- The iPhone 15’s Live Activities feature is really taking off.
- Apps like the Flighty flight-tracker are really pushing the technology.
- Together with Dynamic Island, Live Activities makes the iPhone 14 Pro a compelling upgrade.
Apps that support the iPhone 14 Pro's Live Activities are rolling out, and it looks like an amazing feature.
Live Activities use the iPhone 14 Pro’s always-on display to show live updates from your apps. These may be the progress of that taxi you ordered, the location of that pizza you ordered, or—in the case of today’s example—the status of the flight you are taking or are already on. What’s starting to be obvious is that Live Activities is a pretty great feature.
“I don’t think anything on Android can compare to the Live Activities feature on the iPhone 14 Pro. It’s a great feature that makes the iPhone 14 Pro a more compelling upgrade over the regular iPhone 14,” startup founder and data scientist Zak Kann told Lifewire via email.
More Than Just Pre-Flight Info
Let's look at Flighty to see what a first-class Live Activities experience can look like. Flighty is a flight-tracking app. You enter your booking, and it takes care of everything from then on. It gives alerts and updates, including neat features like delay predictions (it monitors late inbound aircraft and FAA airspace mandates to alert you) and even live updates while you are on the plane (more on that in a bit).
But Flighty's best feature is its design. I tried it out on a flight I wasn't actually taking just to see how it worked, and the alerts are clear and easy to understand. And now, it offers a Live Activities option that shows your flight's progress right there on the Lock Screen, so you can glance at it any time.
The iPhone 14 Pro’s always-on display was not as well-received as one might have expected. Unlike Android’s various always-on displays, which only show essentials like the time, and any widgets you have enabled, Apple’s version looks like your regular lock screen, only dimmer.
This makes it look like your phone is actually on the whole time, which can be an annoying distraction for you and anyone with you. Apple has toned this down in subsequent betas, which may prompt some users to switch it back on.
But despite this annoying Christmas-tree of a Lock Screen, Live Activities is still rad. It’s useful for actual activities, like flight- or pizza-delivery tracking, or walking directions, but also just for things you need to glance at regularly.
I can imagine having my shopping list show up when I’m in a store, for example. Or perhaps an app that shows the chords of the currently-playing song in the Live Activities widget so you can play along and practice without fully lighting up the screen, burning down your battery life.
Live Activities seems to be off to a good start, but it also seems to have captured the imagination of developers in a way that some of Apple’s other clever technologies never did. The MacBook’s Touch Bar, for example, never really seemed to get much support or attention, even from Apple itself.
Let’s take another example from Flighty (now you’re seeing why we picked it for this article). Most flight-tracking apps stop updating when you're in the air. The phone’s GPS should work, because it requires no network connection, but maps do. And so do flight status updates, like the estimated time of arrival, etc.
But Flighty manages to update you even without the internet. How?
According to Ryan Jones, CEO of Flighty, Live Activities uses the iMessage protocol for updates. And some airlines let you connect to a messaging-only wifi service. Flighty’s servers send the data to your app (and your Live Activities widget) via iMessage in a tiny 4kb payload, which is enough to keep you informed.
It’s ingenious and gets us quite excited about the future of Live Activities.
The one downside is that Live Activities only work on the iPhone 14 Pro. The regular 14 does not support them (although any phone running iOS 16 can display lock-screen widgets, which offer at least some data).
Is it worth the upgrade alone? Well, maybe not alone, but in combination with the amazing Dynamic Island, also an iPhone 14 Pro exclusive, the iPhone 14 does look like a pretty great choice. If only you could buy one.