Setting Up Home Screen Widgets (2020)
With the smartphone takeover nearly complete, it’s rare to see anyone strolling around with a Motorola Razor or Blackberry anymore (remember those days?). While iPhones are the pioneer and (arguably) the king of the smartphone world, there exist an impressive variety of competitors with increasingly unique features.
If you’re an iPhone user, maybe you’ve noticed that compared to some of these newer (and often cheaper) guys, the iPhone Home Screen has remained... well, dull. Sure you could get a fancy moving wallpaper, but aside from that, there’s little room for customization.
Lo and behold, with the release of iOS 14, we’ve seen a major change with Home Screen aesthetics with the brand new Home Screen Widgets.
Today we’ll take a look at this exciting new iPhone feature.
What are Home Screen Widgets?
On September 16, Apple rolled out another iOS version as they do every year: iOS 14. With iOS 14 came several new and exciting features for iPhone users. The one that we'll be discussing today is the Home Screen Widget.
In Apple's own explanation of the feature, they inform us, "With iOS 14, you can use widgets on your Home Screen to keep your favorite information at your fingertips." In other words, instead of having to go into an App to get information, you can now have relevant information displayed in an aesthetic manner right on your Home Screen.
Widgets are just blurbs of information related to a specific App. For example, a weather App may have a Widget (if the developer chose to create one) that displays the weather forecast for the next three days. You can't really interact with the Widget, but you can use it to quickly get an idea of the weather without going into the Weather App. The iOS 14 update let's you:
- Place the Widget on your Home Screen, making it accessible without any effort on your part
- Possibly choose aspects like the size, color, and even what information should be displayed on the Widget
- Easily add, remove, and move around Widgets as per your liking
We'll walk you through a simple tutorial on how to take advantage of this feature as of October 2020.
How Can You Fully Take Advantage of This Feature?
Are Home Screen Widgets really that useful? It really depends how you use them. If you simply clutter your Home Screen with Widgets that you could care less about, then they can even be disadvantageous.
You should put some thought into how you choose, display, and use Widgets. Some things you can do when setting up your own Home Screen widgets are:
- Brainstorming what information is beneficial for you to have immediate access to - This is unique for everyone. If you're into organization, you may want to consider To Do Lists, Notes, and Memo Widgets. Some choices like Weather Widgets and Reminder Widgets can be useful to pretty much anyone.
- Considering how you can place Widgets to make them most useful to you - The point of Widgets is to make information that you care about more accessible. So consider, what information do you care about most? Widgets with this information should be placed in the parts of your Home Screen that you look at the most. Like keeping an organized desk or closet, having Widgets in the 'right places' can have a positive impact.
- Thinking about how you want your Home Screen to look overall - Chances are that you look at your Home Screen many times a day; iPhones are like refrigerators - we kind of just open/unlock them, stare blankly, and then close them/turn them off wondering why we're there. Even if you don't care bout beautifying your phone, it's smart to keep it neat and clutter-free. If you are interested in having a color coordinated or otherwise creative Home Screen layout, you can now do that with more ease.
What's the Catch?
Okay, this isn't really a catch, but just to reiterate, you have to update your phone to iOS 14. There are several advantages and disadvantages to updating your phone. Just to skim over some of the disadvantages:
- A new software can have bugs that you'll have to patiently wait for Apple to fix. This could include reduced battery life, slower functionality, or small issues with new features.
- Updating your phone can cause issues that can even break your phone or force you to reset it. Apple recommends you back up your phone before you update for a reason. However, you should likely be fine, unless your phone is old or heavily damaged in the first place.
- Some Apps may lose functionality or even become obsolete after you update. As Apple releases iOS versions, App Developers have to make sure that their Apps are keeping up with changes and standards. Major Apps should do this this easily, but smaller Apps might get left behind.
You'll have to update your iOS eventually, but you should decide whether you want to take advantage of this and other iOS 14 features immediately or hold off until the new software is more stable. Looking through this article should give you a good feel of how your iPhone experience may change with the update. If you feel that your experience might be improved, we recommend you go through with the update, as reports have indicated that users who have updated their softwares to iOS 14 have generally had less bugs than with past iOS updates.
The Steps to Adding and Customizing Home Screen Widgets
1) Start by updating your iPhone software to iOS 14 if you have not already. You can do this by going into Settings > General > Software Update.
2) After the update is complete, you can start adding Widgets. To add a Widget, hard press on any App on your Home Screen. The Quick Actions menu should then pop up.
3) Select 'Edit Home Screen'. This will activate 'jiggle mode' and all your Apps should be jiggling around.
4) Now it's time to start adding Widgets! At the top-right corner of your screen, you should see a plus sign. This is new to iOS 14. Tap it to open the Widget Gallery.
5) In the Widget Gallery, scroll down to see what Widgets you have available. There should be a standard set of Apple Widgets displayed, including the Photos, Notes, Clock, Weather, Calendar, and Reminders Widgets, as well as others. Towards the bottom of the Widgets gallery, you may also see Widgets related to other Apps that you've downloaded. Once you've located a Widget that you would like to add, tap it.
As a side note, it's likely that most Apps that you've downloaded do not have a Home Screen Widget available yet, as this is a new feature. If you would like more Widgets to choose from, stop by the App Store and try to look up Apps that come with Home Screen Widgets. Many developers will advertise that their App comes with a Home Screen Widget, as this may set them apart from other similar Apps. For example, if you'd like a non-Apple Weather Widget, try searching 'Weather' or 'Weather Widget' in the App Store and scroll through your choices to find an App that comes with a Weather Widget.
6) A window will pop up giving you further information about the Widget. Scroll left or right to see different versions of this Widget. Widget options may vary in size, color, and information. Not every Widget has multiple options.
Once you've decided exactly which version of the Widget you'd like on your phone, tap the blue 'Add Widget' button under your chosen Widget version.
7) The new Widget will appear on your Home Screen. It should still be jiggling around, so you will be able to move the Widget around your Home Screen. To do so, simply drag it wherever you'd like it to 'live'.
You can place a Widget in between App Icons and other Widgets. You can also drag it to other pages by pulling the Widget all the way to the right.
If you drag the Widget all the way to the left from your Home Screen, you can put the Widget in your Today View. This is convenient if you don't need immediate access to the Widget, but just want easy access. It's especially a good choice for larger Widget that would clutter your Home Screen.
You can place as many Widgets as you'd like in your Today View and you'll be able to scroll through them from there. You can even access the Widgets in your Today View without unlocking your phone, simply by swiping left from your Lock Screen
8) Once you've decided where you'd like your Widget to be placed, press the Home Button to turn off jiggle mode. You'll now see exactly how the Widget looks in it's new 'home'.
9) Now, it's time to see if you can customize your Widget even further. To do this, hard press on the Widget. The Quick Actions menu should then pop up.
10) If this this Widget is further customizable, the Quick Actions menu will have an option in labeled 'Edit Widget'. If your Widget does have the option, go ahead and tap it.
Not every Widget comes with this option.
11) A menu will pop up displaying some settings used with the Widget that you can change. The kind of settings really depend on the kind of Widget you're using. For example, a Weather Widget may let you change the location, theme, or metric here.
This Cryptocurrency News Widget let me change the news topic, type of news I see, and theme of my Widget.
Some Widgets will let you edit the color and layout of the Widget from within the App itself. When setting up a Widget, try to search through the Settings or 'Theme' section of its App for more options.
Here's an example of a Widget that allows you to choose from various Widget themes from its App.
Your Widget is now set up! If you ever want to remove it, all you have to do is put your phone into jiggle mode and tap the minus symbol in the top left corner of the Widget. You can also hard press on the Widget, opening the Quick Actions Menu, and tap the red 'Remove Widget' option.
What's About the Old Widgets?
In short, you can still use old Widgets. Why would you want to? As the Home Screen Widget is a new feature, these older Widgets may not be updated yet. In fact, some may never be updated if their App Developers don't feel the need to make their Widgets a Home Screen Widget.
To work with the old Widgets (for iOS 14 users):
1) From your Home Screen, swipe to your Today View (located to the left of your Home Screen).
2) Scroll all the way down; you'll see a small, gray, oblong 'Edit' button at the very bottom of the Today View. Tap this button.
4) The 'Edit' button will disappear and your phone will now be in jiggle mode again. In place of the 'Edit' button, you'll now see a 'Customize' menu appear. Tap 'Customize'.
5) You'll arrive at an 'Add Widgets' menu. From here, you can add and remove older Widgets.
How Did We Feel About This Feature?
Home Screen Widgets, while only a minor improvement upon first glance, can drastically enhance iPhone users' experience if used correctly. While reports (and our own experience) have indicated that they're still a bit glitchy, we're excited about this feature overall.
You know what could be great? Widgets on the lock screen! Or would that just be overkill? Let us know what you think in the comments of our Widgets YouTube video, as well as sharing any other improvements that you feel improve this feature.