Appledystopia: Independent Technology News

Dynamic Island Sucks

updated by Rachel Gold
January 6, 2023 at 11:01 a.m. PST
  • Apple replaced the sensor notch with an oval on the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max.
  • A user interface embellishment known as Dynamic Island shows real-time information around the sensor cutout to better utilize space.
  • Although the feature is useful and appealing, Apple markets it as the most crucial selling point for the device.
  • Displaying animated graphics on a phone screen is nothing remarkable.

What is Dynamic Island?

Dynamic Island is a user interface design that displays real-time animations representing currently running tasks. For example, when I plug in my iPhone, Dynamic Island shows animation indicating that my device is charging.

Using black background graphics to extend the oval cutout, Dynamic Island draws attention away from the void until it’s time to watch full-screen video or play a game. For these applications, not much can distract from the cutout. At least some game developers can take advantage of Dynamic Island.

Apple’s marketing is pretty slick and misleading. They claim only iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max models can render Dynamic Island because it relies on system-on-chip (SoC) technology within the A16 Bionic processor. Specifically, the graphics processing unit (GPU) generates Dynamic Island. Of course it does, along with the other graphics on your phone screen, because that’s what a GPU does! The Android ecosystem has already ripped off the feature, demonstrating that it can work on just about any phone.

Apple Limited Dynamic Island to iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max for Profit

The notion that only the A16’s processor can render Dynamic Island on the lock screen may be true. Apple’s latest A16 Bionic chip employs a variable refresh rate controller to facilitate the Always-On display. Basically, this slows the display’s refresh rate down to 1 Hz to save battery power. Without this, you can’t have an Always-On display; however, iOS could render Dynamic Island on any other screen.

Nothing is surprising or conspiratorial about this. It’s just a sh**ty, greedy thing to do. It’s like how Apple charges $100 for an iPhone’s $2 storage upgrade. You can see with Apple TV, the difference between the 64GB and 128GB models is only $15. Even then, Apple is making a hefty profit, but they do it so you’ll subscribe to Apple services.

Dynamic Island is Remarkably Arrogant

I once attended a dinner party for a wealthy and prominent Silicon Valley leader. He didn’t prepare the meal but made a condiment to accompany it. It was in a massive bowl, much more than the party of eight could consume.

The condiment was OK and paired well with the meal, but everyone acted like it was the best thing they had ever eaten. It was a way to suck up to a powerful person because such people can open many doors.

This isn’t the only time I’ve seen this behavior. Working in the Valley, you often see people go apes**t over the most insignificant thing because of who did it, not what it is.

Twitter is a perfect example. It started as a few dozen lines of Ruby code, nothing spectacular. It’s still nothing remarkable. Even Frito-Lay is more technologically advanced than Twitter. But Jack Dorsey, a failed software engineer, could captivate the world by playing a role. He looked and acted like Hollywood’s concept of a techie. Twitter took off because they recruited celebrities to use it and did a massive media push on TV. I remember Biz Stone pushing Twitter on all the talk shows — morning, noon, and night. Twitter was a bunch of tech poseurs appealing to the masses on TV to gain traction.

Twitter didn’t take off because tech-savvy people used it. It took off because it made ordinary people believe they were techies. They could also interact with stars. But Twitter’s hype didn’t arise from the cool, smart kids. Unlike Google, which succeeded based on merit and grass-roots approval, Twitter’s rise was very contrived, orchestrated, and pushed.

Dynamic Island arises from this same sycophantic phenomenon. The idea emanates from an Apple elite, and the people surrounding him provide accolades. “Yes, animated graphics on a phone screen! What will you think of next? You’re so amazing!” No one had the guts to say, “Hey, smartphone screens are supposed to show graphics.”

I’m sure many people at Apple were shrugging and figured it would just be a neat little feature. No. It became the ultimate selling point of professional phones because nothing says “professional smartphone” more than cute, animated graphics. I hope to see that dancing baby from the 90s boogying within Dynamic Island someday. That would really impress my professional colleagues.

It takes two to tango, and the Dynamic Island creator’s enthusiasm seems to have really excited Apple’s marketing people. I watched the product launch video, and Dynamic Island was the phone’s most important feature. But it’s just graphics on a phone screen!

Emergency SOS via Satellite is the killer app for me and many others. That took some serious technology, much from third-party companies like Qualcomm (satellite connectivity without massive antenna) and Globalstar (the satellites). But since it works on the base model phones too, Apple didn’t emphasize it as much as Dynamic Island, which only functions on Pro models.

Dynamic Island is like a toilet seat cover in a movie theater bathroom. Instead of talking about the movie, Apple’s marketing raves about the toilet seat cover. That’s all Dynamic Island is — a cover for a digital toilet. The camera cutout must be there, just like a toilet. It actually looks a lot like a squatting toilet.

Dynamic Island is Just OK

I know; the article’s title is “Dynamic Island Sucks”. It’s not that it’s terrible. It’s more that Apple made a huge f**king deal out of this. IT’S JUST GRAPHICS ON A PHONE SCREEN, PEOPLE!!! That’s what phone screens do. They display graphics.

I do find it helpful. If I have a timer set, I can see it, no matter what app I’m using or if my phone is locked. When I use my wireless hotspot, I can see that it’s active, even when my phone is locked. But Dynamic Island has its limits. Most notably, it can only show two running activities simultaneously because the camera cutout cannot render graphics.

There’s a problem with only showing two activities at a time. Say I’m playing music and have my Personal Hotspot activated. If I start a timer, it won’t be displayed in Dynamic Island. It makes me think that I never set the timer in the first place. It’s inconsistent and limited to two activities. Why not replace music with the timer? I know what music I’m playing, but not how much time I have left on the timer.

Of course, Apple can’t show several symbols around the camera cutout. My point is Dynamic Island is limited and flawed. Apple pushed it as a killer feature to upsell the Pro models.

Many people seem to believe Dynamic Island is some magical cutout that can display graphics. No, this is not the case. iOS uses black colors in Dynamic Island graphics to blend in with the cutout. It’s still there. It’s not going anywhere.

Dynamic Island is impressive only because iOS has a stale user interface. It’s still icons arranged in a grid, recently with widgets and a few other embellishments.

Dynamic Island is victuals for starving Apple users who crave something visually different. That’s all it is — something different after years of the same. Once you use an iPhone 14 Pro Max for a few months, it’s nothing special. Dynamic Island is just graphics on a phone screen, not something that should be a significant selling point of a flagship device.

Dynamic Island sheds new light on Apple. I’ve lived in the Valley for a long time and know Apple employees. It’s a cult. Dynamic Island isn’t the worst idea, but making it the leading feature is bizarre. It’s like the Apple cult group-think is on overdrive. If you work at Apple, stay clear of the kool-aid in the cafeteria. A dynamic far beyond group-think will destroy the company if it can’t be constrained.


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