- iOS 16 completely redesigns the iPhone’s Lock Screen with widgets and customizations.
- The icons are more like Apple Watch complications than home-screen widgets.
- They'll look great if Apple launches an always-on iPhone this fall.
iOS 16's lock-screen widgets will make it easy to check weather, appointments, and more, without even picking up your phone.
Widgets allow a kind of ambient data to hang around on your phone. Similar to how you glance at a watch or a clock to check the time, you will soon be able to glance at your iPhone's lock screen to see—well, to see whatever widgets you have chosen to place there. This could be a great way to avoid the distractions of your phone's other apps, or it could end up making you even more distracted.
"There's no question that smartphones are distracting. Whether it's the constant stream of notifications, the allure of social media, or the temptation to check email or play games, it's all too easy to lose focus when you have a phone in your hand," Brandon Wilkes, a marketing manager with the UK's Big Phone Store told Lifewire via email. "But it's also worth considering that smartphones can be used to increase productivity and focus. And many people find that having quick access to information and communication can be helpful in staying focused."
iOS 16 Lock Screen Widgets
The new widgets, coming in this September's iOS 16 for the iPhone, are more like Apple Watch complications than the iPhone's existing home-screen widgets. They're simple, monochromatic icons that can show the time, temperature, fitness progress, or anything else that can easily be conveyed in a single, small icon. These will be useful on current iPhones, but rumors point to an always-on display in the iPhone 14 Pro, making them even more glanceable.
In addition, there are Live Activities, which can show the latest scores in a sports game, or the progress of a delivery, for example.
All of these present information so you can see it instantly, without unlocking your iPhone, just by picking it up or tapping the screen. And Apple believes this could eliminate a source of distraction. You know when you pick up your phone to check the weather, and you see a notification from WhatsApp or a red badge on the iMessage icon, and before you know it, you've spent half an hour reading chats and checking TikTok? If you don't unlock your phone, that may not happen.
"Lock screen widgets, from the camera to flashlight, already make the iPhone easy to use at a moment's notice without having to unlock and search for the app," filmmaker Michael Ayjian told Lifewire via email. "The speed of use will be sure to make quick tasks easier without the temptation to unlock the phone and go down the rabbit hole of apps."
On the other hand, it could be that all that data makes your phone even more attractive. Once those glanceable widgets have caught your attention, you might be more likely to grab the phone and start checking stuff. It used to take a notification to draw your attention away from the current moment. Now it could happen just by looking at your phone, especially when these things are always on.
Apple is not the first to do this. Lock Screen widgets have been around for ages on Android phones, so Apple is playing catch up here.
"Samsung's flip phones have a special screen on the back specifically so you can access key data without opening the device, and the recent Nothing Phone 1 has programmable LEDs that will let you know what's going on without even needing to pick up your phone," Tom Paton, founder of smartphones sustainability company Green Smartphones told Lifewire via email.
The effect of these widgets will depend on the person using them. Some people have every notification turned off, rarely use their phones unless they have a specific task, and somehow stick to that task. Others react to every incoming message, even when socializing with in-person humans.
We will all use widgets differently, and if you don't like them, you can switch them off. But if you look at the iOS 16 preview, you'll see that Apple has put a lot of effort into the locks screen. It might be one of the phone's best new features, and I can't wait, even if it does mean more distractions.