Apple clearly knows a thing or two about design, and releasing year after year of premium iPhone hardware has earned it a top spot as smartphone industry trendsetter. Just think – when the company discontinued the headphone jack, we saw nearly every major Android manufacturer rush to follow suit. Occasionally, though, things go the other way around, and Android phones end up setting the bar for iPhone features. Brands like Samsung ditched the notch in favor of circular hole-punch cutouts for their front-facing cameras. Apple may be fashionably late to this trend, with the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max only transitioning to a pill-shaped cutout called the Dynamic Island this month, but boy, does it still manage to leave quite the impression. Android developers have been quick to try replicating the software side of Apple’s implementation, and today we’re checking out how well an app called dynamicSpot manages to succeed at bringing the Dynamic Island experience to Android.
Dynamic Island on the iPhone 14 Pro sure feels like it’s an appropriate name for what we get – the rectangular pill-shaped cutout in the display surrounding the selfie camera and Face ID hardware just sort of floats there like an island in a sea of pixels. When you tap a notification in the pill, it responds by animating and changing size, creating the illusion that the pill-shaped cutout physically expands (helping accommodate indicators for notification icons, ongoing background tasks, and incoming alerts). These effects are a visual treat on the OLED displays used by iPhones (not to mention scores of Android devices, mid-range and flagship alike), since they’re capable of significantly deeper blacks than you’d get on an LCD.
Last week, theme developers showed off what a Dynamic Island could look like on a Xiaomi phone. While promising, that was also a solution specific to one company’s devices, and last we checked, the theme was still waiting for approval. But XDA Developers managed to spot a new app in early access called dynamicSpot, and having taken a look at it ourselves, this could be the perfect solution if you’re longing for the Dynamic Island visual experience on Android phones – and specifically, those with center-aligned hole-punch cameras like the Google Pixel 6 or Samsung Galaxy S22 series. The app is the brainchild of developer Jawomo, also known for their Bixby button remapper app and the notification light app for OnePlus phones.
Once installed, the lightweight app creates a black pill-shaped bar that surrounds your screen’s camera cutout with icons for notifications. You can enlarge the island with a long tap on the pill, while a short tap connects you to the notifying app. If that sounds backwards to you, a small IAP lets you change those interactions around. As you would with any other notifications on Android, you can swipe to dismiss, and if the pill disappears before you get to access the alert, just open your trusty notification shade.
To get started with dynamicSpot, you’ll need to grant it permission for reading your notifications and drawing over other apps. We also suggest turning off power-saving restrictions, so the process isn’t killed in the background. The developer notes that the app doesn’t connect to the internet itself, which sounds good for privacy, but the absence of other permissions, like Bluetooth and GPS, means it loses out on the ability to display alerts when Bluetooth devices connect – a feature seen on the iPhone 14 Pro.
For an app still in early access, dynamicSpot is already quite capable. It supports notifications for all installed apps, complete with granular controls for each one, and quick action buttons for some of them.
The personalization app’s clean UI has a switch to toggle the notification island on or off, as well as settings that allow you to tweak its vertical position, width, and height, so it aligns with your hole-punch camera perfectly. There’s even a handy test button, so you don’t have to wait for a friend to ping you just to see how your notifications will appear. What the app doesn’t have is any kind of slider to adjust the horizontal position of the island, so it doesn’t support phones with their selfie-cam cutouts in the corner, like the OnePlus Nord 2.
If you cough up the small fee for the Pro version, you get to control how long the pill stays after a notification arrives, as well as how the island behaves when the screen is turned off. You can also unlock alerts for when the battery level drops below 15 percent and when the phone is fully charged.
For an app presumably developed in such a short time span, dynamicSpot already offers an impressive level of polish. Still, we understand this is a work-in-progress beta, and users can expect a few hiccups while getting up to speed. For instance, at first you’ll see notification pop-ups alongside your pill icons, creating a duplicate, but the remedy is simple – disable floating notifications for installed apps. You’ll probably want to set that manually, as while dynamicSpot has a toggle to do this for you, it’s another paywalled Pro feature (plus, it doesn’t seem to be in working order).
The floating notification needs to be disabled if you want to use the pill alone
Other minor inconveniences include displaying incorrect media duration on either side of the playback progress bar, absent quick action buttons for some notifications, and incorrect system time and date displayed in the charging indicator.
Importantly, returning to the home screen on your phone doesn’t minimize a running app to the island, one of the biggest behavior changes that differs from Apple’s implementation. It would be lovely if we saw apps like this one benefit from tighter integration with Android launchers like Nova Launcher, because they control app launch animations. We wouldn’t be surprised if developers behind up-and-coming launchers integrate some sort of island-style feature in their own apps, either.
It would be unfair to expect iPhone island-level dynamism and polish from Android copycats developed within a week or two, but apps like this one are already on trajectory to becoming the theming and customization enthusiast’s go-to solution for an iOS-style look on on budget. The developer promises to add more custom animations, interactions, and improve app support, but we hope they iron out the minor issues with it, too. If you liked how this all sounds and are interested in giving it a spin, you just need an Android device to install dynamicSpot on that features an OLED display – and all the best Android phones come with one.