Is iOS ready for more widgets?

Ever since iOS 5 introduced Notification Center and the weather and stock widgets contained therein, and Siri showed off any number of clock and calendar and reminder widgets, a lot of folks have been wondering when we'll see more widespread widget support from Apple. Things like pinning widgets to the Home page or support for third parties to cook up their own widgets still just aren't there. We've been getting a wide variety of reactions to the issue in the forums, mostly stemming from concerns about battery life, but I think it's safe to say that if Apple were to ever implement a wider array of widgets, they would do it in a way that's kind to battery life. Besides, battery life is pretty good as it is; forum member redbeard points out:

If all you care about is having a phone that you only have to charge once a week you can buy a jitterbug, I'm always near a wall or a car charger, even when I'm not my 1 year, 8 month old iPhone 4 lasts all day all while running two homescreen widgets and being jailbroken.

If Apple were to ever open up the doors to widgets, they would likely stay in the Notification Center, but Android has set a decent precedent for Home screen widgets; as far as I'm concerned, the home screen widget is one of the biggest defining characteristics of Android, and if implemented well in iOS, they could make sure iOS users don't stray from the flock. Apple has already borrowed the notification windowshade idea, so it's not so far out that we'd see more Android-style features on an iPhone or iPad.

If full Home screen widgets proved too taxing on the battery, Windows Phone is doing some neat stuff with Live Tiles that could influence iOS. Right now, we don't get much more than tomato splat noifications on app icons, but what if there was more? Maybe app icons themselves could change based on contextual information - the current level in a game you're playing, who's tagged you on Facebook, a thumbnail of a popular picture on Pinterest ... that sort of thing. The native Calendar app already does this sort of thing, so why doesn't Weather? Why don't all other apps?

So what say you? Do you want to keep the pristine icon grid, or add a bit more utility at the cost of simplicity? Or maybe Apple could come up with something wholly original that distinctly stands out from the precedent set by competitors, but meets the same demand for at-a-glance info and functions. Forum member steelew suggested that the lock screen would be a good place to put that sort of stuff, and I'm tempted to agree.

Simon Sage

Editor-at-very-large at Mobile Nations, gamer, giant.

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Reader comments

Is iOS ready for more widgets?

39 Comments

I think Apple must keep iOS as it is... keep it being as SIMPLE and MINIMALISTIC as possible... iOS was known for that style, and might as well continue doing so... adding widgets would mean "copying" from "others" idea of widgets....

Samsung started leading among android makers because they copied the iphone so much and didn't really promote widgets. The Galaxy ads showed a screen of icons.
If we're focusing on what Apple should copy, that would be elements of the webOS UI. The focus should be on making the OS fun to use. The concern is that iOS is getting stale.

Notification center widgets are on many android devices. My notification pull down has a bunch of settings widgets in there. Keep thinking apple invented everything.

widgets have been available on OSX for years, apple is moving lots of things over. you'd be able to see that if you hadn't got your android stuck so far up your rse

Widgets are a very old idea dating back to Windows 95. If they work and don't make the system unstable, they are very useful. Its one of the few features of android that makes it more useful - I love having a widget to show me my live agenda and live weather forecast.
Apple has not succeeded by keeping things simple. They have succeeded by innovating and making products that people want.

sooo what aslong it makes a phone better it shouldnt matter if someone else had it first.apple had no problem ''copying'' notification and they have already put widgets in the notification so they are half way of fully ''copying'' so why not allow widgets on the homescreen

Hey, Inglorious Apps, good to hear from you! I was a webOS guy until last fall when I went all-in with Apple, but your webOS stuff was always top notch. I'm going to check out your iOS apps right away!

How would installing a widget work? Would it still require an icon on the home screen (since every application has an icon there)? Adding multiple layers of application/plugin management would be a mess, and they're very smart for keeping it as simple and streamlined as possible.
I'm not saying that I don't want widgets, just wondering how they could fit it in their current app ecosystem.

If they give you the ability to put apps anywhere on the home screen instead of automatically putting them in order you can then put apps and widgets where you want. For example, if you have only two apps on a home page they are forced to be next to each other in the top left. You can't have one in the top left and one in the bottom right. (unless you are jailbroken).

I'd suggest a limited number of widgets developed by Apple or in partnership with Apple. No third party crap. I have an Android phone and like a few widgets. Most are unnecessary.

Why not leave that up to personal preference. You would just use the apple widgets but others may want to customize their phones to their own liking. Same goes for all of those people who don't want widgets at all, then just don't use them. Problem solved.

Puritans, progressives and their ilk will always strive to put limits on what is acceptable/allowed; not everyone can handle people doing things their own way.

This is where Android excels. Easily accessed app drawer for all apps, and app shortcuts and widgets on the home screens. Doesn't get much simpler than that.

I agree. Unfortunately many Android widget don't work well or just make the system unstable. My favorite bad example is the built-in gmail widget on my honeycomb tablet - it never updates, the update button does nothing, and it makes the whole OS unstable.

The problem doesn't always lie with the widget it self but more often with the plethora of different Android versions, hardware builds and device level resources available. In Apple's rigidly controlled OS Widgets would perform far more predictably, though as expected (due to big brother Apple) the more creative solutions would likely be suppressed.

I've used Android for over a year (until now -- I'm using the iPhone 4). I'm personally not a fan of widgets & never used them, either on phones or Win 7, for example. They seem to only get in the way. I do however think devs should have the option to use the notification bar if they'd like to. Also, I do like the style of Panes (shown above). Perhaps the "double click" on the button for the iPhone could bring up a bar like on Mac O/S.

I absolutely love android widgets. It is all preference. My home screens have widgets for setting toggles like bluetooth, wifi, screen brightness, silent and gps. Evernote widgets so I can take notes and keep track of my to do lists, calendar showing my daily appointments both great for managing my small business. Not to mention my email widget for staying up to date on customer conversations. I love being able to access all of this information from my home screen instead of launching app after app. It feels so segregated on iOS.

A connected device should be capable of utilizing connected apps/live data apps.
iOS should allow the functionality of widgets like Pure Messenger Widget, Pure Calendar Widget, Astrid Premium Widget, AIX Weather Widget, Weather Bug and eWeather widgets at the least

I forgot to mention toggles/widgets for: bluetooth, wifi, airplane mode, GPS...
This all really is functionality that should be part of these devices.

One of the reasons why I used to like Android so much was the fact that you could customize the home screen (and other stuff) much more than on iOS. After about two years of doing those customizations I noticed that they are mostly good for three things:
- drain the battery
- slow down home screen navigation
- use/abuse a lot of valuable (especially on phones) screen property
Therefore, before switching to iOS a few weeks ago I had already stopped using widgets (and other Android specific "screen candy") for a couple of months and thus have no plans to use them on iOS either.
The only thing I really miss on an iOS home screen is the ability to completely freely arrange the icons on the screens (i.e. to leave gaps between icons to structure them a bit).

I'm not a huge widget fan. I like what Apple has done with the notification center. I don't need widgets on my home screen. I'd just like to see them expand it. There is no reason for not having a basic settings widget for wireless, Bluetooth, gps, etc. I also don't see any issue with third party access under Apple guidelines. It would be cool if an app like Starwalk could have widget showing you the moon phase and news of a celestial event like a meteor shower or eclipse for example. The obsession with battery life is sometimes counterproductive to functionality. Most people have chargers at work, home, and maybe in their car. The notification center as it is now is horribly underdeveloped.

there was a great post on the verge ages ago where somebody described a good widget system. That would take up either 2 app icons or 4 across the screen. It was simple and effective.
iOS is showing its age. Its still 2007. The home screen set up is nice and straightforward, but compared to Live Tiles, or android widgets, it's dated.
When I sell a Samsung to a customer, one of the first things I show them is how to rearrange their home screen and get rid of all the widgets that Samsung have plastered over their phones screen by default. It's looks a mess frankly. Not a problem with Metro UI. As its just an option on the app icon. Something similar on iOS would work a treat, without being glaring and untidy.

I remember an app that was pulled out of the app store because it had widgets, it looked nice. I don't know if we really need widgets now that we have notification center but they still would be a welcomed feature. I miss the old days when we would have had a beta of iOs by now.

I persuaded my Android-fan wife to try an iPhone 4S this year, but she quickly traded it in for a Galaxy Nexus precisely because she could not live without widgets. She has a home screen of app icons, a home screen of system type widgets (similar to like SBS settings), a home screen of updating content, and a home screen of common shortcuts. She is rarely more than a single swipe away from anything she wants to see or do. It probably impacts her battery life if you measured the raw number of hours it can go between charges, but it gets her through the day with no problem, and that is all that matters to her.
While I am not giving up my iPhone for an Android phone, I would love to have some of that flexibility on iOS without jailbreaking. I doubt Apple would ever allow pure homescreen widgets, because that would mean restructuring Springboard entirely, but notification/lock screen widgets would be a good start.

More widgets? Aren't we grasping at straws here, just to be able to say iOS has SOME widgets?
Well, it has not, the ones mentioned do not really work as widgets. I think even Apple would say iOS has no official widgets right now.

I think the issue is if you want more widgets go with android or if you stay with iPhone plain and simple I mean I turned of the nc widget on my 4s so I don't like them but yet I creat Roma for android

I would love for the OEM weather app to give me the temp right on the icon like on Android & BlackBerry.

The fact that Apple doesn't have widgets on the new iPad has to make you wonder what their future plans are. No Weather app and no Stocks app, those were the only two, right?
I miss my weather widget on my new iPad. Would like a currency app that supports widgets. And I'd like it for MULTIPLE instances (wether from several places).

All apple needs to do is allow app icons to change dynamically. Its a joke that they haven't done it. Its been 73 and sunny since 2008.

Just let me replace the volume slider in the app switcher with a brightness slider. I would use that more. Especially since there aare volume buttons on the side of the phone.

Widgets are cool...but no any rooms are available on iPhone home screen for widgets except on lockscreen or on notification center. What misses on notification center on iOS 5 is that no toggles for Setting, wifi, connection, mute, and etc like Android. Tapping app setting is a hardwork for turning on wifi for example is tiring on iOS. (Sorry for my bad English!)

I think some kind of widget architecture is needed. I'll be switching from an Android back to an iPhone when the iPhone 5 comes out, and the ability to have widgets to toggle on/off stuff like BT and WiFi without having to go diving into the device settings will be much missed.