of Apple’s iPhone 14 lineup, and the Island is likely a feature we will see in future iPhones as well. This makes it sensible for iOS developers to invest their time in supporting the feature.
Android’s notification panel offers better reachability
Android already has a good notification panel that has seen some nice improvements in recent iterations of the software, that allow users to handle interactive mini widgets like Spotify’s music player perfectly fine. Moreover, the Android notification panel is much easier to reach with one hand compared to a UI that comes out of a notch as the middle and lower portions of screens are easier to reach.
Pull down the notification panel on any Android phone and you’ll see that interactive notifications sit much lower, making it easier to reach them with your thumb. You can even have a number of interactive notifications in the panel at the same time, allowing you to scroll between them. Meanwhile, Apple’s Dynamic Island maxes out at two apps.
The Dynamic Island in direct sunlight looks weird
A number of tweets have shown up in recent weeks that show that the Dynamic Island implementation hides the notch very well, but only as long as you are indoors and away from any direct light hitting your phone. Under sunlight, the darker UI of the Dynamic Island becomes harder to see quite quickly, leaving behind the remains of the i-shaped notch.
— Hospet (@VinayakHospet) September 16, 2022
Android phones with similar notches will have to struggle with this issue too. Moreover, since darker UI elements are harder to see in bright conditions, even Android phone users will have to struggle a bit inside the island.
A number of Android phones have a centre-aligned punch-hole on the top of their screen for the front camera. A UI built around this notch that takes regular inputs is bound to leave smudges on the front camera, adding the extra step of cleaning your camera every time you want to take a selfie or get on a video call.
Lastly, let’s not forget that the Dynamic Island feature exists because Apple cannot simply get rid of the notch yet. However, for Android phones, most of which rely on fingerprint sensors for authentication, there is no need for either a notch on the top of the screen or a UI around it.
If you think about it, should Android phones start implementing their own Dynamic Island rip-offs in the near future, there is no real harm given that it would likely just be a software feature you can toggle off. However, should the trend push phone-makers back to the big-notch-era, that would be a shameful step back in innovation.