Of all the features coming to macOS, iOS, iPadOS, and watchOS this fall, I might be most excited about widgets. No, seriously. Widgets!
Yes, of course, widgets have been around forever. Apple overhauled the widget experience with iOS 14 three years ago, giving us a new widget template, widgets on the home screen, and smart stacks. On the iPad, they were relegated to a sidebar, but iPadOS 15 fixed that a year later, letting us put widgets anywhere on the home screen. In macOS Big Sur we could put iPhone-ish widgets in the notification shade off the right side of the screen.
But with the OS updates coming this fall, Apple is making some welcome changes that will take widgets front and center across the Apple ecosystem. It’s going to be the Widgetpocalypse, and I am here for it.
All of Apple’s platforms, except maybe tvOS, have had widgets for years–watchOS really only had them in the Siri watch face, and they were quite limited.
With watchOS 10, a swipe up or roll of the digital crown shows a list of widgets that show important info from your Apple Watch apps without needing to open the app. It’s a much better solution than trying to fit critical info into a little complication. You’ll get little interactive cards in this widget stack when there are background operations going on–you can pause or resume timers or music playback, for example.
Even in the earliest developer beta, I love using my Apple Watch this way. I can’t wait for developers to push out updated Apple Watch apps with cool new widgets for this stack.
Widgets on iOS and iPadOS? That’s old news! Except, now they can be interactive, which makes me a thousand times more likely to use a widget than before. Yeah, I want to glance at the weather without hopping into an app, but I don’t care to see my shopping list on my home screen. But tell me I can check items off my shopping list right from the widget and that changes everything. I never wanted an Apple Music widget on my home screen, but that was before I could directly play music from it.
But it’s the macOS angle that really takes widgets to the next level. The widgets available today in the Notification Center are sort of bare-bones. With macOS Sonoma, you can put them right on your home screen, and they’re interactive, and you can put your iPhone’s widgets on your Mac and even interact with them–they’ll work as long as your iPhone is nearby or on the same network.
I immediately made a whole second virtual desktop and filled it up with large-size widgets. It’s the return of Dashboard, only better!
Widgets are going to be big
No matter what Apple device you’re using, the changes to widgets coming this fall can completely change the way you use it for the better. Interactive widgets on iOS and iPadOS mean they don’t just give you info at a glance, they let you take basic common actions without opening apps. That’s kind of a big deal. It’s one of those things Android has had forever but in a less-organized and attractive manner, and iPhone enthusiasts have been asking for this since the Great Widget Overhaul of 2020.
On Apple Watch, widgets are central to the entire new interface. The point of a watch is glanceable info, and complications just didn’t afford enough space and flexibility (not to mention that your average user still doesn’t seem to know how to edit and change them, or can’t be bothered to). A smart stack of widgets is a great way to make Apple Watch apps useful again, and that one move could potentially revitalize the Watch app ecosystem that’s sort of treading water right now.
But it’s macOS that brings it all together. That Mac is where we get things done. And a little off-screen notification center full of non-interactive widgets made them kind of useless. The ability to put them on your desktop, together with interactivity, means an empty desktop can be quickly transformed into the nerve center of your Apple ecosystem. The ability to use your iPhone widgets is just genius–one more way to use your iPhone without picking it up.
And let’s not forget the new StandBy mode for iPhone. Put your charging iPhone in landscape mode and you get access to a new clock and calendar view and yes, widgets. StandBy mode is just an iPhone thing for now, but you just know it’s coming to iPad and maybe even Mac in the next year or two. And it’s going to make widgets even more enticing for app developers.
It might be hard to see it right now, because third-party apps need to be updated to support interactive widgets and new apps that target the new operating systems won’t hit the app stores until the fall. But mark my words: by this time next year, our Apple devices will be loaded with widgets, and we’ll love it.