With the iPhone 15, Apple finally killed off the long-derided notch — the rectangular cut-out area that had housed the front-facing camera since 2017’s iPhone X.
In its place is Dynamic Island, which is less invasive, and has a bunch of clever tricks up its figurative sleeve to make it a feature rather than a design oversight.
Here are some of the iPhone tricks it can do, but first, a little background…
What is Dynamic Island?
At a glance, Dynamic Island isn’t actually a million miles away from the notch it replaced. It’s a small blacked-out area at the top of the screen that still houses the Face ID cameras for security and phone unlocking. Only now, it’s not connected to the side of the bezel, hence ‘island’ (before, it was more of a peninsula).
The ‘dynamic’ part of the name is because the ‘island’ can change shape to show extra data with supported apps — mainly first-party ones, but also some third-party ones, including Uber and Delta. You can hold down on it to expand the island, or tap it to open the corresponding app and get the full picture as required.
It’s an optical illusion, of course. There still is a bit of screen missing, but Apple’s use of a black background on Dynamic Island popups makes it look like it’s part of the screen. It’s a clever way of turning a disliked design concession into a killer feature.
Which iPhones have it?
Technically, Dynamic Island is old news. It launched last year with the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max.
But in 2023, it arrived on all four models of the iPhone 15 making it clear that it’s here to stay. The only ‘current’ iPhone not to have it is last year’s entry-level iPhone SE, which isn’t expected to be refreshed until 2025 (and will likely still miss out).
5 neat iPhone 15 Dynamic Island features
1. Authenticating Apple Pay
If you use Apple Pay in-store or on the App Store, you’ve probably already spotted this one. When you double-click the side button to start a payment, Dynamic Island springs to life, expanding to reveal the familiar green smiley face that confirms it’s really you.
It’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment, but it’s a reminder that the phone is confirming your identity whenever you make a payment, which is certainly reassuring.
2. Keeping tabs on timers
If you use your iPhone for setting timers, either manually or with Siri, you previously had to manually check in on it to see how long was left.
With Dynamic Island, active timers are kept in plain sight. And if you want to pause or stop it, you can hold down on the Dynamic Island for a larger window to do just that.
3. Warning you when your privacy is at risk
This one is pretty understated, but it’s very handy to know about, as it relates to your privacy. If you see a small colored dot in your Dynamic Island, the iPhone is telling you that either your camera or microphone is active. It’s green for the former, or red for the latter.
Obviously this is nothing to worry about if you’re taking a photo or on a call, but if you’re not expecting the mic or camera to be active, then this is a useful warning sign.
4. Controlling your audio
This is one of the neatest functions of Dynamic Island. If you’re playing music, a podcast or an audiobook, Dynamic Island will expand slightly to show a small icon with the song/episode/book’s icon and a mixer icon to show it’s playing.
Hold down on this, and it will expand to a larger interface, with the ability to rewind, pause, fast forward, scrub the position or change the audio output. It’s extremely handy.
5. Guiding you home
A useful one if you use Apple Maps to navigate. Enter your navigation details in the app, and Dynamic Island will show small turn-by-turn navigation icons.
If you need more detail, either hold down on Dynamic Island to expand it, or tap it to take you to Apple Maps in full-screen mode.
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Freelance contributor Alan has been writing about tech for over a decade, covering phones, drones and everything in between. Previously Deputy Editor of tech site Alphr, his words are found all over the web and in the occasional magazine too. He often writes for T3 and Tom's Guide. When not weighing up the pros and cons of the latest smartwatch, you'll probably find him tackling his ever-growing games backlog. Or, more likely, playing Spelunky for the millionth time.
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