Live Activities is Apple’s hottest new feature for iPhone, but it’s not always easy. Sometimes you’ll inadvertently activate one, but it can seem frustratingly impossible to start one when you really want to.
First appearing in iOS 16.1, Live Activities displays real-time information or the most current data available from an app on your lock screen. When your iPhone is unlocked, Live Activities appear on your home screen and in apps via Dynamic Island on iPhone 14 Pro and 14 Pro Max. On other iPhone models, they will appear as periodic banner notifications.
Any developer can add live activities to their apps using the ActivityKit framework, but live activities work best when up-to-date information can help you keep track of live tasks and events in real time. For example, you’ll have easy access to playback controls when listening to a song on the Music app, and you’ll see a live countdown to a timer you set in the Clock app.
A live activity can also help you track or get updates on flights, sports game scores, food deliveries, upcoming trips, traffic congestion, package deliveries, election results, and more. The way you view and interact with activities varies:
- On the lock screen or notification center, you can interact with a live activity’s player controls or touch a live activity to open its app and get more information.
- On Dynamic Island, you’ll see a small lingering preview around the TrueDepth camera of what’s happening. You can long-press it to see a larger window with more data and controls, like on the lock screen and notification center.
- On devices without Dynamic Island, you’ll see a banner notification appear briefly on the home screen and in apps, but only if the app appreciates the update being important enough to interrupt you. Tapping the notification will open your app for more information.
You can have multiple live activities running simultaneously. Still, a live activity can only be active for a maximum of eight hours before iOS automatically ends it, unless you or the app ends it first. However, some activities will display the activity result for up to four more hours on the lock screen and Notification Center, bringing the maximum time to 12 hours. When you or the system finish an activity, it immediately disappears from Dynamic Island and you will have no more banner updates.
Live Activities are only available on iPhones, and your device must be running iOS 16.1 or later.
The Live Activities Notification Center lock screen and presentation appear on all supported iPhone models. However, the Dynamic Island view is only available for iPhone 14 Pro and 14 Pro Max. You’ll see banner notifications if you don’t have an iPhone 14 Pro or 14 Pro Max.
Live Activities is likely already enabled for your lock screen, but you can go to “Face ID & Passcode” or “Touch ID & Passcode” in the Settings app to check. The “Live Activities” switch must be turned on in the “Allow access when locked” section.
If you want to enable or disable Live Activities for specific apps system-wide, open the Settings app and open the app preferences. If you see “Live Activities” under “Allow [App] to access”, change it as you like. (Not all apps have live activities.)
Also, the first time you launch a Live Activity from an app, you’ll get options in the Live Activity to “Allow” or “Disallow”, which you can change at any time through the Settings app.
The way to start a Live Activity depends on the app you are using. Some can start automatically, like when you set a timer or play a song. In other cases, you will have to start them manually. Some examples:
To follow the sports results in the Apple TV app, visit the Live Sports section, open a game in progress, and tap the “Follow” button. You can tap it again to stop the live activity. If you don’t see one, it’s not available for that game. You can also swipe left on live activity from the lock screen or notification center to end it.
In iOS 16.2 and later, you can also start a live activity in the TV app from Spotlight Search. Search for a team, tap on their live game score, and hit “Follow.” You can tap it again to stop the live activity.
In the Bookly app, live activity appears automatically every time you start reading a book and shows you the elapsed time. You can touch it to go to the status in the app. Pressing “Pause” or “Stop” for the book stops the activity. You can also swipe left on the live activity to close it, but keep the time in the app.
Every app is different. In Flighty (left image below), you can tap “Live Activity” in the flight view. In Pestle (middle image below), one will start automatically when you start a timer. In Apollo for Reddit (right image below), you can tap the ellipsis menu (•••) in any thread and choose “Start Live Activity.”
- Clock: Starts a live activity when you start a timer.
- Music: Show Now Playing activity when playing music and other audio.
- podcast: Show Now Playing activity when playing podcasts.
- TV: It allows you to follow your favorite sports matchups, showing up-to-date scores and play-by-play. For now, the availability of these live activities is limited to specific sports and countries. Live activities for the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the English Premier League are available in the US and Canada. Live activities for Major League Baseball (MLB) are available in the US, Canada, Australia, UK, Brazil, Mexico, Japan, and South Korea.
Those are some of the Apple apps that support Live Activities. As for third-party apps, there are already a ton, and this is just a sample of what’s out there:
Apple showed examples of Live Activity at Uber, Lyft, and Starbucks, but those apps have yet to be updated to support the feature.
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