Your phone lock screen changes, will become much more useful

What is happening

Between the launch of iOS 16, the upcoming expansion of lock screen content company Glance in the US, and updates to Google’s Pixel phone widgets, it’s clear the lock screen is about to change.

why is it important

The lock screen is the first thing most people see when they pick up their phone. These updates suggest companies are trying to make better use of this space.

And after

Apple’s iOS 16 update is officially rolling out in the fall and just hit public beta on Monday. Glance did not provide a schedule for its US debut.

Think about how often you check your call each day. Now consider the first thing you see when you pick up your device: your lock screen wallpaper. Maybe it’s a photo of your pet, a photo of a beautiful sunset from a recent vacation, or just a cool piece of art. This could all change very soon.

The lock screen has long been considered an intimate space for personal photos, important notifications, and tools like the flashlight. But companies are increasingly looking to do more with that precious real estate, as evidenced by Apple’s iOS 16 update and other changes that would be coming Android phones.

Apple’s iOS 16 update, which launched in public beta Monday will bring more customization options and new widgets to the iPhone lock screen when it arrives this fall. You will be able to see more information quickly and apply stylistic effects to lock screen photos similar to iPhone’s portrait mode photography feature.

Glance, a Google-backed subsidiary of mobile ad tech company InMobi, also reiterated plans to bring its lock screen platform to the United States. And Google plans to incorporate more information into its own lock screen widget for Pixel phones.

Taken together, changes like these suggest we might not want to pass our lock screens so quickly in the future.

iOS 16 Lock Screen Widget Gallery

The Widget Gallery for iPhone Lock Screen in iOS 16.

Apple/Screenshot by CNET

iPhone lock screen gets a makeover

One of the greatest features of iOS 16 is the new lock screen. Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering, called it “the biggest update ever” when he presented the update to Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in June. You will be able to customize the font styles and colors for the date and time in addition to giving your background photo a magazine cover aesthetic.

As I wrote earlier, it’s really the new widgets that will bring more utility to the iPhone lock screen. The iPhone already lets you place widgets on the secondary Today View screen of your lock screen, which you can access by swiping right.

But iOS 16 adds widgets to the main lock screen to show information at a glance, like temperature, Apple Watch activity rings, and upcoming calendar appointments. Android phones have offered this kind of functionality for years, and it’s nice to see the iPhone do the same. You can even create multiple lock screens and cycle through them, much like Apple Watch faces.

Since you can add widgets from apps like Spotify, Google Maps, and Outlook to iPhone’s Today View, I wouldn’t be surprised to see third-party widgets available for the new lock screen as well. If you look closely at Apple’s WWDC demo, you may even see an option for a Nike widget. This means that developers may soon have another way to reach iPhone owners and prevent their apps from being buried deep in a user’s app library.

It’s impossible to know how useful this new lock screen will be without spending a lot of time with iOS 16. But as I wrote before, it looks like the new widgets in iOS 16 will make your iPhone more similar to the apple watch, which looks like an upgrade. Like the Apple Watch, the new lock screen should make it easier to see crucial information without having to dig into apps or even unlock your phone.

A screenshot from the Glance website showing lock screens on a number of phones

A screenshot from Glance’s website showing what its lock screen platform looks like.

Glance/Screenshot by CNET

Android phone owners may soon have new lock screen options

Glance, which brings entertainment and other digital content to the lock screens of select Android devices in India and Southeast Asia, is in talks with mobile carriers for a U.S. launch in the coming months. next two months, according to TechCrunch. While the company didn’t reveal its US launch schedule or other details, it previewed its US lock screen offering on Monday.

Glance’s lock screen will appear in what it calls “spaces”, which are basically organized lock screens designed to fit specific themes. A fitness-focused lock screen, for example, would display stats like calories burned and exercise goals alongside a music player. An information “space” would show headlines and weather, while a music version could show live concerts. This reminds me of how the new iPhone lock screen in iOS 16 can be tied to different “purposes”, like work or personal mode.

The TechCrunch report on Glance’s arrival in the US raised concerns that ads may also appear on the lock screen. Glance’s business page shows examples of advertisers who have used its platform to reach potential customers on the very first screen they see when they pick up their phone. Intel, Zomato and Garnier are among the case studies listed.

But Rohan Choudhary, vice president and general manager of the Glance stream, told CNET the US version will be ad-free.

“We’re very clear that in the US we won’t have any lock screen ads at all,” he said.

The company also issued a press release on Monday stating that it “has no intention of serving any advertisements on the surface of the lock screen.” Still, Glance will have to prove that its lock screen offerings offer more value than the many widgets and other options already available to Android users. It will also have to find the right balance between showing useful information without being too distracting.

The company said it plans to monetize its service through news subscriptions and shopping links from shopping platforms featured through Glance. But those choices will have to be useful and relevant, otherwise they might end up looking as intrusive as the ads. The company claims to have a 60% retention rate and presence on 400 million phones in the markets where it currently operates.

A screenshot showing a fitness-themed lock screen from Glance

When Glance launches in the US, it will focus its lock screen options on specific themes which it calls “spaces”. The screenshots above are an example of a fitness-focused space.

Glance / Screenshots by CNET

Google, meanwhile, has its own ways of making the lock screen more useful. The company’s At a Glance feature for Pixel Phones displays relevant information on the lock screen, if any, as the name suggests. A recent report from 9to5Google suggests that new information may soon be visible in this widget. Rideshare updates from apps like Lyft and Uber could be among the new alerts available in At a Glance, which could make it even easier to see urgent notifications from the lock screen.

Regardless of the implementation, these expected changes prove that the lock screen needs an update. As our phones have become hubs for accessing information, controlling home appliances, and ordering everything from a taxi to full grocery orders, the lock screen has taken on an important new role. It is not enough to display timely alerts.

Whether it’s iOS 16’s new widgets, updates to Pixel’s At a Glance feature, or Glance’s lock screen “spaces”, the goal seems to be the same: improve our lock screens to organize the wave of notifications and updates bombarding our phones every day. How successful these attempts will be remains to be seen.

About Anne Wurtsbach

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