Apple publishes direct activity guidelines for developers

iOS 16.1 Currently Available in beta testing It includes support for the Live Activities API, which allows developers to add real-time notifications to the lock screen and dynamic island. With iOS 16.1 approaching a public release sometime this fall, Apple has now published full human interface guidelines that outline best practices for developers implementing live activities in their apps.

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

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

  • Provide live activity for tasks and live events that have a definite beginning and end.
  • Provide only the most important content.
  • Update Live Activity only when new content becomes available, and alert people only if it’s necessary to get their attention.
  • Avoid displaying sensitive information in live activity.
  • Avoid using live activity to display ads or promotions.
  • Give people control over the start and end of live activities.
  • Make sure that clicking on your live activity opens your app in the correct location.
  • Consider removing your live activity from the lock screen after it’s over.

Apple also gives developers some broader guidance on how to design “useful” live activities for their apps:

  • Ensure uniform information and design for presentations integrated into Dynamic Island.
  • Create consistent layouts between compressed and expanded presentations.
  • Consider using a consistent design in both the lock screen and expanded presentations.
  • Adapt to different screen sizes and live activity presentations.
  • Consider carefully before using custom background color and opacity on lock screen.
  • Format the corner radius of your content with the corner radius of your live activity.
  • In general, use standard margins to ensure that your content is legible.
  • Choose colors that work well on your custom lock screen.
  • Dark mode support and always on.
  • Use animations in moderation, and only to draw attention to content updates.

Apple explains that there are three different designs that its developers need to take into account when creating the Live Actions implementation of the iPhone 14 Pro.


Illustration showing the integrated front end and rear sights integrated into Dynamic Island.


Illustration showing minimum width in Dynamic Island.


Illustration showing the expanded view in 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 expect a full release sometime in October. A full summary of the Live Activities Guidelines can be found at Apple developer site here.

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Some of the formulas Apple uses in these guidelines are interesting. In particular, the company says to “avoid ‘using live activity’ to display ads or promotions.” Developers on Twitter are already asking the company to strengthen this language and ban ads or promotions altogether in live activities.

“Avoid” language is used in a few other places in these Guidelines, such as “Avoid displaying sensitive information in live activity”. Again, this sounds like something that should be banned altogether due to the rise of live activities. Apple also says that developers should “consider” removing their live activity from the lock screen after it’s over. In fact, there is probably no reason for Live Activity to remain stuck in the lock screen after the event ends.

As we approach the public launch of iOS 16.1, it will be interesting to see how developers are implementing live activities in their apps. We will also have to keep a close eye on these guidelines and how they are implemented by reviewing the App Store.

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