iOS 16 review: Personalization unlocked

iOS 16 review: Personalization unlocked
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The (custom) lock screen in iOS 16.
Enlarge / The (custom) lock screen in iOS 16.

Samuel Axon

For the past two years, Apple’s annual iOS updates have focused on one feature for an overhaul while making minor adjustments to everything else. Last year, Focus was the, well, focus. The year before that, it was the home screen.

This time it’s the lock screen. Now you can change fonts, add widgets, customize the information displayed, and choose from a wider variety of wallpapers. Apple has also more deeply integrated the lock screen with the focus modes that were developed in iOS 15. And he laid the groundwork for more than just notifications that party apps can show you before you unlock your phone.

Given the increasingly iterative nature of iOS releases today, with many key features not arriving until months after the initial ship date of a new integer version, we’re moving to more efficient initial iOS reviews, with updates to come in additional weather articles. So today we are going to look at the main new feature of iOS 16, but we will also touch on a couple of other key features and changes.

lock screen

While iOS 16 touches on most aspects of iPhone usage in a variety of small ways, it’s very much “the lock screen update.” That makes sense: Apple makes a lot of noise about shipping features that integrate hardware and software, and the iPhone 14 ProThe new always-on display drives this emphasis on the lock screen.

But there’s plenty here for users of other iPhone models that lack that always-on feature. Following last year’s emphasis on focus modes, and the year before on home screen customizationthis is the most significant move Apple has made on the customization front with the iPhone, well, hardly ever.

I know what you’re going to say: aren’t all these features that have been a part of Android for basically forever?

Yes, you are right, mostly. In typical Apple fashion, there are a few flourishes here that Android doesn’t touch, but functionality-wise this is mostly yesterday’s news for Android fans. But what was already a win for Android users is also very much a win for iOS users.

It’s easy to see the influence of the Apple Watch in this update: the new widgets behave like complications, and the new lock screen acts like a watch face. That sentence over there tells you everything you need to know about the new lock screen. Imagine the Apple Watch and all the customizations, features, and limitations that watch faces offer. Now make all of that the size of a phone. There you go, that’s the new iOS lock screen.

To start playing with these customizations, simply press and hold on the lock screen with your finger. This brings you to an interface with horizontally scrolling cards, each representing one of your custom screens.

At the bottom, there are three important buttons. You can touch “Focus” to change the focus mode that turns on when this lock screen is active. You can touch “customize” to change your widgets, fonts, wallpapers and more. And there is a “+” button to add a new custom lock screen to the row of cards.

Start with wallpapers

When you press the + button, a panel appears offering you a variety of wallpaper possibilities. These options are broken down into a few buckets. There are color gradient wallpapers, where you choose an overall color theme and define some attributes of a simple gradient. (It looks better than it sounds, actually.)

There are collections, which are a bit like Apple’s previous approach to iPhone wallpapers: pre-made patterns in a few different color options.

You can also create a wallpaper with emojis in a grid or pattern on the screen, and you can even choose which emojis to display. You can choose up to six emojis to include in the wallpaper, using Apple’s standard emoji selection interface.

My personal favorite bucket for wallpapers is the “Weather and Astronomy” category. These provide little customization, but are quite stylish. The obvious one here changes the wallpaper images to match the live weather conditions in your area, and said images look like the ones already painted by the Weather app.

There are also dynamic wallpapers for the Earth, the moon and the solar system. The one for the solar system shows the actual current relative locations of the planets as they orbit the sun, while the one for Earth shows your location on a globe with a green dot, amid a cloud layer that updates live and reflects conditions around the world.

Those of the Moon and Earth animate at different angles as you go from the always-on screen to an active lock screen and then swipe back to the home screen. It’s a fun effect, and the moon wallpaper in particular looks amazing on OLED iPhone screens.

But as neat as they are, I imagine most people will choose wallpapers that use photos from their library in the Photos app. Tapping “Photos” allows you to choose from individual photos on your phone.

Using machine learning, the iPhone analyzes all the photos in your library so you can get “Featured” suggestions, which I found mostly on the money. There are even subcategories for these featured suggestions, including people, pets, nature, and cities. And of course you can browse your entire photo library and choose any image you like.

There’s also “Photo Shuffle,” which is “a dynamic set of photos that shuffle as you use your iPhone throughout the day,” according to the tooltip. You can set the shuffle frequency to change on tap, on lock, hourly, or daily. Once again, it presents you with featured photos and lets you choose which categories to include, but you can still manually select each photo from your library.

This is as good a place as any to note that, for photo wallpapers, Apple uses some nifty AI tricks to crop out important objects in the image, like faces or buildings, and let them overlay parts of the time indicator. , creating a sharp effect. . It’s shocking how well this works, actually. Unfortunately it doesn’t work when you add widgets below the time. Except for that limitation, you can turn this on and off at will.

Once you have chosen your wallpaper, you will enter the full lock screen customization view.

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