Skip to main content

There’s a big problem with iOS 18’s amazing customization features

An iPhone home screen with iOS 18.
Apple

“The home screen is truly your own.”

That’s the phrase used when Apple introduced iOS 18 during its Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC 2024) keynote, and it heralded the end of the days when the design of iOS’ home screen was rigidly fixed.

It’s chaos from this point on and almost anything goes, just like on Android, and I couldn’t be more conflicted.

Making iOS more like Android

iOS 18 home screens.
Apple

When rumors spread about more customization for the home screen in iOS, I wrote how I did not want it to lose any of its own personality at the same time. I think it’s important for the two primary mobile operating systems to look different and operate somewhat differently, too. But Apple’s rumored choices threatened to bring it far closer to Android than ever before.

Now we’ve seen the breadth of Apple’s abandonment of the old ways. With the new software installed, you will be able to choose the number of app icons on the home screen, place them mostly where you want, and also alter the color and even the icon itself in Dark Mode. The lock screen hasn’t escaped either, as you can change out the two previously fixed icons for ones of your choosing. The Control Center has gained additional panels, more buttons, and the chance to swipe down through all the ones added, much like on the widget screen.

That’s a lot, and it’s very Android-like. And I haven’t finished yet. Icons can be resized on the home screen and in the Control Center, plus developers can create their own app controls for use in the Center, too. The Photos app has various new features that we’ve seen in Google Photos for a while, along with a Magic Eraser-like tool to edit images. Apple has also made an iPhone wireless mirroring tool for iOS 18, a common feature on Android phones. That’s about all we know for now, but as there are months to go before iOS 18’s release, more Android-like tools and features may come along.

With great power comes an ugly iPhone

iOS 18's customization page for app icon themes.
Apple

So why am I conflicted when I previously said I hated the idea of such changes? Apple does a fantastic job of selling everything it does, and it certainly did make me want to try the new style on my iPhone. Shifting the apps I use around, exposing more of my wallpaper, and swapping the flashlight control on the home screen to another app really appeals to me.

I can also live with the new Control Center, but I generally dislike a host of buttons and controls to mess around with, and I always prefer a simpler, focused selection of controls to be close to hand. I understand I may be in the minority though, so I’m still pleased this is incoming. I also know that if I don’t want to switch the home screen around too much, it’s not a requirement. The freedom to make the home screen look the way you want is a good thing.

Except when it’s not. Apple took it a step too far with the option to change the color of the apps on the home screen to “match” or complement the wallpaper. This is the tipping point between not needing to be a designer or understanding how to implement color schemes, and the need to have some kind of creative talent. Why? When you use the color tool badly, the result can be hideous. It’s the one tool in Apple’s customization toolkit that made me cringe. It’s too powerful for us normals to use, and I already foresee so many visually unpleasant home screens created by using it without careful consideration.

Apple knows what I mean

Examples of how iOS 18's home screen can be customized.
Apple

During the presentation, Apple proudly showed off what’s possible with its new customization tools, and even in the few examples on-screen, the red, blue, and purple options are absolutely awful to look at. They show where creative restraint will be required to make good use of this dangerous tool, particularly in the purple one, which is genuinely terrible. It’s also emphasized in a way Apple would not really want it to be, as the “original” iOS home screen layout to the right looks far more legible, more professionally styled, and simply much easier on the eye than all of the others.

We’ve seen the results of Apple’s decision to give the masses access to such power before. Nothing, the technology brand from OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei, also embraces total customization, and Nothing OS can be given a monochrome look throughout, while Android as an OS lets you change the icon and button colors to ones inspired by the wallpaper. Usually though, the default options look best.

Don’t believe me? Imagine all the other home screens shown in Apple’s example image above with the classic, original color scheme. Each would be infinitely improved by ignoring the urge to mess around with the colors. Play around with the layout of apps and widgets on the iPhone’s home screen to your heart’s content — I admit I’m going to — but only wield the power of the color tool if you’re going to take care. Otherwise, you risk ruining the look of your iPhone’s home screen completely.

Andy Boxall
Andy is a Senior Writer at Digital Trends, where he concentrates on mobile technology, a subject he has written about for…
The Google Pixel 9 may steal a key iPhone 16 Pro feature
A render of the Google Pixel 9 smartphone in black.

Google Pixel 9 OnLeaks / 91Mobiles

We've officially entered the second half of the year, which means we're ever closer to new flagship phones from Apple and Google. Now, the news is that one of the most anticipated new features likely to arrive on the iPhone 16 Pro series could also be coming to the Google Pixel 9.

Read more
Forget about iOS 18. Apple has already started working on its next big iPhone update
A person demonstrating the new Siri revamped with Apple Intelligence at the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) 2024.

When it comes to technology, everything is always in motion and evolving. One example of this is Apple’s iOS 19 software update. Yes, iOS 19. Even before iOS 18 is released to the public, it seems that Apple is already hard at work on the next version of iOS, which won’t even be announced until next June.

According to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, Apple developers are actively starting work on the 2025 operating systems for its most important products. Each already has an internal name. For example, the next version of iOS is called “Luck,” while macOS 16 is described as “Cheer.” “Nepali” is the name for watchOS 12, while “Discovery” concerns visionOS 3. No doubt, iPadOS 19 is also in the pipeline.

Read more
Apple’s secret plan to change iPhone batteries forever
Battery inside an iPhone.

In the near future, replacing the battery inside an iPhone won’t be a risk-prone, complex, and messy affair with glue everywhere. According to The Information, Apple is exploring a new technology that will make it easier for people to remove the battery unit inside their iPhones, making replacements and repairs more convenient.

Here’s the detail right from the horse’s mouth: "The new technology—known as electrically induced adhesive debonding—involves encasing the battery in metal, rather than foil as it is currently. That would allow people to dislodge the battery from the chassis by administering a small jolt of electricity to the battery, the people said."

Read more