“I believe that in the future this interaction will not be designed for pressing, but will be displayed on the Head-Up Display (HUD).” In the world of XR, the content is displayed in this ‘button’. – “The animation and bounce that seems a bit excessive could be a metaphor for people needing to switch from a touch interface to XR, much like Apple’s early anthropomorphic design, which was designed to help people transition from physical key operation to on-screen multi-touch operation.”
As more and more consumers get their hands on the new iPhone 14 series phones on order, Dynamic Island, which was previously expected to be the biggest upgrade for the new generation of iPhones, has become the focus of users trolling on social media.
A large number of consumers quoted the comments of Luo Yonghao, founder of Hammer Technology and a continuing entrepreneur, to criticize Apple’s “cleverness” in using software to cover up hardware flaws. Many of the first users who have used the device for a few days have pointed out that the black area is extremely present, even more so than the previous bangs screen, especially on the 14 Pro’s relatively smaller screen, and not very useful, with the majority of apps not being adapted and not much to do other than show the current status of some official Apple apps.
An article by Fast Company, a veteran US tech media outlet, says that the iPhone 14 Pro’s “pill” is a perfect symbol of Apple’s “shameless genius” approach to user experience. The subtitle reads, “The so-called Dynamic Island is both a master of ingenuity and a shameless sales trick, a glorious work of useless user interface design.”
Amidst the crusade, David Hoang, a long-time tech blogger who has conducted user interaction research, offers another perspective. He argues that Dynamic Island is not just a feature on the new iPhone, but paves the way for a new interaction paradigm, hinting at Apple’s strategy on Extended Reality (XR).
Clues to a paradigm shift
Parker Ortolani, a product developer at tech media outlet The Verge, recently posted a hypothetical design for applying Dynamic Island to the iPad, suggesting that Dynamic Island is the perfect solution for moving the menu bar to the iPadOS.
Note: The Verge’s product developer, Parker Ortolani, designed the iPad’s Dynamic Island. Image credit: Parker Ortolani’s social accounts
Wong thinks this is certainly an interesting design, but it still rests on the idea of a touch interface. However, when moving to an XR device, people are less likely to touch the interface with their fingers.
Many consumers find that they get the iPhone 14 Pro and habitually go to tap on the Dynamic Island for more in-depth manipulation, only to be disappointed to find that the little pill isn’t quite actionable. Moreover, Dynamic Island apparently violates Apple’s guiding rule on human-computer interaction design: it sits at the top of the touch interface and is difficult for fingers to reach when operating with one hand.
In response to these comments, Wong points out that the island is not a portal for us to touch to operate the app, but more of a window to show status and send alerts.
The animations in Dynamic Island look very flexible and can be morphed. The core function at the moment is to show statuses, such as map navigation directions, music playing, timer, sports score and battery level.
“I believe that in the future this interaction is not designed for pressing, but is displayed on the heads-up display (HUD).” In the XR’s world, he writes, content is displayed in this “button”, so this new status indicator is to be called Lively, a double entendre.
Other features that Apple laid the foundations for the XR
Throughout Apple’s history, new design languages have often been introduced for two reasons.
- To create an iconic and recognizable feature for the product line-up, such as the large chin on the iMac or the bangs on the iPhone, so that people can see from afar that it’s an Apple product.
- Testing new interaction paradigms on existing hardware. In 2014, for example, in the beta version of iOS 7, the hands in the clock icon began to move. A few months later, in 2015, Apple released the Apple Watch, which also introduced Force Touch, the original use case for which was on the previous trackpad. Perhaps the Touch Bar, which was previously introduced on computers, was a prototype for Dynamic Island?
Huang believes that Dynamic Island is the first clue to the Apple XR experience. And Apple has released three core features that are central to the XR experience: Universal Control, Spatial Audio and Focus Mode.
Universal Control is probably the XR’s equivalent of a mouse. In its current iteration, Universal Control allows users to control multiple Mac computers and iPads using a single trackpad/mouse and keyboard. Apple may support other peripherals such as gloves or gaming controllers in the future.
Spatial Audio is a 3D audio technology that uses dynamic head tracking for a ‘theatre-like’ experience, creating a more immersive backdrop with compatible Apple products. When this feature was first introduced to Airpods Pro and Airpods Pro Max, Wong said to himself, “Oh man, this is more about AR than sound effects.”
In iOS 15, Focus Mode adds a number of new categories: “Personal”, “Sleep”, “Driving” “Work” and other customized settings. Focus Mode allows users to personalize these modes. Wong believes this feature will evolve into something more dynamic, by tying the device to Apple ID and biometrics, these key features will be integrated with phones, XR headsets and even cars.
Several features that Apple is paving the way for the XR. Image credit: Tech blogger David Hoang
Dynamic interfaces may inspire a new XR design language
Hoang offers thoughts on the future of the XR design language.
The first is the status display on the view. Apple’s XR system, which is expected to be called Reality OS, will need to be designed with a large viewing area, incorporating factors such as collision detection, distance from other devices and time of day, and the interface will be presented in the way that is most relevant to the user.
Secondly, the ‘buttons’ will present interactive content directly. One of the biggest animated elements of Agile Island is resilience. In a more mature XR experience, buttons will not be touchable and fixed in form as we are familiar with; movement and bouncing are the visuals that draw the user’s attention to interact with the dynamic view.
Thirdly, there is the multi-layered structure of the view. z-index (cascading style sheets) shows the layers of elements in an application or website, what if this view hierarchy was put into 3D space? With the island at the top of the z-index, one can imagine how it would be placed in a head-up display (HUD) or even in a car dashboard.
An example of viewing hierarchical debugging in Xcode.
Wong thinks it seems absurd that a status display feature is getting so much attention these days. He believes that the Dynamic Island interface will evolve, but the interaction paradigm will remain the same. The seemingly somewhat excessive animation and bouncing could be a metaphor for people needing to switch from a touch interface to XR, much like Apple’s early anthropomorphic designs, which were designed to help people transition from physical key operation to on-screen multi-touch operation.
Of course, Wong also admits that he may be wrong in his predictions and that the XR experience may not look exactly like Dynamic Island, but he believes that Dynamic Island sets a new direction for Apple’s human-machine interface. If a new paradigm is to be tested, then it makes perfect sense to release it onto existing hardware to try out features like the notification system.
Huang concluded that with over 14,000 apps using ARKit in the App Store, Apple is laying the groundwork for a post-iPhone world. Dynamic Island could be the first clue to the visual interface. “As the robot David in Prometheus quotes T. E. Lawrence: great things begin in the hidden. Great paradigm shifts happen seamlessly before your eyes without you even knowing it, and Dynamic Island could be the moment when the clock hands move in iOS 7 for XR.”