After a decade with an iPhone, I didn’t expect anything could come along to transform the way I use my phone. iOS 14 widgets proved me wrong. They have me interacting with the handset in a way I never have before.
iPhone widgets are so convenient
In the old days (a few months ago, before iOS 14), my iPhone Home screen was nearly static. The closest it got to interactivity was badges to show how many unread emails were waiting.
That all changed with the latest update. It comes with a basic number of Home screen widgets, and the ability for third-party developers to add more.
Widgets let me glance at my Home screen to get an update on my day. With a quick look, I can see what my next meeting is with the Calendar widget and check if it’s raining with the Weather widget. I can check my stocks with a widget, too.
To make this work, I’ve arranged my Home screen to be mostly widgets, with just a bit of room for very frequently used applications.
I’m aware that I could do all this with the Today View in earlier iOS versions. My point here is, I didn’t. The Today View is too well hidden, and I forget about it for months at at time. Home screen widgets are right there where they’re always easy to see.
With iOS 14 on my iPhone, I simply pick up the device, flick up from the bottom of the screen to unlock it with Face ID, and I’m looking at a status update.
If I leave an app running, I jump back to the Home screen with a couple of flicks of my thumb up from the bottom of the touchscreen. Or use Back Tap, an accessibility feature added in iOS 14. (To set that up, just go to Settings > Accessibility > Touch > Back Tap. Set it so tapping the back of your iPhone three times opens the Home screen.)
What’s still missing
Home screen widgets are still new, and fresh ones appear regularly. The widget I’d most like to see is one for Apple Mail that shows me recently received emails. Currently, there’s no Mail widget at all. (Google introduced a Gmail widget, but it doesn’t list recent messages.)
While they’re at it, Apple should make a widget for Messages. Both Mail and Messages can show new arrivals as Notifications, but this should also be available in widget form.
The next step is widgets that can actually do things. All the ones I’ve tried are informational. Take the Music widget. It shows the songs that have played recently, but can’t stop or start play.
I suspect this is by design. For some reason, Apple doesn’t want widgets that perform tasks without opening their associated applications. To me, that’s a mistake. Let’s hope that by the time iOS 15 comes around, Tim Cook and Co. realize that we want widgets that can do things, not just tell us things.
Also, we iPad users should be able to put Home screen widgets wherever we want, instead of them being limited to the right edge of the display.