I could use a Mac upgrade, but I’m a layman and I’ve put it off. My old Mac’s performance is fine for what I do. Lots of great deals have popped up for the 14-inch MacBook Pro lately, but I haven’t made the investment.
But you know what would eventually make me spend my money? A Mac with Dynamic Island.
Dynamic Island is a new user interface element introduced with the iPhone 14 Pro. With this phone, Apple has redesigned the front notch into a pill shape, but instead of something on the screen trying to ignore you (like you did with the notch), Apple decided to give it a name and give it a significant way to communicate with the phone.
Apple’s Dynamic Island demos at the iPhone 14 event were dazzling. Cute little icons will appear and tapping them will reveal relevant and useful controls. It seemed like Apple was working magic by turning what is commonly seen as a hindrance and turning it into a useful interface anchor point.
I recently got my hands on an iPhone 14 Pro Max and Dynamic Island feels like it’s about to become something special. There are many features it works with and it works with third-party apps that use Apple’s APIs, such as the Now Playing API which handles media playback. It will be fun to see third-party developers come up with creative ways to implement it, and then the full power of Dynamic Island will be realized.
That power and excitement needs to be translated to the Mac. Apple’s 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro already have notches, and the screen can be easily reconfigured to mimic the pill-shaped Dynamic Island. On the iPhone, Dynamic Island gives a nice, whimsical feel to the user interface, and it would work just as well on a Mac. For example, I’d like to see the icon of the podcast I’m listening to shrink to a Mac Dynamic Island, just like on an iPhone, and when I click it, the play buttons appear.
Now it can be argued that the Mac does not need Dynamic Island as it already has a menu bar. It’s true that the menu bar has many of the same features, but the right side of the Mac UI gets pretty cluttered. Menu bar icons are aligned to the right and anything that appears on the desktop (storage devices, network servers, saved files) appears on the right side of the screen. Notifications also appear on the right side, and if you click the time in the menu bar, a column of notifications and widgets will appear above all the desktop icons. A Mac Dynamic Island would relieve some of that load on the right side.
Apple already implements features introduced with iOS in macOS, and often those features are tailor-made for Mac use, so they don’t always work the same across platforms. The same could be true for Dynamic Island – if it doesn’t make sense for a Dynamic Island feature on the iPhone to work the same way on the Mac, then it doesn’t have to. In the podcast example I mentioned earlier, the controls that appear don’t have to extend from the notch; since the MacBook Pro’s Dynamic Island would be surrounded by the menu bar, extending it to controls might not work as it could interfere with other items in the bar. Instead, those controls could appear in a popup just below Dynamic Island.
And there are Mac-specific features that could work in Dynamic Island as well. Multitasking on the Mac is much more robust than on the iPhone, so Dynamic Island may function slightly differently. Maybe Activity Monitor can show CPU stats or memory usage, or Zoom can show mute and camera controls. But. a similar UI for the Mac would be a great way to breathe new life into macOS.
There are nuances to a Mac Dynamic Island that Apple should work out. Would it be a Pro only feature? Can the user have the option to deactivate Dynamic Island? How can you make sure it doesn’t introduce a user interface that would be missing on a non-notched Mac? But I think it will be worth it. It’s a UI element that I already love on iPhone and would love to have on a new Mac.