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Enter Dynamic Island

Enter Dynamic Island

Disclaimer: I have good friends at Apple and there is no inside information in this post. I’m not in the business of scooping and speculating as a designer and technologist. My friends are tight-lipped and that’s why they are still employed there!Last Tuesday, Apple held its annual September event which typically showcases the consumer lineup: Apple Watch, AirPods, and iPhone—the flagship consumer device for more than a decade. Since Tim Cook has led Apple as CEO, the events are more predictable—which makes sense with Cook’s ops background and supply chain emphasis. Apple fans have missed being dazzled by Steve Jobs pulling the MacBook Air out of a manila envelope and the “one more thing” moments. In addition, Mark Gurman, a reporter for Bloomberg has become the Nate Silver of Apple predictions. What did not get leaked is the software design pattern that was announced along with the iPhone 14 Pro called Dynamic Island.This name sounds like an early 2000s Fox reality dating show in the early than something that belongs in Apple’s lineup. I don’t want to assume all readers are iPhone users or Apple fans and will provide a brief overview. Since the iPhone X, Apple moved from the bezels of previous iPhones to provide more end-to-end real estate. However, with the front-facing camera and other hardware at the top, a black notch is left at the top to accommodate that constraint. Other mobile devices went on to adopt the pill or hole punch shaped and wrapped the rest of the screen real estate at the top. Dynamic Land is a software object that interacts with the pill and through software and the deep blacks of the OLED display, it visually appears seamless between the hardware and software interaction.In the recent Fast Company article, The iPhone 14 Pro ‘pill’ is the perfect symbol of Apple’s shameless UX genius, the sub-headline states: “The so-called Dynamic Island is both a masterstroke of ingenuity and shameless salesmanship, a glorious piece of useless user interface design.”I agree with this if looked at as UI for a touch interface. However, I believe Dynamic Island could be a hint at a paradigm shift of the post-smartphone era and into Extended Reality (XR)—the amalgam of experiences such as Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), and Mixed Reality (MR).I love exploring new technology and speculating what directions it might take. What typically happens is people exploring possibilities, such as this mockup of Dynamic Land on the iPad by Parker Ortolani. I love and appreciate explorations like this! My critique on this is the concept is more engrained in current device interactions vs. new ones. Design exploration by Parker OrtolaniWhen there are paradigm shifts (such as mobile to XR), we often fall back to patterns we’re accustomed to, resulting in explorations like this. My critique is Dynamic Island isn’t about surfacing features from apps for discoverability. It’s a contextual view that alerts you. Though I’m not an XR expert, I have explored it in the past, including giving a talk at try!Swift Tokyo about designing for Augmented Reality. I’m still engrained in the curiosity of where AR and XR can go. Apple has a tendency to introduce new design languages for two reasons:Creating an iconic and recognizable brand for their lineups (more on this in my previous newsletter about the iMac chin) for the purpose of distinction in selling a lineupTesting new interaction paradigms on existing hardware to iterateAn example of the second one was during WWDC in 2014.  » Read More

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