iOS 16 brings the most radical change to the iPhone Lock Screen yet. In the upcoming operating system, you can customize and totally transform the look and feel of your phone. If you liked the themed custom Home Screens people were putting together using Shortcuts and Widgetsmith, you’ll love the level of creativity you can express on the Lock Screen.
Read on to see all the features of the new iOS 16 Lock Screen.
iOS 16 and the iPhone Lock Screen
The new iOS 16 Lock Screen marks a big departure from Apple’s traditional tight grip on the iPhone’s look and feel. Since 2007, when the iPhone launched, you’ve only ever been able to change the Lock Screen’s background picture. Previously, the biggest evolution came when Apple changed swipe-right-to-unlock to swipe-up.
In iOS 16, you can fully customize the Lock Screen by changing the fonts and colors. Plus, you can add widgets for glanceable information, and you can customize a wide array of new interactive and personalized backgrounds.
Get the iOS 16 beta
To follow along with this how-to, you’ll need to first install the iOS 16 beta (available in developer or public versions, the latter of which is free for anyone to try). Be cautious, though — especially if you only have one iPhone.
At this point, the iOS 16 beta remains buggy. Apps will crash and you will get worse battery life than you’re used to. Apart from that, it’s great!
How to customize the Lock Screen in iOS 16
To start, tap and hold on the Lock Screen, scroll to the right and tap Add New. From here, you can select one of the new background styles: Photos, Weather, Astronomy, Emoji, Collections and Color.
How to add your own photos to the Lock Screen
You can still set a single-photo background in iOS 16, but Apple is really pushing its intelligent photo-picking feature. It finds the best shots in your library. If you tag people in Photos, it’ll show more pictures of your close friends and family.
Tap Photos on the top to pick a photo from your library. Tap People to see portraits of people your phone has picked for you. You also can switch to see Pets, Nature and Cities, or just tap All to see everything.
From the Add New Wallpaper gallery, you also can tap Photo Shuffle. It will automatically pick photos from each category and rotate through them. Tap on a category to exclude it. Tap Choose… to pick which people to feature.
Tap Shuffle Frequency to set when you want the background to change — every time you tap the screen, every time you open your phone, every hour or every day. Tap Use Featured Photos to add it or tap Select Photos Manually to pick a few out of your library.
Personally, I find Photo Shuffle picks weird pictures from my library. It could be a good starting point, but I would go with a manual selection. For the rest of this section, we’ll use this picture of my Macintosh Plus:
After you’ve picked your photos, tap the icon in the bottom-left to pick a new photo or change the selection. Swipe left and right to switch between styles: color, black and white, duotone or color wash. With duotone or color wash, tap the menu in the bottom-right and tap Style Color… to pick a different color filter. If you have Photo Shuffle, you can change the shuffle frequency here, too.
Tap Done in the top right when you’re satisfied. Tap Set Wallpaper Pair to confirm or tap Customize Home Screen to make changes to your Home Screen wallpaper.
By default, your Home Screen uses the same wallpaper with a blur for legibility. Tap Legibility Blur to turn it off.
Alternatively, you can pick a color gradient (middle-left) or a solid color background (middle-right) by tapping the dots in the middle. Tap Configure… to pick your own color. You can pick a shade from the palette, adjust the lightness with the slider at the bottom, or tap the icon in the top-left for a full color swatch.
You can also pick a Home Screen picture by tapping the Photo icon on the right.
Tap Done when you’re finished to use your new Photos Lock Screen and Home Screen.
How to get live weather on your Lock Screen
The Weather wallpaper shows you live, animated weather conditions (just like the Weather app) wherever you are. If it’s raining, as it usually is in Appalachian Ohio, rain will fall from the screen for a few moments and then slow down to a stop. If you live in California, you’ll basically have a sky-blue wallpaper.
You might think this would have a huge impact on battery life, but in my testing, it does not. Unlike Maps or Pokémon Go, which use your precise location from GPS, I assume this uses the rough geographic area that your iPhone always knows from connecting to local cell towers.
There are no customization options. You can’t set it to a different city in a different part of the world for funsies; it’s always looking up your local weather.
Tap Done and you can configure the Home Screen wallpaper using the same settings as above. Legibility Blur is off by default for this theme, but none of the Weather animations affect legibility anyway.
I really like this wallpaper, but it’s too bright for me. I prefer darker wallpapers because they use less power. I’d like an option to get current weather conditions but with a night sky.
How to add astronomy animations to your Lock Screen
Add the Astronomy wallpaper and you have five settings to choose from. Earth shows the whole globe, Earth Detail zooms a little closer on your geographic area, Moon shows the whole moon, Moon Detail zooms in to a similar part of the moon, and Solar System shows the relative position of all eight planets.
When you pick Earth or Moon, there’s a really cool animation as you swipe up to unlock your phone as the globe will zoom in to fill the bottom of the screen. It looks less dramatic if you pick Earth or Moon Detail.
There aren’t any customization options here, either, but I think there should be. I would really like the option to disable the bright green dot on my location with the Earth screen. While I agree with the International Astronomical Union that Pluto is not a planet, it would be fun if you could enable it on the Solar System background.
How to get emoji wallpaper on your Lock Screen
The emoji wallpaper is pretty bizarre. Tap Emoji to create your own or pick one of the templates below to start.
Tap the Emoji button in the bottom-left to pick up to six emoji.
You have five options for filling the screen: Small, Medium and Large Grid, Rings and Spiral.
Tap the menu button in the bottom-right and tap Background to pick a background color.
If you so desire, you can make something kinda cute or an abominable legibility nightmare. I thought the emoji wallpaper was really dumb when I watched Apple’s WWDC22 keynote, but I had a lot of fun making these.
How to use Apple’s classic wallpaper collections, including clownfish
Scroll down to see Collections for some classic Apple wallpapers.
Pride and Unity wallpapers celebrate LGBTQI+ pride and Black pride, the former of which offers another fun animation when you swipe up to unlock. It’s nice to have a matching Lock Screen if you use the Pride Watch face.
There are three wallpapers named Collections in the Collections collection. The first is Apple’s wallpaper for iOS 16; the second uses the six colors of the Apple rainbow on top of a background; the third is the set of dynamic wallpapers Apple introduced with iOS 7 that has hardly changed in the nine years since.
The Clownfish collection might seem weird if you’re not familiar with the history of the image. Why does this picture of two fish get top billing alongside everything else?
The Clownfish wallpaper played a prominent role in the introduction of the original iPhone in 2007 but was never released as an official wallpaper in any version of iOS. Now that it comes to the iOS 16 Lock Screen, a mere 15 years later, it has some special details. When you tap to wake your iPhone, different parts of the wallpaper light up before others. When you slide to unlock, it triggers a subtle parallax effect.
How to get a plain color wallpaper on the Lock Screen
Color is a pretty simple one. Pick Color from the top to start from scratch or pick a template from the bottom of the gallery.
Tap the icon in the bottom-left to pick a color from the palette. Swipe left and right to pick a different gradient or style. I really like Deep because of the neat gradient it applies, but I also made a light gray on solid blue color scheme that matches my website.
How to change the Lock Screen’s fonts, colors and widgets
Tap and hold on any Lock Screen and tap Customize to change fonts, colors and add widgets.
Tap on the time to change the font and text color.
Tap on the text above the clock to pick a widget. Any widget you pick will appear as a single line of text next to the date. If you don’t want a widget here, pick the first Calendar widget and the date will fill the whole spot.
Tap the widgets below the clock to pick several widgets. Tap the − on a widget to make room if it’s already filled. Pick a widget from the selection or scroll down to see more options.
Some widgets have additional settings if you tap on them: Reminders lets you pick a list, Clock lets you pick a city, Batteries lets you pick a device, Stocks lets you pick a symbol.
When iOS 16 releases this fall, some of the third-party apps you may use will add widgets to their apps.
Tie Focus Modes to an iOS 16 Lock Screen
Creating and editing Focus Modes, which let you set rules for keeping distractions at bay, wasn’t very easy when the feature was introduced last year. The process is much more straightforward in iOS 16 — stay tuned for an updated article on how to set it up.
If you already have a Focus you use (your phone comes with some built in, like Do Not Disturb) you can link it to a specific Lock Screen in iOS 16. You can use one wallpaper and theme when you’re working, and set another for the rest of the day to keep you, well, focused.
To do so, just tap and hold on the Lock Screen, scroll left and right to pick one of your custom Lock Screens, and tap Focus.
Pick a Focus you’d like to link your Lock Screen to. If you pick one of Apple’s built-in Focus templates (like Work or Personal) and you haven’t set it up yet, you’ll get a banner inviting you customize the settings. This banner doesn’t currently do anything when you tap on it — a reminder that this feature is still a work in progress.
Honestly, if you’ve followed along this whole way and you didn’t encounter a single bug or crash, consider me impressed. Stay tuned for more iOS 16 coverage on Cult of Mac.