iPhone 14 Pro Dynamic Island — everything you need to know

iPhone 14 Pro Max
(Image credit: Future)

The iPhone 14 Pro Dynamic Island has arrived to provide a less obtrusive and more intelligent alternative to the notch we've all grown to love (or hate) over the past five years of iPhone models.

The regular iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Plus may still have the notch, but Apple finally introduced a proper alternative to the punch-hole selfie cameras seen on rival Android phones. And as iOS 16 continues to get updates and app developers work on taking advantage of new features in the iPhone's software, the Dynamic Island is slowly getting more and more practical. 

For now though, while the Dynamic Island is the favorite iPhone 14 Pro feature of some on the Tom's Guide staff, others reckon it's more of a let-down.

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Below, we've got a breakdown of what the Dynamic Island is and does, as well as some of the apps and features that take advantage of this iPhone 14 Pro addition. Take a look at those, and then check out our iPhone 14 cameras and the iPhone 14 specs guides for more details on Apple's latest phone.

iPhone 14 Pro Dynamic Island: What is it?

iPhone 14 Pro Max

(Image credit: Future)

Ignore the Dynamic part of Dynamic Island for a second. At its simplest, this iPhone 14 Pro feature involves two cut-outs in the display containing the selfie camera and Face ID sensors. They're actually embedded separately in the phone if you look closely, but the iPhone's interface places them together in one larger pill cutout for a more unified look than multiple cutouts.

But rather than just attach them together, Apple also uses the Island to display relevant information depending on which apps you're using or alerts you're getting. For example, if you set a timer in the Clock app, the Dynamic Island displays the countdown. Or if you're playing music, the album art and a waveform will appear there, too.

Tapping and holding the Dynamic Island will pop open a larger version of the widget, letting you control a few things without going directly into the app. Going back to the album example again, tapping and holding shows a full media widget with skip forward/back buttons, an interactive progress bar and an AirPlay button to choose your output device.

iPhone 14 Pro dynamic island

(Image credit: Apple)

iPhone 14 Pro Dynamic Island: Compatible iPhones

As things stand right now, only the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max can use the Dynamic Island. The regular iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Plus still use Apple's old notched design; as a result, they can't take advantage of the new feature.

As for future iPhones, rumors currently claim that all flagship iPhones from iPhone 15 onward will adopt the Dynamic Island. Since the iPhone SE is currently a generation behind design-wise, using the iPhone 8 as its basis, it could be a number of years before the cheapest iPhone also gets a Dynamic Island, even if the iPhone SE 4 appears in 2023 as has been rumored.

iPhone 14 Pro Dynamic Island: Compatible apps and features

Apple put a lot of alerts into its Dynamic Island, so here is a list of the most interesting features any iPhone 14 Pro user will find in their Dynamic Island.

Face ID and iPhone lock

Probably the first thing you'll notice when picking up an iPhone 14 Pro is that there's a little padlock icon in the Dynamic Island to show it's secure. It'll turn into a processing bubble and then a tick to show you've been allowed in.

Also, opening apps or verifying your identity will cause a Face ID window to pop open while the iPhone double checks you are who you say you are.

Apple Maps

iPhone 14 dynamic island maps

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Apple put in a lot of effort into integrating its Maps app with the Dynamic Island. In its normal form, Maps shows your next instruction as you travel to your destination. A tap and hold will reveal more information if you need to clear up exactly where you're heading.

AirDrop

Sending or receiving files between different Apple devices will show a loading bar in the Dynamic Island to let you know when your items are ready to open.

Voice Memos 

iPhone 14 dynamic island voice recorder

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The Dynamic Island displays a waveform of your recording and the time elapsed when you're taking audio notes in Voice Memos.

AirPods and accessories connection and battery life

If you connect your Apple-made earbuds or headphones to the iPhone, then Dynamic Island will show a little icon of them with a green or red ring showing how much charge they (and their charging case if present) contain. The feature works with other select accessories, too.

Apple Pay

A GIF showing Apple Pay on the iOS Dynamic Island

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Instead of making the Wallet app pop up to show your available cards for payment, you instead get a small box showing your currently active card and a little icon that reveals the status of your payment.

Focus Mode

When your iPhone swaps between different Focus Modes automatically, the icon of that Focus will appear with an on or off badge so you know why your home screens or other settings are suddenly changing.

Battery and charging alerts

iPhone 14 dynamic island charging

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

When your battery starts to run low, the typical iPhone 20% and below warnings will pop into the Dynamic Island to give you a visual warning that it's about time to start charging your phone.

And when you do set your phone on charge, the Dynamic Island will show you a confirmation so you can be certain you're going to wake up to a fully juiced phone.

Silent on/off

Flicking the alert switch on the left side of the iPhone already gives some tactile feedback, but you can also see a silent icon appear or disappear in the Dynamic Island now too.

Timer

iPhone 14 dynamic island timer

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Setting a timer on your iPhone 14 Pro lets you keep a constant eye on the time remaining, either in the full Dynamic Island or a little circular sub-island to the right. Tapping and holding the island will let you pause or cancel the timer.

Shortcuts

If you run Shortcuts — those are the customizable iOS automations — you can see a circle filling in the island as your shortcut progresses through its instructions.

Screen record

Dynamic Island will count you down to a recording's start and display a red dot to make sure you don't forget.

Current phone call

iPhone 14 dynamic island phone call

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Whoever's calling you will get their contact photo put on display on the Dynamic Island, with the accept/decline call buttons available for you to use too.

Privacy notifications

When you're using the iPhone's microphone or cameras, the orange or green dots will appear in the middle of the Dynamic Island to remind you that you're being watched or recorded.

Media Player

iPhone 14 Pro Max

(Image credit: Future)

When there's a song, podcast, video or whatever else playing that would normally appear in Control Center's media widget, you'll now also find it 

On top of Apple's built-in features, you also get Live Activities, which are new to iOS 16 and give you real-time updates to apps you previously would have had to open. On phones without Dynamic Island, Live Activities are typically confined to the lock screen.

iPhone 14 Pro Dynamic Island shows scores as part of Live Activities feature in iOS 16

(Image credit: Apple)

So if you want to check your team's scores for a currently ongoing game, or see where your Uber or takeout delivery is up to, that can now appear in the Dynamic Island.

Swiping left or right along the Island will stop any active animations, or if you've got two apps currently in the Island it will dismiss the one active on the side you swiped in from. You can bring them back by swiping again.

You currently can't turn off the Island as a feature as of iOS 16.1, but perhaps future versions of iOS will let users do this.

iPhone 14 Pro Dynamic Island: outlook

Apple has done a good job of giving the Dynamic Island multiple functions out of the gate, and the feature looks like it'll only get more and more useful as time goes on. For example, a recent update keeps the Wi-Fi and signal strength icons in view when the island's active.

Even though only the iPhone 14 Pro models sport the new Dynamic Island, it's a pretty big deal when the world's most prominent smartphone gets a redesign. The notched iPhone design that's become so ubiquitous over the past five years is about to enter a gradual retirement, and the new, but just-as-unique pill-shaped cutout is here to add a new way of interacting with your iPhone apps.

For now though, it's a shame only the Pro models will be abandoning the notch. Not only does it mean less display for the regular iPhones, and even fewer new features, but it makes them look old-fashioned, even though they're brand new.

Next: Here's why our Phones Editor thinks Apple went overboard on the iPhone 14 Pro always-on display.

Even though only the iPhone 14 Pro models sport the new Dynamic Island for now, it's a pretty big deal when the world's most prominent smartphone gets a redesign. The notched iPhone design that's become so ubiquitous over the past five years is about to enter a gradual retirement, and the new, but just-as-unique pill-shaped cutout is here to add a new way of interacting with your iPhone apps.

For now though, it's a shame only the Pro iPhones will be abandoning the notch. Not only does it mean less display for the regular iPhones, and even fewer new features, but it makes them look old-fashioned, even though they're brand new.

To make up your own mind about whether the new Dynamic Island is a good idea, and if the old notch style still holds up, take a look at our iPhone 14 Plus and iPhone 14 Pro Max hands-on for a more detailed look direct from Cupertino.

Next: Here's why our Phones Editor thinks Apple went overboard on the iPhone 14 Pro always-on display.

Richard Priday
Senior Writer

Richard is a Tom's Guide senior writer based in London, covering news, reviews and how-tos for phones, tablets, gaming, and whatever else people need advice on. Following on from his MA in Magazine Journalism at the University of Sheffield, he's also written for WIRED U.K., The Register and Creative Bloq. When not at work, he's likely thinking about how to brew the perfect cup of specialty coffee.