How the iPhone 14 Pro and Galaxy Z Fold are changing the phone game

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The two biggest phone makers are both trying to change the way we interact with our phones, but in very different ways. Apple transforms iPhone software and how it works with the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max phones. Samsungon the other hand, updates the physical form of the smartphone thanks to its range of foldables Galaxy Z Fold and Galaxy Z Flip.

Apple unveiled the iPhone 14 Pro line during its Event “Far Out” last week, and one of its standout new features is a redesigned notch area called the dynamic island. It’s a pill-shaped cutout for the front-facing camera and Face ID sensors that Apple has also repurposed as a miniature secondary display to show notifications and other content.

At first glance, Apple’s Dynamic Island and Samsung’s foldable phones have little, if anything, in common. But the intent behind both is the same: to improve the way our phones display Surface apps and information.

iPhone 14 Pro’s Dynamic Island Explained

The dynamic island is essentially Apple’s answer to faster multitasking on the iPhone. While Android phone makers like Samsung support the ability to have multiple apps open on the screen at once, Apple instead uses the dynamic island to expand and contract to display contextual information. It can expand to display alerts and can change shape depending on the application.

For example, Dynamic Island can display the song you’re listening to even when you’re on the home screen. If you have a timer running at the same time, it will split the timer into its own bubble positioned next to the music playback information, so you can view both without having to switch between apps. Likewise, you can see step-by-step directions on the dynamic island without having to switch between apps. The same goes for sports scores.

Apple says Dynamic Island’s goal is to display information clearly without distracting you from the app you’re in. during the company’s keynote last Wednesday.

How Samsung’s foldables and Dynamic Island are similar

Samsung’s foldable phones and iPhone 14 Pro’s Dynamic Island are inherently different. But they both aim to change the way we interact with apps on our phones.

Samsung promoted the Z-Flip 4 Flex mode, for example, which splits compatible apps between the upper and lower parts of the screen when folded halfway. When opening the camera in Flex mode, the top half of the screen acts as the camera’s viewfinder while the bottom half displays controls such as the shutter button. You can also take photos and send preset replies in some messaging apps on the Z Flip 4 without opening the phone using its cover screen.

The Galaxy Z Fold 4, Samsung’s book-shaped foldable is designed to provide more screen real estate in a device that still fits in your pocket. You can also open multiple apps on the Z Fold 4’s tablet-sized screen at once.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Z Flip 4 held side by side

Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Z Flip 4.

Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

The common thread between the iPhone 14 Pro’s Dynamic Island, the Galaxy Z Flip, and the Galaxy Z Fold is that they’re all changing the way apps are displayed on our phone screens — with the end goal being to make apps more useful. Samsung’s Dynamic Island and foldables are designed to make our phones more adaptable to the situation. Apple’s new notch replacement pins certain app information to the top of your screen and morphs based on what you’re doing. Samsung’s foldables let you change the size and position of your phone – and the apps running on it – to suit different scenarios.

It’s too early to tell if either approach will have a significant impact on how we use our phones in the long run. Apple just announced the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max last week, and those phones won’t launch until September 16. Foldables have been widely available for about three years, but they still only represent a small portion of overall smartphone sales.

What is clear, however, is that both Apple and Samsung are trying to improve the way we absorb and manage the massive amount of information that passes through our phones every day. Now that phones have matured to the point where most updates seem incremental, it’s refreshing to see changes that actually feel different.

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