With the release of iOS 16 approaching, I felt a strong sense of déjà vu. TestFlight beta versions came with lock screen widgets flowing. Felt like the first time in 2020 Home screen widgets All over again. This time around, though, those beta versions were all about lock screen widgets.
Federico also covered in His iOS 16 reviewApple’s approach to supporting the Lock Screen widget in its apps is different from its approach to Home screen widgets. There are far fewer lock screen widgets available for system apps than there were when the home screen widgets were launched with iOS 14. Part of the difference is undoubtedly because the lock screen widgets are smaller and monochromatic, but there are still gaps that can’t be easily explained away. Fortunately for us, third-party developers got into the breach with a long list of innovative tools.
With so many options and three to five Lock Screen widget slots to fill, it’s hard to know where to start, so I’ve compiled a list of my top recommendations from the over 40 slots I’ve tried so far. Of course, this list doesn’t include the apps I actually covered last week, but it goes without saying that WidgetsmithAnd the Single screen lockAnd the LockFlowAnd the Islands weather It will also be included in this list if I haven’t already written about it.
The name says it all. Link HUB allows you to put links on your iOS 16 lock screen. Links can be URLs that open websites or URL schemes that open and control applications. You can also use the app’s tools to do things like start FaceTime calls or get into your favorite thread. What I love about Link HUB is that it harnesses the power of the web to expand what Lock Screen tools can do. In the screenshot above, I have a built in widget to open the Club MacStories website, a rectangular widget that runs a shortcut that turns off my bedside lamp, and two widgets, one that opens the MacStories home page and the other that opens the Shortcuts app.
Launcher is an app that has been around for a very long time, that helps iPhone users automate a long list of tasks by reducing even the most complex tasks to one-click launchers. Introducing the app’s Lock Screen widgets, it can now launch apps, run shortcuts, play music, call friends and family, start driving directions, and more right from the lock screen. One of the nicer touches of the app is that the launcher comes with more than 3000 icon options for its widgets, far more than your average app, making it easy to choose a meaningful avatar for you. I’ve set up the Launcher in the screenshot above to turn on the lights in my office using a built-in widget. The other three tools from left to right start your playlist of songs you’ve marked as “Loved” in Apple Music, open my iMessage thread with my wife Jennifer, and play halide Camera application.
Lock screen widgets are a natural extension of Home Widget, an excellent HomeKit automation app. The app offers a single, circular tool that can control HomeKit accessories, play scenes, and more. My only wish for the app is to add an inline widget, but I would expect four circular widgets to satisfy most people’s needs anyway. In the screenshot above, I have gadgets to control the security camera, a light strip on my balcony, and two more for the lamps in my office and living room.
Just Press Record offers one circular tool, but it captures the essence of the app well. Just Press Record has always been all about capturing audio quickly, so having a button on the lock screen to start a new recording is ideal. Tap on the widget, and the app will open and start recording right away. That’s it, but it’s a great example of the deep connection to the core functions of the app in a way that enhances the Just Press Record utility.
Christian Selig has created a nice mix of Lock Screen widgets that take advantage of Apollo’s deep linking, along with some fun stats. First, the statistics. Apollo can keep track of how far you’ve gone in the app, and that speeds up the app. If you want to see how far you have scrolled, you can do so with a circular widget that will remind you every time you look at your lock screen.
Apollo goes much further. There is also a rectangular widget that displays a popular post and widgets that display your Reddit Karma score, the number of unread items in your inbox that opens your inbox, stats on your most recent post performance, and one for your most recent comment performance. There are also widgets that open a favorite or random sub-store. Also, Apollo offers a built-in tool for swipe distance, Karma points, or inbox count. It’s variety makes it easy to track Reddit from your lock screen and drop into different parts of Apollo.
I can run a lot of errands that I need to get done every week on foot. It’s a great time to listen to podcasts, but since many of the rides are short, I jump out of the same loop multiple times a few times on some days. With the new Overcast widget for the new Lock Screen, I can resume an episode in one click, which I love. Another tool that I like a lot is Playlist, which allows you to choose one of your Overcast playlists, and with a single click, you can go directly to it to start listening. The third tool that Overcast offers is the app icon, which simply launches the app from an inline or carousel widget.
MusicBox, Marcus Tanaka’s link-saving app for Apple Music albums and songs, has two lock screen widgets. One lists music you’ve recently saved to listen to later, which is great, but the Add Music carousel is the more interesting of the two. Add Music uses the ShazamKit framework to quickly add music to your Listen Later queue by listening to what’s playing around you. If you hear a song you like, click on the tool, and the Shazam user interface will open in MusicBox and start listening. Once the song is recognized, MusicBox asks you for confirmation and allows you to save the URL in the queue. The whole process is so simple and fast that I plan to use this tool often.
Lots of task managers have added Lock Screen widget support, but I prefer the Things widget suite. There is a rectangular widget that shows you three tasks from any of your lists with the ability to filter by tags and set whether clicking on the widget goes to the inbox or the current list or does nothing. There are also two types of circular widgets. The first opens the UI to add a new task, and the second tracks your task completion progress and fills in the circle around the check mark as you select things off of today’s list. A new task add-on is also available as a built-in tool. With three widgets that use all the available types, Objects lets you add tasks, see what happens next, and track your progress at once, a thoughtful combination I haven’t seen other apps do.
Parcel parcel tracking app has highly customizable rectangular and circular tools to track your deliveries. The rectangular tool has the advantage of displaying and state of the item you’re tracking. However, clicking both after adding one to the lock screen allows you to configure multiple options. My favorite is the ability to pin a delivery to the Lock Screen instead of just showing the next delivery, which is the default. There are also options to change the widget’s color scheme and decide whether the app opens to the main view or to the detail view of your package.
Like Parcel, Countdowns does a great job of matching insightful information with thoughtful options. The app is perfect for gadgets because it’s all about counting down the time before the big day you want to remember. The app uses all three types of tools, and collects and matches event descriptions you count in descending order with the time left before the event and graphs for the time left before the event. There are options to choose the next upcoming event, a specific event, or a random event, as well as whether the percentage of time elapsed in the countdown is included in the widgets that include a graph.
FitnessView, Funn Media’s health and fitness tracker, allows users to track a variety of metrics compared to Apple’s own fitness app tracker. In addition to tracking activity like the Apple app, you can track specific goals you set up in the FitnessView app using a combination of progress indicators, values, and icons, which is a nice way to focus on a specific goal.
Funn Media does a similarly great job with its apps WaterMinder And the caloriesThese are specific to keep track of your fluid intake and calories, respectively. Both apps have multiple ways to log and track your goals, which helps keep your efforts to stay hydrated and regulate your calorie intake ahead of mind.
Tempo has really expanded over the past year or so. The tracking app provides runners and pedestrians with plenty of ways to keep track of the distances recorded over different time periods. Tempo also has a goal tracking widget and a bar chart of the last seven days of miles recorded. I’m in the early stages of returning to running after knee surgery last spring, and having tools to remind me of my progress and goals is one way I plan to stay motivated and on track.
When you’re traveling, there’s always something to keep track of, whether it’s booking your next dinner, event tickets, or a flight. Tripsy travel planning app allows you to put this type of information on your lock screen for quick reference with a rectangular one, circular one, and one inline lock screen widget. Rectangular tools keep track of your next three scheduled activities for your trip and your next trip, respectively. The circular widget lets you open Tripsy in a specific category for your trip activities, and the inline widget shows the next activity on your schedule.
Contacts tools allow you to assign widgets to people whose information you have saved in the Apple Contacts app. Widgets are built into Contact Widgets and become available when you customize your Lock Screen widgets. You have multiple options for creating widgets that will make a voice call or FaceTime call to a contact or drop you in a thread with them. For each widget, you can set a contact’s photo, name, and whether or not the widget includes a wallpaper. The free version of the app allows you to create three user interface elements. In-app purchase is available for an unlimited number of tools but is not currently available in the app.
One of the things I came back to over and over while testing lock screen widgets was something Federico said His iOS 16 review:
The widgets on the lock screen are the ones that were meant to be viewable, not the ones that were there a couple of years ago.
I agree, and like Federico, I want more lock screen widgets as a result. It’s not easy to solve the design issue without blocking the backgrounds, but adding the ability to replace the flashlight and camera widgets and possibly making the widget’s widget row scrollable would be a good place to start.
Until then, I plan to create more custom lock screens. Some will be tied to focus modes, but most of them I’ll switch to most of them manually because, as I explained This week’s episode of AppStoriesCreating too many focus modes quickly backfires.
Of course, this is just the beginning of our coverage of Lock Screen widgets. Since I started this story, I’ve got a whole new stack of tools to test and I’ll write about the best ones here, plus Apps Appearance Section in MacStories Weekly for Club MacStories members.