After thirteen iOS iterations, Apple finally changed the Home screen by adding widgets to iOS 14 and iPadOS 14. There is a completely new framework that allows developers to create new types of widgets. But there is more to it than can be seen.
Come on Widget House
Apple introduced widgets to the iPhone on iOS 10. They are taken down to the Today View screen, which can be accessed by swiping directly on the lock screen or the Home screen.
Still, the widget is a powerful tool and is very useful for iPhone and iPad users who decide to use it.
But all that changed on iOS 14. The widget is home. This is the biggest change to the Home screen along with the new Application Library. While the Today section is still there and you can still save widgets there, the whole experience of adding widgets has changed.
Now, when you tap an empty space on the Home screen to enter the editing screen of the Home screen, you will find the “+” button in the upper right corner.
Tapping on it will bring up the widget selector, which displays a list of all the widgets available on your phone – both from the included Apple application and the third-party application that you have installed – along with the preview.
Choose a widget, size, and just tap the “Add Widget” button to add the widget to the screen wherever you are.
You can then move the widget wherever you want. Yes, not exactly anywhere. Unlike Android, iOS still doesn’t let you put icons or widgets anywhere on the screen.
Icons and widgets still flow from the top left of the screen to the bottom right. And yes, the widget will automatically switch to dark mode.
But Not a Widget You Know
So, that’s the good news. Now about the bad. You know, when widgets come to the Home screen, they are not widgets that you have used and liked for the past few years.
If developers want to create a Home screen widget for iOS 14, they must use the new WidgetKit framework created in Swift UI. And currently, it does not support any form of direct interaction or renewal. This means that the new widget is designed only for a quick look – in other words, to see information quickly, as well as complications in watchOS on Apple Watch.
This means that, if you are familiar with a calculator widget or a time tracking widget, you won’t find it on iOS 14. Widgets can have multiple tap targets that can be linked to parts of the application, but that’s all. This is why the Music widget on iOS 14 does not have playback controls.
The only exception we found was the Shortcuts application – but, again, Shortcuts automation is very integrated in the OS. Shortcut Widgets function independently. When you tap on the shortcut, it just starts working, without opening the application. If there are interactive elements on the shortcut, you will see it at the top of the screen in a floating window.
Until now, Apple has officially revoked the old widget. They will still continue to work and you can use it on the Today View screen, but you cannot add this widget to the Home screen. We did not do it when Apple would completely remove support for them.
What Will Happen in the Future
It is clear that the nature of widgets changes from iOS 14 onwards. Apple’s reason for this change seems to be for glanceability and power management. The widget must be designed so that users can quickly glance at it when they are on the Home screen, and that does not have to drain the battery.
The widget can be updated based on the timeline specified by the developer, but that’s it. We hope that at this time next year, Apple has found a way to add interaction to the widget without sacrificing battery life.
Because when it comes to design and UI, the new widget looks amazing on the Home screen (much better than the old widget, which doesn’t have a cohesive design language).
And in some cases, the new widget is more flexible on iOS 14. You can have several versions of the same widget in the same size or several. You can stack multiple versions of the same widget on top of each other and flick among them.
And, because Apple uses the Intents-based framework (from SiriKit and Shortcuts) in the widget, you can adjust several versions of the widget to display various types of data. For example, you can have three different Reminder widgets in the stack that show your reminders from three different lists.
That’s what Apple has done so far. We haven’t seen what developers can do using the WidgetKit framework. While we lost interactivity, we got a new type of widget and a cohesive framework.
But this is one scenario of waiting and watching it. We will know the true impact of change once developers release their own widgets in Fall 2020 – and when we see what improvements (if any) Apple makes on the WidgetKit framework on iOS 15.
There are many more specific things about how widgets work on iOS 14. For example, Smart Stacks will allow you to combine multiple widgets into one stack of widgets that you can swipe on your iPhone. That’s one of the ways iOS 14 will change your iPhone (and iPad) Home screen.