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iOS 14 widgets: New iPhone update lets you completely change your home screen – here’s how to do it

Andrew Griffin
·5-min read
 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Apple’s iOS 14 has arrived, and people are using it to change the look of their iPhone in ways that were never possible before.

Until now, the iPhone’s home screen has been largely static. You could choose which apps were on which page, and alter your background, but that was it.

But with the release of iOS 14, that changed entirely. It includes fundamental alterations to the way the iPhone’s home screen works – and with it, whole new ways of customising the look of your iPhone.

One of those changes is the “App Library”, which allows apps to be shunted off to a file at the edge of the home screens. As such, an app no longer needs to be present on the home screen to be on your phone – before iOS 14, those two things were the same.

But the more meaningful change is the addition of widgets. Those sit on your home screen, but are not apps icons at all, at least in the traditional sense: instead, they can be considered mini apps in their own right, though they can work as icons too.

A combination of these different changes have allowed people to alter how their iPhone looks. Many of those changes have been shared across Twitter and TikTok, with users showing off the various aesthetics they have been able to adopt using the new features.

As can be seen from these, there are a wide variety of different changes that can be made to the home screen. But they all work along the same basic principles.

The first thing to change is your home screen. This hasn’t changed in iOS 14, even if it has become more important – you can add a picture either from the photo itself, or from the Settings app, and that will be changed forever.

Then comes the more complicated job of adding special widgets and app icons to complete the look.

The main tool that people are using to create those widgets is an app called Widgetsmith, which is available free from the App Store with in-app purchases. Once downloaded, you can open up the app and create any kinds of widgets you like: either simple ones, such as static photos, or more complicated ones offering detailed data taken from your phone.

Once the widget is customised in keeping with the look you want, and saved, you can add it to your home screen. That’s done by shutting down the app and going to the home screen, long pressing, selecting the + sign and adding a new widget, which should allow you to choose whatever you’ve just made in Widgetsmith.

Other apps have emerged – Widget Wizard and Widgeridoo are among them – but Widgetsmith has become undeniably the runaway hit of the iOS 14 widget boom, and with good reason.

The other key thing to make a home page of this kind is to create your own app icons. That’s done using Apple’s own Shortcuts app, which you might need to download through the App Store if you don’t have it already.

To get a custom app icon, download Shortcuts, click the “+” in the top-right corner to create a new shortcut, then press add action, then “scripting”, “open app” and choose the app you’d like the icon to open before saving the shortcut. You should then be able to head to your shortcut library, in the same app, click the three little dots on the one you want to add, and choose the option to add it to your home screen; that will bring up the page where you can choose the icon and name for the app.

One slightly annoying feature of this tool is that the app still opens as a shortcut, meaning that clicking it will open up the Shortcuts app, which will then open up the app you actually want. That makes it slightly slower than usual, but if you’re in a rush you can always open up the app as normal through the search bar or App Library.

It is a reminder of the use of Shortcuts, which can be used for more complicated things than making apps. You can use it to string together whole sets of actions, for instance, automating things that you might repeatedly do on your phone – and each of those can be added to your home screen, using the same method, and customised in the same way.

In general, some of the work of creating all of these changes have already been done: scrolling through social media and websites should give you access to the various icons and aesthetics that some people have already made. But there’s no simple way to share these – even if you can find a pack of app icons, for instance, you’ll still have to go through the long process of adding them to your home screen.

It’s worth noting that all the same principles and ideas here also apply to the iPad, too, and work in the same way. In fact, the extra space on the screen mean that you can potentially include even more on those home screens.

Another key fact is that despite the fact that iOS 14 has been in progress over the summer, many developers are yet to get their apps updated for widgets, and yet more specific tools might be planned. As such, there will no doubt be yet more useful tools still to come, which will probably surface in the App Store.

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