Live Activities is Apple’s hottest new feature for iPhone, but it’s not always easy. Sometimes you’ll trigger one without realizing it, but it can seem frustratingly impossible to start one when you really want to.
What are live activities?
First appearing on iOS 16.1, Live Activities displays real-time information or the most recent 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 the Dynamic Island on iPhone 14 Pro and 14 Pro Max. On other iPhone models, they 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 helps you track live events and tasks in real time. For example, you can easily access playback controls when you’re listening to a song in the Music app, and you’ll see a live countdown for a timer you set in the Clock app.
A live activity can also help you track or receive updates on flights, sports game scores, food deliveries, approaches, traffic jams, package deliveries, election results and more. How 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 tap a live activity to open its app for more information.
- On the Dynamic Island, you’ll see a small persistent preview around the TrueDepth camera of what’s going on. 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 briefly on the home screen and in apps, but only if the app is important enough to interrupt you thanks to the update. Tapping on the notification will open its app for more information.
You can run multiple live activities simultaneously. However, a Live Activity can only be active for up to eight hours before iOS automatically ends — unless you or the app end it first. However, some activities show the result of the activity for up to four more hours on the lock screen and notification center, bringing the maximum time to 12 hours. If you or the system end an activity, it disappears immediately from the Dynamic Island, and you will no longer have banner updates.
What devices support Live Activities?
Live Activities are only available on iPhones, and your device must be running iOS 16.1 or later.
The lock screen and notification center presentation of live activities appears on all supported iPhone models. However, the Dynamic Island View is only available for the 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.
How do you enable/disable live activities?
Live Activities are probably 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 should be enabled under 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’s settings. If you select “Live Activities” under the “Allow [App] for access” section, toggle it as desired. (Not all apps have live activities.)
Also, the first time you run a Live Activity from an app, you’ll get options on the Live Activity itself to “Allow” or “Do not Allow”, which you can change at any time via the Settings app.
How do you start and end a live activity?
How you start a live activity depends on the app you use. Some can start automatically, like when you set a timer or play a song. In other cases, you have to initiate them manually. Some examples:
To follow sports scores 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 stop it.
On iOS 16.2 and later, you can also start a live activity in the TV app from Spotlight Search. Search for a team, tap the score of their live game, and click “Follow”. You can tap it again to stop the live activity.
In the Bookly app, Live Activity automatically appears when you start reading a book, and shows you the elapsed time. You can tap it to go to the status in the app. Clicking “Pause” or “Stop” for the book will stop 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 on “Live Activity” on the flight view. In Pestle (middle picture below), one starts automatically when you start a timer. In Apollo for Reddit (right image below), you can tap the ellipsis (•••) menu in any thread and select “Start Live Activity.”
Which apps support live activities?
- Clock: Start a live activity when you start a timer.
- music: Show the Now Playing activity when playing music and other audio.
- Podcasts: Show the Now Playing activity when playing podcasts.
- TV: Let you follow your favorite sports matches, showing the updated scores and play-by-play. For now, the availability of these live activities is limited to specific sports and countries. Live events for the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the English Premier League are available in the United States and Canada. Live events for Major League Baseball (MLB) are available in the United States, Canada, Australia, United Kingdom, Brazil, Mexico, Japan and South Korea.
These are some of the Apple apps that support live activities. As for third-party apps, there are already a ton, and here’s just a taste of what’s out there:
Apple has shown Live Activity examples in Uber, Lyft and Starbucks, but those apps have not yet been updated to support the feature.
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