Skip to content
Thoughtful, detailed coverage of everything Apple for 33 years
and the TidBITS Content Network for Apple professionals
45 comments

Do You Use It? Widgets on the iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple Watch

Working from the theory that people want quick, at-a-glance access to information from their apps, Apple has put significant effort into widgets over the past few years. Widgets initially appeared on the iPhone and iPad in Today View to the left of the Home Screen (iOS 12 and iPadOS 13) but became more interesting once Apple allowed them into more prominent locations. They first migrated to the Home Screen (iOS 14 and iPadOS 15) and the Mac Notification Center (macOS 12 Monterey), followed by the Lock Screen (iOS 16 and iPadOS 17). This year, widgets also snuck onto the Mac desktop (macOS 14 Sonoma) and the Apple Watch Smart Stack (watchOS 10).

Widespread though they may be, have widgets become an essential aspect of your Apple experience? That’s the crux of this week’s poll, encapsulated in a collection of questions asking how heavily you use each of the available widget types on each platform. In the comments, let us know which widgets you find particularly helpful—and why.

Read original article

Subscribe today so you don’t miss any TidBITS articles!

Every week you’ll get tech tips, in-depth reviews, and insightful news analysis for discerning Apple users. For over 33 years, we’ve published professional, member-supported tech journalism that makes you smarter.

Registration confirmation will be emailed to you.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA. The Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Comments About Do You Use It? Widgets on the iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple Watch

Notable Replies

  1. Like you, I find the widget text on the lock screen far too small to use on iPhone. Apple probably wants lots of free space for displaying a gazillion notifications, but since I prefer to absolutely minimize notifications ijn the first place that to me is just a loss. The only widget I use on springboard is Weather (2x2 tile) and like you, I mostly use it as a big button to the app.

    On the iPhone I do like the widgets that are hidden away but accessed via right swipe from first springboard page. What are those called? There I can actually read the text so I really use them. I have calendar item list, charge states, and international clocks. Not more because I want to see everything at a glance without having to scroll.

    On Mac I only use the widgets hidden away (accessible via click on menu bar clock). What are those called again? There I have weather, international clocks, and charge state. I couldn’t stand desktop widgets. Don’t need any distractions from the app(s) I’m working in.

    I actually miss the old Dashboard. Not because I preferred the widgets. Just because to me hitting F3 (or whatever it was) was the easier target than having to mouse up to hit my menu bar clock. Plus Dashboard let me use my entire screen and put widgets wherever I please. No more of that these days.

  2. I’m really ‘meh’ about widgets. I have the weather widget on my Mac desktop. I’m not interested in the Lockscreen stuff. I would like to DISable the accidental triggering of the camera from the lockscreen.

    But I do have one strong opinion: Whoever came up with the keyboard gesture for editing the lockscreen should be hung, drawn and quartered! That is way too easy to accidentally trigger, and wife was in tears when she couldn’t figure out how to get her lock screen image back (of our much missed previous dog, lost to cancer…). We finally figured it out, but it was NOT obvious at all!

  3. They are now the same as home screen widgets, but that is the Today view.

    I have a battery widget at the top left of the desktop. It’s almost always visible to me and a lot more readable than the menu bar icon.

    On my iPhone lock screen I have one widget - a custom widget from Carrot weather with the current temp and the precipitation percentage. I really don’t look at that widget much - I usually have the same info on my watch.

    On my iPad I have a few today view widgets which I hardly use, but I have a large weather widget and a battery widget on my first home page. I have no lock screen widgets on my iPad.

  4. On my phone I have a Windy widget which shows temp and wind in 3 hour increments, but it’s pretty useless because it’s too small to read. Seemed like a good idea at the time, for me to see at a glance the best time to go out biking.

    I also added an Air Quality index that showed up in early summer, and that did come in handy because we had a lot of issues with wildfire smoke blowing into our area this year. I don’t recognize the logo on it.

    Then I have the Fitness ring which I will probably remove because it’s inaccurate enough to drive me crazy. Maybe that will give me room for a bigger weather thing.

    I can’t really speak to the computer as I don’t use the Mini enough to have them setup. But in the old Dashboard days, I used Stocks, Weather, Calendar and a separate Radar which stopped working a long time ago. Even as far back as Sierra there is something in the upper right which pops out a menu but I rarely go in there unless I need to quickly turn off Night Shift

    Diane

  5. You can use Widgets and some Desktop settings to simulate the old Dashboard.

  6. I’m aware of that trick but it would mean instead of a clean desktop I have to put up with widgets on it.

  7. I’ve documented my struggles with Widgets on macOS elsewhere, but to summarize: love the idea, hate the placement restrictions.

    I have two 27" monitors, and use the Calendar, Stocks, Clocks, and Weather widgets. I have lots of other windows open semi-permanently, but I’ve left the lower-left corner of the left hand monitor, and the upper-right corner of the right hand monitor available for these widgets. However, due to placement restrictions (which vary from one release of Sonoma to another) the widgets are 1) completely hidden, 2) completely visible, or (currently, on 14.1.2) partially visible. Widget placement (at least for the monitor arrangement I have) definitely needs work.

    [Edit: These issues may have been caused by a corrupt preferences file. See my latest post in the above-referenced thread.]

  8. I still use Dashboard on a Mojave machine. I don’t use Widgets on any of my iDevices.

  9. I also don’t use widgets on any device.

    On the phone, the original non-interactive widgets were completely useless to me and often duplicated things I was able see immediately on my watch via complications.The more recent iPhone widgets (which are interactive) just take up too much space on my home screen and I would rather launch the associated app.

    Back in the day, I tried the old widgets (Dashboard?) on my Mac and hated them. Even though I now use Stage Manager with two displays, widgets still take up too much space to justify their limited use - again, I just launch the app

    I have refused to install WatchOS 10 due to the rather poor experiences reported by others. Widgets on the Watch seem to duplicate complications. For example, the weather complication I use shows the minimum, maximum and current temperature for my current location. Usually, this is all I need. A widget would probably duplicate this or show some other parameters which can be best obtained by launching the app.

    I suppose, with a yearly update cycle, Apple needs to add some new feature to distinguish the new system. Widgets have been their choice for the last few years and are in my opinion a not very useful addition to the three already quite mature operating systems.

  10. Nothing on my phone.
    Weather and Stocks on my (rarely used) iPad.
    Nothing on my Mac - I prefer clean desktops.

  11. I’ve stated elsewhere how I use Mac widgets. I wish the poll hadn’t driven us to extremes; my use is moderate on all platforms except the watch. Ordering my use, it’s Watch>iPhone>Mac>iPad.

    On the Watch, although I previously heavily used complications and the Dock and now use neither (yea Snoopy watch face!), I was able to use the Smart Stack (combined with writing a few simple Shortcuts) to replace the lost functionality. Apple erred in not providing a smooth transition to this setup (and a way to revert if you couldn’t or didn’t want to do it immediately). Unlike most Apple upgrades, the Watch 10 upgrade forced users to change how they used the device, with little aid in guiding a transition. It took me a week or so to get things right, so I understand the anger of folks who were happy with what they had and didn’t see a need or have the time to understand how the changes might be better.

    Note that WatchOS 10.2 will provide the option to revert to the old way of changing faces so that if you use multiple faces, switching will be easy (and if you don’t want it to be easy, you can stay with the new behavior).

  12. Sorrry about that—I tried for the trifecta of not at all, some, and a lot. I just couldn’t see any way to capture more specificity than that without adding confusion. If it helps, I’d say that “slightly” is probably the moderate answer, but that if you use the Smart Stack to take over from complications, that might qualify as “heavily.” Personally, I do use complications heavily.

  13. Yes, that’s how I answered as I use multiple widgets in place of opening apps on the watch (and, with Snoopy, I have no place for complications).

    For the other, there are a few widgets that either

    1. Provide information that I want frequently without me needing to open an underlaying app (e.g. battery status information about devices paired with the iPhone, Stocks in the Mac Notification Center) or

    2. Provide an easier access to frequently used app than clicking the icon or using Siri/Spotlight to find and open it (e.g. Apple Weather everywhere).

  14. Well, I’m a little chagrined to discover that all those widgets I’ve been using on iPad and iPhone for the past couple of years (and it’s a lot!) are called Today View Widgets. I was going to respond that I never heard of them, until I went and looked up that specific phrase.

    So now that that’s out of the way, a slice of my iPhone’s “Today” view:

    I had a couple of widgets on the Home screen previously but did not find them very useful there. Too many apps.

  15. My game remains unchanged. The extent of my widget use is exactly the same as what you describe here, right down to “mostly as a big button.”

  16. Need to add the Option: I don’t own an Apple Watch

  17. blm

    I just didn’t vote on that one.

  18. Yep, as @blm noted, just don’t vote if you don’t have the device in question.

  19. The only widget I really use on the iPhone, iPad and Watch is the Apple Weather widget. I have played occasionally with other widgets and dropped all of them as not very useful, now I generally do not bother trying widgets for other apps.

  20. I made myself a nice collection of widgets on my iPhone but when I swipe over to them it’s almost always to check the battery levels on my airPods — weather I check from the home screen sometimes but usually I want the detail that the Apple Weather app gives me (or the warnings that the Environment Canada Weather app gives me). The pictures on the home screen are nice and sometimes I divert into the cute but just about every other one is filler to me.

  21. Not a big fan of the current MacOS version of widgets, though I used them a lot in their first iteration–especially a great Magic 8 Ball widget.
    On iOS, I recently discovered that my TOTP authentication app (OTP Auth 2.18.0) could display in the “today view” widget. This is a real timesaver because I need to type a TOTP code at work over and over again. I had selected this app because it has a quick Apple Watch app, but looking at my phone is even faster.

  22. Widgets are growing on me. I really like them on my Mac and find myself using or referencing them more. They are very nice for simple actions, like controlling home automation, or seeing the upcoming schedule.

    That said, there are a lot of places for widgets to show up and I am not sure all are as useful as others. I am not a big user of lock screen widgets for example.

    Overall they are a plus for me, but certainly not thing I value or use the most…

  23. Widgets? I dont need no stinkin’ widgets!
    (with apologies to Mel Brooks and by extension to B. Traven’s novel)

  24. I do not understand Notifications. They pop up here, there and everywhere and often I do not know where they come from or how I have ever authorised them. – In other words… they are a pain because I do not understand how to control them.

    But then… your “Notifications” may not be what I understand about my “Notifications”.

  25. I keep Notifications asleep most of the time on my Mac, and probably would on my iPhone if there were an easy way to disable them. Widgets I never use on any device, and the Today screen?—never knew it was called that—I only get there by accident. Never use it at all and would switch it off if I could.
    I would use an analog clock widget on my homescreen, if seconds were enabled on the homescreen. But they are not, and that’s probably to save battery.
    In general, I wish Apple would let us disable lots of these bells and whistles, and if they did, I think we might be surprised at how much faster our Macs might feel. I have a mid-2011 MBA that runs Linux MInt 21.2, and it feels faster, and somehow seems to download from the internet faster, than this M2 MBA running Sonoma. That doesn’t seem right, and must be due to the deadweight of unused “features.”

  26. I’ve tried widgets on my iPhone SE 2020, and on my old iPad Mini 4 when I had that. But I found them to be, at best, of superficial use. I’ve now gotten rid of them entirely.

    I’ve got similarly mixed feeling about Mac widgets, they’re nice to have but not that useful. And as my 2017 iMac cannot move to Sonoma I won’t be able to find out if releasing them to the desktop will make me care more. :person_shrugging:

  27. I don’t use Widgets on any device. For me they are a solution in search of a problem.

  28. i agree about editing the lockscreen.

  29. On the topic of iPhone widgets, what is the fundamental difference between widgets in Today View’s Edit mode that show up a) after clicking the + button vs. b) those that show up under Customize?

  30. The difference are that the ones with the plus at the top are new style widgets that were introduced with iOS 14, which can go on the today view or the Home Screen, vs. the old style widgets that were only available on the Today view on iOS versions before iOS 14. Those apps just haven’t updated their widgets yet, or the apps just never removed the old style. (There may be things the old style could do that the new ones can’t.)

  31. The word widgets means nothing to me, and it never has. It seems like everybody who responded knows what they are except me. I think you are talking about tiny apps that can be pinned to places like the Home Screen and Lock Screen on the phone. I haven’t really seen them on the Mac. I don’t understand their usefulness. I don’t know where they are, how they got there, or why they aren’t called apps. Customizing all this is deeply mysterious to me. Perhaps I need a Take Control book.

  32. I am massive;y annoyed at what they did to widgets, especially on the lock screen on iPads. I generaly keep it n portrait oriengtatio as all my financial stuff works much b etter that way. GThey do NOT allow us to position any widgegts hefre where wwe want (1 boo). They do NOT allow any use of widgets like we have for the ghome screen (2 boos). Especially annoyed there is no weather widget like the one I have on my home screen which imparts a lof more info (i.e. with a radar look) (3 boos). AND I get way “better” (i.e. more readable) widgets in landscape than portrait (4 and 5 boos).

    Not at all impressed. Do not know if these same annoyances happen on Android tablets…

  33. [EDIT: Posted my actual “do you use it” comments farther down.]

    Widgets: Another category where the present-day Apple seems to be very late to the party (Android, Windows, etc.) and seems to be grinding through many of the mistakes of their competitors vs learning from them. Thinking different, or just not thinking things through? shrug

  34. I have widgets set up on all three devices: Mac, iPad, and iPhone. They’re useful for quick glance stuff – schedule, weather, stock market, pending deliveries. When I’m traveling, I through a travel-related widget on my iPhone screen to keep track of plane times, etc.

    All in all, quite handy to have.

  35. Because I was having weird WiFi issues on my iPhone that weren’t resolved with a factory reset and restore, over the weekend I decided to try a reset and rebuild from scratch (which required the same on my Apple Watches.)

    After spending time downloading apps and setting up home screens again, I’ve found that I like to use widgets as much for the info that they show at a glance as a clue for which of my home screens is showing. So I’m not sure I use the widget a lot to gather the info it shows, I still find them useful for navigating home screens.

    That said, perhaps if there was the ability to customize the wallpaper of each Home Screen, that would be a better way to do this.

  36. Oops, left out my widget usage comments…

    Using pre-iOS 17 device, so no lock-screen widget features which would be more useful. I just have the Today View (right swipe from Home) set for Clock (analog), Battery (so I can READ the % without glasses) and the 2-widget-wide Calendar to see the next couple future events. Did not stick with any widgets on Home screen(s) as I use that for launching and if I have to swipe to get my most used items it may as well just stay on Today View.

    Overall I rarely use Today View, but would benefit from and use those widgets much more if it were on the Lock Screen for quick, one-press viewing. But somehow we need a new device for that.

  37. And even if you get that new device, you can’t really use any of those Today View widgets on the Lock Screen. What you do get on the Lock Screen are tiny widgets with minuscule font. I can’t read anything there unless I’d switch to a blank white Lock Screen background.

  38. Yes, they are on my iPhone.

    On my Today view I have:

    • The local grocery shop has an app where you use a QR code to pay. This code comes as a widget .I have placed it on the top of my screen.

    • Lightroom widget to take photos.

    • A widget to go directly to buying tickets on the Oslo transport system.

    • The real-time departure times for 2 often used stops.

    • My wife is sharing her iPhone position. A widget shows me where she is. Clicking on the widget gets me right to her position on the map. In the summer, my fishing buddy shares his position and gets a widget.

    • Today I have two yr.no widgets that show the current weather for my home and another place I visit often. Depending on the season, there might be more widgets for more places. The nice thing is that you get right to the place you are interested to see in the yr.no app when you hit the widget.

    • I have 4 widgets that gets me to the 4 notes I use often.

    • A Shortcut widget launches my website in Safari.

    • A Shortcut widget that checks the rotation speed via ssh of the fan on my Mac mini that runs several Linux servers in VMware Fusion. If the speed is rising, it is time to restart the mac.

    • A widget to launch Snapchat. I dislike Snapchat. I wish they did not, but my children use it to share photos and videos of my grandchildren …

    The game changing element is that many of the widgets get me to what I want to access with fewer clicks and swipes. As a bonus, 8 of the apps I use regularly have shifted from the second home screen page to the first. Since the widgets also get you to the apps, I have removed all those apps from the home screen.

  39. I find the Widgets really useful to get glanceable information on both my iPad and iPhone. The Contacts widget I use a lot to get in contact with my closest coworkers and my family. The Smart Stack I haven’t been able to configure - it seems a bit unintuitive, or am I just stupid?

  40. I just went through this. On the phone you can long-press the widget Smart Stack and tap “edit stack” and from here you can remove any widgets that the device has added, and if you hit the “+” control top-left you can add widgets that may be missing to the stack, and I you can also long-press and drag the widgets into different positions in the stack, if that makes them more useful. You can also turn off the “smart rotate” feature, which will stop the device switching the showing widget to what it thinks would be useful at that time, and turn off widget suggestions, which I believe is supposed to add widgets that the device thinks may be useful.

  41. Thanks Doug - I was a very unclear. What I really meant was that I can’t configure the Smart Stack on my Apple Watch (Series 4). I have managed to get in a state where I have been able remove Widgets but not being able to add Widgets…

  42. Mac Old Dashboard: I used to use that a lot! Still miss it. Much more intuitive and convenient (at least for me) than the modern arrangement: I’m an iMac person, so having an entire dedicated desktop for arranging my (personally chosen) widgets visually in categories, in a way that made sense to me–and never having them scroll away if there are “too many” of them–was a muscle-memory-stable part of my workflow for years. SIGH --But then…I’m old. ;-)

    New widgets…not so much. At all. Don’t use them on my phone or iPad, ever. Didn’t know about the notification screen in Monterey for about a year after I installed it; hardly ever use that, either. (My phone takes care of notifications.)

    Oh, and Simon: it was F4.

  43. I also liked Dashboard a lot — so I’ve a few macOS Sonoma widgets — Weather, Time, Photos etc — set to show on a click (‘Never’, ‘Always’). But that’s the only place I use widgets, can’t stand them on an iPhone or iPad…

  44. These Notifications are often turned on by default when you install an application or an app. You should see a Notification from the Notifications control panel letting you know either that it has happened or that the app “wants” to send you Notifications when certain things happen. You can control them on MacOS in System Settings—>Notifications.

    On iOS, go to Settings:

    You can control for each app listed whether it sends any notifications at all, or what kind(s) it sends.

    Hope this helps!

  45. M C

    The problem is that it is, as usual with Apple, too complex to install them. If they made it drag and drop easy, and easy to find how to add or remove, more people would adopt them. IOW: too many clicks for no reason.
    However, having said that, I find them to be of limited use and just one more thing my brain bandwidth cannot multiprocess. I’d rather just open a weather app when I want the weather. Not all the time.
    Some are also unhealthy. Looking at the stock market all the time will make you a terrible investor of your retirement and investment accounts. Stock brokers aside…
    I do find Music on the lock screen useful. But, did I install that? Is that even a widget? I can’t even remember. I suppose that is how critical the widget feature is.

Join the discussion in the TidBITS Discourse forum

Participants

Avatar for ace Avatar for Simon Avatar for aforkosh Avatar for ddmiller Avatar for tony2 Avatar for AlanRalph Avatar for deemery Avatar for Matt_McCaffrey Avatar for anthony.craine Avatar for dianed143 Avatar for blm Avatar for tidbits41 Avatar for wieland00 Avatar for paalb Avatar for levanah Avatar for fischej Avatar for allan.galbraith Avatar for drmoss_ca Avatar for trilo Avatar for david_blanchard Avatar for warrennn Avatar for macguyver Avatar for olsson Avatar for swhytehead