Complications are what I miss most when not wearing my Apple Watch, especially when I'm looking at my iPhone lock screen.
I've been thinking about this for a while, but I became acutely aware of it this weekend when I took my Apple Watch off for a couple of hours to see what, if anything, I'd miss. I expected primarily to be annoyed by the iPhone's notifications, having to reach for my phone at every buzz and beep like it was 2014 again. But after repeatedly glancing at my wrist and seeing nothing but wrist, I realized how much I'd come to depend on the highly accessible, hyper-dense information provided by the Apple Watch's clock face complications.
"Complications" refer to any feature on a watch beyond showing the time in hours and minutes. With the Apple Watch, however, they've come to mean something more. That's the advantage of taking wearables from analog and digital to computational. Almost subconsciously, I'd gotten used to subtly turning my arm and remaining almost passively, constantly aware of the weather, my activity progress, my calendar, and more. Then, when I did reach for my iPhone 6 Plus to check a notification, the lack of similar information on my lock screen was notable. That's why I'm hoping Apple considers adding complications to the lock screen in iOS 9.
The iPhone got Today View widgets in Notification Center as part of last year's iOS 8, and if you choose to, you can access them right from the lock screen. Widgets are big, interactive, and only ever a swipe away.
Complications are different. Complications are available the instant the screen lights up, no swipe needed. They're also small, so you can really take them in at a glance, and discreet, so they help better maintain privacy.
By putting complications on the iPhone lock screen, you could take in information at a glance about your environment and status, and in almost no time at all.
By putting complications on the iPhone lock screen, you could take in information at a glance about your environment and status, and in almost no time at all. A businessperson might have complications set up so they can take in stock, date, and next appointment al in a second. An athlete, weather, activity, and stopwatch available at a glance. It would create parity and a uniform experience for those who wear an Apple Watch, and provide extra utility and a better experience for those who don't.
It would also improve security and privacy. Today View widgets on the lock screen are binary — they're either on or off. You can't filter out ones that might have more personal information and keep them off your lock screen. That means if you choose to have them viewable without a passcode or Touch ID, anyone could conceivably access that data, even when your phone is locked. Notifications are similar: You can turn them off, you can even limit previews, and you can even filter for the lock screen. But if you want to know the status of your mail or messages or any other service, you have to leave them on in some capacity.
With complications, you could have more options. For example, if notifications on the lock screen aren't private enough for you but you're okay with simple quantities, a complication could show you how many VIP mail or text messages are waiting for you. That way you can easily see that there's something important to check, but you can't see the senders unless and until you unlock your iPhone.
The lock screen could also use complications as a way to launch a wider variety of apps: With a tap and Touch ID unlock, you could instantly be in Mail or Messages to check your communications, or in Calendar or Weather for more information about your upcoming appointment or the temperature later in the day. You could even perform simple actions like starting a Timer or Stopwatch.
The same complications that currently exist on the Apple Watch could be translated over, but there'd also be opportunity to do something more uniquely iPhone. They would take some careful thought and planning, of course: The way notifications take over the lock screen would have to be considered, or even reconsidered, for complications not to get covered over or otherwise lost.
Complications, as realized on the Apple Watch, are one of those features I never knew I was missing until I had them. Now I want them everywhere. Hopefully with iOS 9 or a future update we can get them on the iPhone, as well.