iOS 8 wants: Customizable Control Center

Apple introduced Control Center in iOS 7 as a way to quickly get to the settings, controls, and basic functions most iPhone and iPad users need most of the time. That includes Airplane Mode, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Do Not Disturb, and Orientation Lock, Brightness, media scrubber, player controls, and volume, AirDrop and AirPlay, and FlashLight, Timer, Calculator, and Camera. Yet not all of those options, especially the app ones, will be useful for all people, all of the time. So, with iOS 8, it would be great if Apple made them at least partially customizable.

Of course, the idea of a customizable Control Center isn't new. Everyone's wanted it since almost immediately after they first saw it back in June of 2013. It's the implementation and scope that's tricky to work out.

For example, I almost never use Do Not Disturb but I use Personal Hotspot all the time. I'd love to be able to swap the former out for the latter. What kind of mechanic could that use?

A page or two in Settings is an obvious answer. Go to Settings > Control Center > Toggles and get a list of on/off options to choose from. Go to Settings > Control Center > Apps and likewise get a list of special functions and items.

How would you select which of the listed toggles would be in Control Center? How would the app list scale to handle hundreds or thousands of options? How would third party app icons look in Control Center?

If developers had to include a special, black and white version for Control Center — just one more in a long list of versions already required — they could look great. If not, forced black and white could look... not great. Perhaps Apple could only offer up apps that have the Control Center icon included. That would certainly incentivize their creation.

Settings don't have the be the only option, however. iOS 7 excels at direct manipulation and gestures can be great shortcuts for experienced users. Maybe something like Tweetbot 3's long press. Touch and hold a toggle and a few other, sensible and popular options pop up. Tap one of those and it takes it takes the spot.

The quick launches at the bottom are again harder to figure out simply by virtue of its potential scale. People typically have dozens if not hundreds of apps on their iPhones and iPads. There's no way to contain that many apps in a Tweetbot 3-style long press pop-up.

Perhaps doing a long press on an app in Control Center could dump you into a black-and-white version of the Home screen where you could pick any other app to take its place.

But there's another problem. The first two icons, Flashlight and Timer, aren't really apps. Flashlight turns the LED flash on, which has no app counterpart. Timer is a deep link that goes to a specific tab in the Clock app. If you ever swapped them out, how would you get them back?

Apple could create a special "Home page" for them and other, similar, first party special functions. Yet that could also be confusing and unwieldy.

Update: I neglected to mention security. Unless it's disabled in Settings, Control Center can be accessed via the Lock screen. That means, a Control Center that can be customized with third-party apps could make those apps accessible via the Lock screen, thwarting Touch ID/Passcode/Password protection. I disable Control Center on Lock screen anyway, but it's another implementation factor to consider.

Again, these are the kinds of problems Apple is really good at figuring out. It's also the kind of problem Apple will patiently work on until they have a solution, even if it means waiting a few versions to implement. It would be great, of course, if that version was iOS 8.

Would you like a customizable Control Center and if so, how would you like to see it implemented?

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

  • I'd like Control Centre to be able to be customised like the jailbreak tweak CControl. Basically, the ability to add more than 5 settings switches (cellular data, VPN, tethering are good ones), change the app launchers (now I have flash, calculator, camera stopwatch & settings), and reorder sections (move the switches to the bottom with the app launchers and put airdrop on top).
  • I have long wanted, the exact thing listed here (personal hotspot in control panel) for the same reasons, and I think it's especially cowardly and annoying of Apple to have left that one thing out that many people need access to all day every day. However ... If you go into the settings app, you won't find any other settings that need quick access, that don't already live on the control panel. I also fail to see what settings a third party app needs to have on the control panel, although that could be a failure of imagination on my part. Isn't it likely that other apps would just crap up the control panel with useless toggles like "tap to see our website" and other junk like that? The app store is only loosely policed and abounds with crap apps that have awful design decisions and are full or advertising disguised as "features." What are the odds that any of these apps will play nicely with control panel, or in fact, that they really need to access it in the first place? Control Panel is prime real estate. Every app that *can* add something there, *will* add something there, even though it isn't useful, isn't a control, and is ugly as sin. The user will presumably have some control, but perhaps not enough to avoid this kind of nonsense happening. I could see apps adding things there "on install" for instance, which would be hard to stop.
  • All I want from ios 8 is multiple DND settings and to pick the days. Also ringer settings in calendar events. Everything else is just extra. Sent from the iMore App
  • I turn off cellular data when in a wifi zone, to save battery life. The personal hotspot ideas sounds pretty cool too even if I rarely use it. I'd love to switch out the calculator, for inverted colors. While I have the triple click feature optimized for that, still would be handy! Sent from the iMore App
  • Turning off cellular while on Wi-Fi is a good idea, but isn't something iPhone users would want, I would imagine. Although that does make perfect sense for iPads / iPods. I suppose that could be more of an automatic feature toggle rather than something that needs to be in Control Center. Sent from the iMore App
  • Cellular Data, add add remove apps I like... Sent from the iMore App
  • Agree with most of your ideas. It has driven me crazy from day 1 that I can't open Settings from Control Center. Seemed like the most basic of ideas to me... I hate allocating a slot on my home page to Settings but I access it enough that I've had to. CC should give me the option to launch Settings.
  • Same. I access settings way more than stopwatch or calculator. I would swap stopwatch for Settings, BUT only if the phone is unlocked, or prompt for password when I tap Settings. Sent from the iMore App
  • While I'm think of it. It's pretty stupid that tapping the stopwatch from CC lets me change my ALARM settings without unlocking the phone! That could really f up someone's day if you turned off their alarm clock! Sent from the iMore App
  • I agree with this idea completely. I was surprised Control Center wasn't extendable from the start. Then again maybe not. Maybe I'm still hanging on to my android days. Although I agree wholehandedly with the toggles suggestion, I doubt apple would open up control center slots for 3rd party apps. They would have to design - and subsequently release - a new API for making your app callable from control center. We all know how apple is with opening up first-party APIs in iOS... I also assume the Control Center icon would also have to be included in the app binary that is submitted to the App Store and would have to be reviewed for consistency with first-party design. Just think, a five-star app has its next update delayed for weeks/months while the designers go through several iterations of a Control Center icon until they find one good enough for Apple's taste. I just see third-party app integration being too messy. Cheers for more settings options though!
  • I see them opening it up for customization for built-in 1st party apps and settings. For example changing timer to clock or opening up phone. I don't ever see them opening up for 3rd party access.
  • As to CC, it'd be nice to have a pop-up of last 5 apps used. (4-finger slide not available on iPhone.) I'd enjoy having control over what's shown in the status bar and on the lock screen, too! Let me get rid of the darn clock on both-- don't need to know that it's 2:40 am when I want to read something in the middle of the night! In fact, given that I don't have a passcode set, let me do away with the lock screen altogether! As long as we're imagining, give us choices of color themes for the GUI and alternative home screen arrangements, too. (For example, I'd really like to have a tabbed interface a la ZLauncher from the Palm days. Much more efficient for a home screen!)
  • New polished icons because some icons are very ugly. Like safari icon, video icon, contact icon, etc Sent from the iMore App
  • It would be nice to have the ability to select a specific bluetooth device from the control center instead of just turning it on/off.
  • I would like to see more button actions in CC. For example, tap and hold on items like wifi, bluetooth, DND and have it go to those specific menu pages. Also, on 4 inch screens, there is just the right amount of space for 4 more app items on the bottom if you pull CC as high as it can go. I would like that space to be used for other apps. Especially if the iPhone 6 will have a larger screen. Just my thoughts.
  • Customizable control center is a definite want for me and the thing I'd most like to add to it would be a button on the bottom to take me to the app switcher interface. Double tapping the home button has always been problematic for me, 30-40% of the time I wind up back on the home screen instead of in the switcher. Either a button for it in control center or the ability to swap out the swipe-up-from-off-screen gesture for the task switcher completely (like webOS) and have double-tap the home button be for control center.
  • Control Center should be for those settings people access the most frequently. I wouldn't be opposed to Apple allowing the end user to decide which settings reside in control center as long as they still keep it clean and simple (not allowing people to basically recreate Settings in Control Center). As far as 3rd party access I would say not necessary. More pressing there is giving 3rd party access to Siri.
  • "The first two icons, Flashlight and Timer, aren't really apps." And all those f-ing flashlight apps on the App Store weren't "real apps" either.
    Good riddance.
  • Bring this to stock iOS: Auxo 2 + CCControls = problem solved. Even makes the multitasking better!
  • I'd sooner have a customisable notification centre personally, and by that, I mean third party widgets such as Google Now.
  • I need this. I love Apple and it has a dear place in my heart, but it is so plain and normal! There is no customisation whatsoever and no, I do not want to jailbreak my phone and void my warranty.
  • I would love it to be customisable too........would love to be able to turn on/off data option instead of going into the settings. Sometimes you need access to it quickly.
  • I was surprised when I was looking to customize it and found out you couldn't. To me that's a no-brainer. It should have been there from the start, but it'll be something they "give us due to popular demand" down the road. Hopefully in IOS 8.
  • I would like this, but in terms of user customizations, it comes in a *distant* 4th: 1) default apps (a la Choosy)
    2) better 3rd party access to notification center
    3) 3rd party access to Siri
    4) Customizable Control Center Sent from the iMore App
  • I think adding ANY app to the CC launcher could be dangerous, UNLESS launching a real app requires a passcode / TouchID (excluding "minor" apps like flashlight, calculator, camera) And since TouchID really is quite fast, it would be rather transparent. Also, to reiterate my previous post, I would love to replace Stopwatch with Settings, obviously with a passcode. Sent from the iMore App
  • Yes--mentioned this in regards to the Location Services. Write an article about Location Services and how hard it is to access, when in reality, it should be as easy as Bluetooth, WIFI, or a freakin' flashlight..
  • This is a good feature to add in a future OS update. Personally I think it should be limited to stock apps that make sense for the purpose of Control Center: quick access to key settings. Anything more will cause the feature to become bloated and impractical for use. Anything beyond a settings change, especially where 3rd party apps are concerned, should be opened in the apps themselves. Sent from the iMore App
  • I'm one of the people who wanted this option since the CC was first introduced. I like the ideas in this post but feel that some make the process a little too long for me to see it being implemented by Apple. Eventually I would love third party apps to get access. Starting with I think only Apple apps and OS settings should be allowed. Sent from the iMore App
  • I'm one of the people who wanted this option since the CC was first introduced. I like the ideas in this post but feel that some make the process a little too long for me to see it being implemented by Apple. Eventually I would love third party apps to get access. Starting with I think only Apple apps and OS settings should be allowed. Sent from the iMore App
  • customization is the antithesis of Apple's m.o. with iOS. I'm going to call this as never happening
  • better control center
    better Maps
    Better Game Center intergration
    more FaceTime features: i.e. group, send files etc
    improved notifications system
    more open files system to share files between apps
  • Why not make the control center menu higher? It could add an extra row of icons and widgets for us customize :) Sent from the iMore App
  • There are two words you don't hear in the same sentence too often. iOS and customizable. Posted via the Android iMore App!
  • I like the way cctoggles works just good for me lol!!! Hope that apple sees what's up on cydia and looking forward for some tweaks in iOS 8. Sure we gonna see more one hand optimization because with a bigger screen it comes handy Sent from the iMore App
  • What day does the IPhone 6 come out?? Sent from the iMore App