The Case for Better iPad Widgets

After the announcement of new Widgets for iOS and the ability to have them anywhere on your home screen I immediately thought about the new possibilities for the iPad. I wanted to make the iPad home screen a mission control center of sorts. I could have a task manager widget, a Drafts widget, and others available right on the home screen for me to use when I want. Then I learned that widgets aren’t available to go everywhere on the iPad like it is on the iPhone.

I immediately thought that this was some kind of bug, surely Apple has this planned for the iPad as well right? Wrong. Craig Federighi explained on the podcast Waveform that widgets for the iPad will continue to be constrained.

Whether over time we want to let you push that further, letting you move widgets out of their designated spot beside the app icons or not, we’ll see. But we felt like we had a great balanced solution for this already.

To me, this seems like a cop-out for Apple. There are many reasons that the iPad should also have access to put widgets anywhere on the home screen.

The Current Solution isn’t Useful

If we look at the “great balanced solution” Apple has put in place for the iPad it is about as useful as having 4 Shortcuts on your home screen. In fact, I would argue that having 4 Shortcuts is actually more useful than the current widget system they have in place for the iPad.

If you look at the left side of the home screen for the iPad you will see that it is a column that goes from top to bottom entirely, but only shows the first half of the column by default. This means that if you want to see the other widgets outside of the newly created main widget area you have to scroll down the empty column to have them appear.

The phrase “out of sight, out of mind” comes to me when I look at this solution Apple has for the iPad. The 2–4 widgets you decide are worthy for the Home Screen section of you iPad are the only ones that you will always see. The rest are non-existent unless you remember they are there for you to use.

This solution also breeds an unnecessary war for the home screen where the user has to battle with the options they have only to have multiple casualties by the end of it. Can’t there be enough room for everyone on the home screen?

There is More Space on the iPads

Naturally, the iPad has more screen real estate than the iPhones do. Meaning that there is opportunity for more widgets to live on an iPad’s home screen. If the option were there for iPads to have widgets available on the entire screen it would allow for more great widgets to coexist. As I mentioned before, the current system creates a battle for the top, making widgets less intriguing for users. Why can’t us iPad users use the extra space for widgets?

The worst part about the current “solution” is that widgets can only exist on the first page of the home screen. It’s not like each page can have a couple widgets available, it is specifically only page one. With the iPhone you can have a widget on any page without any kind of restriction.

If Apple were to open this up for the whole screen instead of having 2–3 widgets you could have 5–7 per page. This would allow for new and innovative ways for people to use the apps they love with widgets that look fantastic. It’s a shame that the larger iPads have even more restrictions than the smaller iPhones have.

The Home Screen is Barren for Most

The iPad has gone through so many iterations with the Dock and home screen that for many the home screen is now just an empty wasteland. That or they keep the apps they need quick access to when they aren’t connected to a keyboard. I remember several instances where people were just having their entire App Library in a folder on their dock and using Spotlight to get to the apps they have in the folder. In fact, this is how I use my iPad most of the time. However, I don’t have a folder with all my apps in my dock. I just use Spotlight by default to open up apps.

Because the home screen is empty or unused for many, it is rife with opportunities to make that empty home screen something much more powerful and innovative.

Instead of having to open Drafts to start a new note I can simply go home and tap on the widget creating a new note. Instead of having to open up Reminders to add a new task I can just head home and use a widget to add a new task.

If Apple were to allow widgets to be available anywhere on the home screen the uniqueness and personability of a home screen would be endless.

Final Thoughts

Apple made the move to make iOS and iPad OS different, and they have; just not in the way I would have wanted. The iPhone is getting features that the iPad doesn’t, while the iPad is left out to dry.

This “solution” Apple currently has for the iPad has all of the restrictions with none of the upsides. I for one have filed my feedback on this decision and I hope that Apple decides to change their mind on this before iOS 15. That said, Apple holding this feature back until then would make sense for them to do as a quick win from the community next WWDC.

This was first posted on Tablet Habit, the quintessential iPad Newsletter. Sign up today.

Jeff Perry @jeffperry