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iOS 17 might add an iPhone feature I’ve waited three years for

With the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) set for June 5, the Apple rumor mill has fully kicked into high gear. While the big-ticket announcement will surely be the long-rumored mixed reality headset from Apple, we’re also expecting the next round of software updates: iOS/iPadOS 17, watchOS 10, and macOS 14.

Originally, Mark Gurman at Bloomberg claimed that iOS 17 would be a “quiet” release, then backtracked and said it may bring several highly requested features from users over the years. Reports this week say that iOS 17 will improve some features like search, the Dynamic Island, and Control Center. Now, we’re hearing it may even bring us interactive widgets.

Yes — interactive widgets. Finally.

iOS 17 could finally make widgets useful

The iPhone 14 Pro Max.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends

When Apple launched iOS 14, one of the major headline features was the ability to add widgets to the home screen, as well as use custom app icons through Shortcuts, without the need to jailbreak.

However, these widgets were ultimately disappointing, as they appear basically just in a read-only state. Tapping on them only launches the app, essentially making these “widgets” nothing more than large, glorified app icons.

While the read-only state is good if you just want to get bits of data at a quick glance on the home screen, sometimes you want to be able to do more. For example, I would love to be able to check things off my to-do list or get Reminders without having to go into the app. Or even quickly add text to a note that I use as a scratchpad.

Example of interactive widgets in the Today view, compared to home screen widgets
Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

Apple actually did have interactive widgets before, but only in the “Today” view, which you can access by swiping all the way to the left, past your first home screen page. For example, I still have a PCalc widget in my Today view that allows me to make quick calculations without having to launch the app. However, this widget has to remain in the Today view because all home screen widgets are noninteractive, which doesn’t make sense.

The way Apple had widgets in the Today view was great because you could expand and interact with them when needed while also still getting glanceable information. When Apple removed this functionality for home screen widgets, I was confused. Clearly, interactive widgets were possible, just not on the home screen. But why, though?

It’s time for iOS to catch up to Android

Google Pixel 6 Pro widgets.
Android 12 widgets Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Android phones and tablets have had interactive widgets on the home screen for a while now. As I’ve been diving more into Android devices, I love how widgets work on the platform, and it just shows how Apple is behind in a lot of things.

I’ve toyed around with widgets on my Samsung Galaxy S23, for example, and love that I can add reminders on the home screen and check them off from the widget without having to open the app. I can even compose a new email from the Spark widget, and I love that widgets are scrollable if there’s a long list. All of this is stuff that Apple needs to add if/when it makes widgets on iOS 17 interactive.

Plus, how great would it be to control your music playback with the Music widget instead of it just showing something like your recently listened-to albums? And being restricted to just seeing a list of my notes without letting me expand on the content inside unless I open the app? I mean, what’s the point?

This sounds like the update I’ve been waiting for

The Dynamic Island on the iPhone 14 Pro Max.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends

I hope that iOS 17 really does bring interactive widgets, as it desperately needs the extra functionality. Right now, they’re really nothing more than big app icons that can be larger than your typical square.

But I hope that it’s not just interactive widgets. Supposedly, changes to Control Center are also coming, and I also hope to see certain improvements made. Other whispers about iOS 17 include better search, moving the Siri interface into the Dynamic Island on supported models, and even having the Dynamic Island do … more.

I loved the Dynamic Island when it was announced last year, but none of the apps I frequently use utilize it (well, aside from Apollo, but that’s more of a cute, aesthetic thing, rather than actually being useful). I hope the report that Apple plans to “do more” with the Dynamic Island is true since all iPhone 15 models should be getting it, because right now, at least for me, the charm is gone.

If Apple can deliver all of that — on top of interactive home screen widgets — we really could be in for something special with iOS 17.

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Christine Romero-Chan
Christine Romero-Chan has been writing about technology, specifically Apple, for over a decade. She graduated from California…
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