Apple publishes Live Activities guidelines for developers

iOS 16.1 is currently available in beta testing and includes support for the Live Activities API, which allows developers to add real-time notifications to the Lock Screen and Dynamic Island. As iOS 16.1 nears a public release sometime this fall, Apple has now published its full Human Interface Guidelines that outline best practices for developers implementing Live Activities in their applications.

Live Activities were announced at WWDC as a way for developers to add real-time, up-to-date information to the iPhone Lock Screen. Then, the full scope of the feature was announced when Apple unveiled the Dynamic Island on the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max. In addition to the Lock Screen, developers will be able to show Live Activities directly in the Dynamic Island as well.

In the newly-published guidelines, Apple outlines the best practices for developers specifically looking to adopt Live Activities on the iPhone 14 Pro’s Dynamic Island.

  • Offer a Live Activity for tasks and live events that have a defined beginning and end.
  • Present only the most essential content.
  • Update a Live Activity only when new content is available, alerting people only if it’s essential to get their attention.
  • Avoid displaying sensitive information in a Live Activity.
  • Avoid using a Live Activity to display ads or promotions.
  • Give people control over beginning and ending Live Activities.
  • Make sure tapping your Live Activity opens your app at the right location.
  • Consider removing your Live Activity from the Lock Screen after it ends.

Apple also gives developers some broader guidelines on how to design “useful” Live Activities for their applications:

  • Ensure unified information and design of the compact presentations in the Dynamic Island.
  • Create consistent layouts between compact and expanded presentations.
  • Consider using a consistent design in both Lock Screen and expanded presentations.
  • Adapt to different screen sizes and Live Activity presentations.
  • Consider carefully before using a custom background color and opacity on the Lock Screen.
  • Coordinate the corner radius of your content with the corner radius of the Live Activity.
  • In general, use standard margins to ensure your content is legible.
  • Choose colors that work well on a personalized Lock Screen.
  • Support Dark Mode and Always On.
  • Use animations sparingly, and only to bring attention to content updates.

Apple explains that there are three different designs developers need to account for when creating their Live Activities implementation for iPhone 14 Pro.



An illustration that shows the minimal view in the Dynamic Island.


An illustration that shows the expanded view in the Dynamic Island.

Live Activities in third-party apps will officially launch this fall with iOS 16.1. The update is currently available in developer and public beta testing, and we’re expecting a full release sometime in October. The full rundown of Live Activities guidelines can be found on Apple’s Developer website right here.

9to5Mac’s Take

Some of Apple’s wording in these guidelines is interesting. In particular, the company says to “avoid” using a Live Activity to “display ads or promotions.” Developers on Twitter are already calling on the company to strengthen this language and completely prohibit ads or promotion in Live Activities.

The “avoid” language is used in a few other spots in these guidelines, such as “avoid displaying sensitive information in a live activity.” Again, this feels like something that should be completely prohibited given the visibility of Live Activities. Apple also says developers should “consider” removing their Live Activity from the Lock Screen after it ends. In reality, there’s likely no reason a Live Activity should remain stuck at the Lock Screen after the event is over.

As we near the public launch of iOS 16.1, it’ll be interesting to see how developers implement Live Activities into their apps. We’ll also have to keep a close eye on these guidelines and how they are enforced by App Store review.

FTC: We use income earning auto affiliate links. More.

Check out 9to5Mac on YouTube for more Apple news:

Leave a Comment