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iPhone 14 Pro makes the notch come alive, finally

iPhone 14 Pro Dynamic Island

Image: Apple

The new notch, the pill, the cutout, the hole; whatever you want to call it, the iPhone 14 Pro‘s new Dynamic Island, as Apple calls it, has expectant fans divided.

If you’ve spent any time around the rumor mill in the past couple of weeks, you were probably aware that the pill-shaped cutout on the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max had been leaked.

For a whole week leading up to the Sept. 7 Apple product reveal event, people were discussing how either the pill makes the new iPhone the butt of jokes, or it’s a sheer stroke of genius.

But was the old notch the ugly duckling that evolved into the beautiful swanlike Dynamic Island? Or not quite?

Also: iPhone 14 Pro vs iPhone 14 Pro Max: Which should you buy?

The birth of the notch

iPhone XS Max with horizontal black bar in top center, held up by a hand

The notch at the top of an iPhone XS Max.

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

Apple’s design seems to consistently get it right with its fanbase, which is why the notch on the iPhone X was met with so much disdain. But because Apple needed to fit the TrueDepth camera system on the front of the smartphone that enables the use of Face ID, it became a widely accepted necessary evil. And, eventually, a trademark to distinguish the iPhone from other smartphones. 

Closeup of hands holding an iPhone 14 Pro and an iPhone 14 Pro Max side by side on a blue gradient background

What the pill-shaped notch, or Dynamic Island, looks like on the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max.

Apple

The Dynamic Island admittedly does the same: No other phone on the market features a black hole at the top of its display and Apple knows this. The necessary evil remains but Apple is finally making the most of it.

Also: iPhone 14 Pro vs iPhone 13 Pro: Is it worth the upgrade?

Evolving to an island

Dynamic Island iPhone 14 Pro

The Dynamic Island expands to show an incoming call.

Apple

The uniqueness of the Dynamic Island turns an eyesore into a selling point. Apple has worked the notch into a useful component of iOS 16, giving it a fluid and energetic look that houses widgetlike icons for notifications, payment confirmations via Apple Pay, alerts, map directions, and music information, and it can expand to different sizes to show phone calls, timers, alarms, live activities like sports scores, and more. 

Also: How to get your iPhone ready for iOS 16

Apple calls the Dynamic Island “both hardware and software — and something in between.” And that’s exactly what it is. 

Aside from housing a new, smaller TrueDepth camera mechanism, the Dynamic Island is more like a bubble that users can interact with. The new design performs fluid movements and transformations, expanding and shrinking as needed. 

Now the notch is actually useful

Expanded Dynamic Island with Apple Maps navigation

Expanded Dynamic Island showing live Apple Maps navigation.

Apple

In other words, Apple is turning the notch that houses the camera mechanism into a feature of the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max. It’s making use of dead space in a brilliant way: making an attractive, interactive attribute out of a necessity. 

So maybe I am Team Dynamic Island. It’s sleek and attractive and it looks, dare I say, fun to use. Though I never minded the notch before, at least now it serves a better purpose than just unlocking your phone with Face ID.

Also: Here’s everything Apple announced during its ‘Far Out’ event

Truly, the added features of iOS 16 (with enhancements like a customizable lock screen and differences in visual notifications) plus the new Dynamic Island and always-on display give the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max one of the biggest makeovers we’ve seen to Apple’s user interface to date. 

Is the Dynamic Island the bane of selfies? 

iPhone 14 Pro from the top, front and back, showing the camera bump and Dynamic Island

Can you have smudge-free selfies if you’re constantly touching the camera?

Apple

There does seem to be a drawback, though. The notch is there to house the camera system, including the Face ID mechanism. So will turning this area into an interactive Dynamic Island, which you’ll often be touching, affect your selfies? 

The front-facing camera that lives within the Dynamic Island features autofocus and a f/1.9 aperture, to provide more exposure for those low-light selfies at restaurants with friends. But if you’re constantly tapping the pill with greasy fingers to check your notifications, does that mean your camera will always be blurry?

Also: One simple way to make your iPhone photos better

OK, so I’m not touching my phone screen with “appetizer fingers,” but an iPhone’s screen gets smudges on the regular from normal appetizer-free tapping and swiping. So that does seem likely to affect the camera.

With Apple now taking preorders for the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max, we’ll have to wait and see if Dynamic Island selfies survive the challenge of everyday display touching. Maybe we’ll all be wiping our iPhones on our shirts right before taking selfies like it’s second nature. 


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