IOS 16 Lock Screen Widgets: MacStories Summary

As the release of iOS 16 approached, I felt a strong sense of déjà vu. Beta versions of TestFlight with lock screen widgets have appeared. It felt like the debut of home screen widgets in 2020. This time, however, these beta versions were for lock screen widgets.

As Federico described in his iOS 16 review, Apple’s approach to handling lock screen widgets in its own apps is different from that of home screen widgets. There are far fewer lock screen widgets available in system apps than there was when the home screen widgets were launched on iOS 14. Part of the difference is undoubtedly that the lock screen widgets are smaller and monochrome, but there remain gaps that cannot be so easily explained with away. Luckily for us, third party developers stepped into the breach with a long list of innovative widgets.

With so many choices and only 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 over 40 that I have tried so far. Of course, this list doesn’t include the apps I already covered last week, but needless to say, Widgetsmith, Lock Screen One, LockFlow, and CARROT Weather would also be on this list if I hadn’t already written them about it.

The name says it all. Link HUB allows you to place links on the iOS 16 lock screen. Links can be URLs that open web pages or URL schemes that open and control applications. You can also use the app’s widgets to do things like make FaceTime calls or pop into your favorite Messages thread. What I love about Link HUB is that it uses the power of the network to extend the possibilities of lock screen widgets. In the screenshot above, I have a widget to open the Club MacStories website, a rectangular widget that launches a shortcut that turns off the bedside lamp, and two circular widgets, one to open the MacStories home page and the other to open the Shortcuts App.

Launcher is an application that has been around for a very long time, helping iPhone users automate a long list of tasks by reducing more complex tasks to one-touch launchers. With the introduction of lock screen widgets, the app can now run apps, run shortcuts, play music, call friends and family, get directions and much more right from the lock screen. One of the nicest parts of the app is that Launcher comes with over 3000 icon options for its widgets, much more than the average app, making it easy to choose the glyph that matters to you. I set up Launcher in the screenshot above to turn on the lights in my office using the built-in widget. The other three widgets from left to right start a playlist of songs I marked as “loved” on Apple Music, open my iMessage thread with my wife Jennifer, and launch the Halide Camera app.

Lock screen widgets are a natural extension to Home Widget, the perfect HomeKit automation app. The app offers a single circular widget that can control HomeKit accessories, trigger scenes, and more. My only wish is to add a built-in widget, but I expect the four circular widgets will satisfy most people’s needs anyway. In the screenshot above, I have widgets for controlling a security camera, a light bar on my balcony, and two others for lamps in my office and living room.

Just Press Record offers one circular widget, but it captures the essence of the application nicely. Just Press Record has always been about recording audio quickly, so having a button on the lock screen that starts a new recording is perfect. Touch the widget and the application will immediately open and start recording. That’s it, but it’s a great example of deep linking to the app’s core functions in a way that enhances Just Press Record’s usability.

Christian Selig has created a great mix of lock screen widgets that use deep links to Apollo as well as some fun stats. First, statistics. Apollo can track the distance you have scrolled in the app and gosh it adds up quickly. If you want to see how far you have scrolled, you can use the circular widget that will remind you every time you glance at the lock screen.

Apollo goes much further, however. There’s also a rectangular widget that shows popular posts and widgets that display your Reddit Karma score, the number of unread items in your inbox that open your inbox, performance statistics for your most recent post, and the performance of your most recent comment. There are also widgets that will open a favorite subreddit or a random one. In addition, Apollo offers a built-in widget for scroll distance, Karma score or the number of inboxes. This is a great variety that makes it easy to track Reddit from the lock screen and bumping into different parts of Apollo.

I can do a lot of things that I have to do on foot each week. It’s a great time to listen to podcasts, but since many journeys are short, I jump in and out of the same episode multiple times on some days. Thanks to the new Overcast Last Lock Screens widget, I can resume an episode with a single tap, which I love. Another widget I like very much is the Playlist, which allows you to select one of the Overcast playlists and drop directly into it with a single tap to start listening. The third widget offered by Overcast is an app icon that simply launches the app from a built-in or circular widget.

MusicBox, Marcos Tanaka’s app for saving links to Apple Music albums and songs, has two lock screen widgets. One of these lists the music you’ve recently saved to listen to later, which is nice, but the circular Add Music widget is the more interesting of the two. Add Music uses the ShazamKit framework to quickly add music to the queue to listen to later while listening to what’s playing around you. If you hear a song you like, tap on the widget and the Shazam MusicBox interface will open and start listening. Once it recognizes a song, MusicBox asks for confirmation and lets you save the URL in a queue. The whole process is so simple and fast that I plan on using this widget a lot.

Lots of task managers have added support for lock screen widgets, but I like the Things widget combination the most. There is a rectangular widget that shows three tasks from any list with the ability to filter by tags and determine whether tapping the widget goes to the Inbox, Current List, or does nothing. There are also two circular widgets. The first opens the user interface to add a new task, and the second tracks the task’s progress by filling in the circle around the check mark when you select items in the Today list. The Add New To Do widget is also available as a built-in widget. With three widgets that use all the types available, Stuff lets you add tasks, see what’s coming next, and track your progress all at once, which is a thoughtful combination that I haven’t seen in other apps.

Parcel Parcel Tracking App offers highly customizable rectangular and circular shipment tracking widgets. A rectangular widget has the advantage of displaying the tracked item and its status. However, tapping both after adding one to the lock screen allows you to set up multiple options. My favorite is the ability to pin a delivery to the lock screen instead of showing the next delivery, which is the default. There are also options to change the widget color scheme and determine whether the application opens in the main view or the package detail view.

Like Parcel, Countdowns does a fantastic job of matching conspicuous information with thoughtful options. The app is perfect for widgets as it is about counting down before the big day you want to remember. The app uses all three types of widgets, mixing and matching event descriptions that you count down to before the event and graphs of the time remaining until the event. There are options to choose the next upcoming event, a specific event or a random one, and to turn on the percentage of time elapsed during the countdown in the widgets that contain the graph.

FitnessView, the health and fitness tracker from Funn Media, enables users to track a wide variety of metrics compared to Apple’s fitness tracker app. In addition to activity tracking like an Apple app, you can track specific goals set in the FitnessView app with a combination of progress indicators, values, and iconography, which is a good way to stay focused on a specific goal.

Funn Media does a similarly good job with the WaterMinder and Calory apps which are specific to track hydration and caloric intake respectively. Both apps have multiple ways to log and track your goals to help keep your body hydrated and regulate your caloric intake.

The pace has really picked up over the last year. The tracker app for runners and walkers offers multiple ways to track distances recorded over different periods of time. Tempo also has a goal tracking widget and a bar chart for the last seven days of your recorded mileage. I’m in the early stages of returning to running after knee surgery last spring, and having widgets to remind me of my progress and goals is one of the ways I plan to stay motivated and on track.

When you travel, you always have something to remember, whether it’s booking your next dinner, tickets to an event, or a flight. Tripsy’s trip planner app allows you to put this kind of information on your lock screen for quick reference with two rectangular, one circular and one built-in lock screen widget. Rectangular widgets keep track of three consecutive planned activities for your trip and your next flight, respectively. The circular widget allows you to open Tripsy in a specific category of travel activity, and the built-in widget displays the next activity in the schedule.

Contacts Widgets allow you to assign widgets to people whose information is saved in the Apple Contacts application. Widgets are designed in the Contact Widgets app and are available after customizing your lock screen widgets. You have many options for creating widgets that will make a voice or FaceTime call with a contact or take you to a Message thread with them. For each widget, you can assign a contact image, a first and last name, and whether the widget has a background or not. The free version of the application allows you to create three widgets. In-app purchase is available for an unlimited number of widgets, but is currently not available in-app.

One of the things I come back to from time to time when testing lock screen widgets is something Federico said in his iOS 16 review:

The lock screen widgets are the ones you wanted to see, not the ones from two years ago.

I agree, and just like Federico, I want more lock screen widgets as a result. It’s not an easy design problem to solve without obscuring the wallpapers, but adding the ability to swap flashlight and camera widgets and perhaps allowing the widget row to move would be a good start.

Until then, I plan on creating more custom lock screens. Some will be tied to focus modes, but most will just switch to most of them manually because, as I explained in this week’s AppStories episode, creating multiple focus modes will quickly be counterproductive.

Of course, this is just the beginning of our range of lock screen widgets. From the beginning of this story, I have a whole new stack of widgets to test and will be writing about the best ones here, as well as the App Debuts section of the MacStories Weekly for Club MacStories members.

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