How to put fake 'widgets' on your iOS home screen

How to put fake 'widgets' on your iOS home screen

Summary: iOS lacks the ability to display widgets on the home screen of the iPhone and iPad but creative developers have discovered a workaround. Here's how you do it.

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TOPICS: Apple, iOS, iPhone, iPad
22

A feature notably absent in iOS are widgets, or the ability to display snippets of live Internet data on the home screen. Widgets are available on most other mobile operating systems (notably Android) and they're quite useful for displaying live information at a glance on your home screen. 

Some of the most popular Android widgets display things like the current weather, upcoming appointments and recent email, messages, Tweets and Facebook activity. 

I was hoping that widgets would finally arrive in iOS 7, but Apple's stupidly snubbed them again and ceded more ground to Android in the process. It's beyond me how Apple could ignore a feature as useful and important as widgets, but I digress. (Ironically, Apple cheats a little by offering it's own pseudo-widgets, without exposing an API to third-party developers. It's built in Clock and Calendar apps are widgets in disguise because the icons display the current time and date in real time).

Back to the workaround. If you need more than just the time and date on your iPhone home screen, creative developers have found a workaround – courtesy of the badge app icon. The little red bubble is intended to display a count of unread messages, missed calls and the like, but developers are using it as the iOS-equivalent of a widget. 

Take a look at the screenshot below:

How to create fake 'widgets' in iOS - Jason O'Grady

The first row of icons shows Apple's Clock and Calendar apps (which update in real time). 

In the second row (which I keep on my iPhone home screen) I have apps that display the current temperature, the price of Bitcoin, Gold and Silver in their badge app icons. The four apps above are: 

  • Fahrenheit ($0.99, App Store) – Fahrenheit displays the temperature on your Home Screen icon, Notification Center and Lock Screen. (A Celsius version is also available.)
  • Bitcoin Live ($4.99, App Store) – See the exchange rate on the icon, without ever opening the app. The price updates every 60 seconds. No other app does this.
  • Fine Gold Price ($1.99, App Store) – Displays real-time Gold Price on the app icon badge, backed by a powerful push notification server. Also delivers user defined gold price alerts.
  • Silver Tracker ($1.99, App Store) – Displays real-time Silver Price on the app icon badge, backed by a powerful push notification server. Also delivers user defined silver price alerts.

What are some of your favorite "Bidgets?" 

Topics: Apple, iOS, iPhone, iPad

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22 comments
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  • Sad attempt

    According to some silly "rumors" iOS 7 was suppose to solve this. Nope.
    Sean Foley
    • ?

      Firstly iOS 7 can display widgets.

      First, lets correct the definition of widgets.

      "A feature notably absent in iOS are widgets, or the ability to display snippets of live Internet data on the home screen."

      There is no requirement for a widget to be Internet data. A widget just requires a live display of whatever data the author wanted it to display.

      So, can iOS 7 display widgets?

      Look at the iOS 7 icon for the clock app. The time is correct, the fingers are going round.

      That is a widget.

      So, you say "According to some silly "rumors" iOS 7 was suppose to solve this. Nope."

      Maybe it always could. Maybe iOS 7 added the facility. It's certainly there now.
      Henry 3 Dogg
      • They're not referring to just any widget..

        Instead, the bigger, more animated ones seen on Windows Phones and Android devices.
        the.crizn
  • intentional ?

    Apple's cock? Please read the column again
    Vijayaraj Balakrishnan
  • Awesome!

    Thanks for sharing Jason! No one needs Widgets, just the badge icon and a full app if you need more info. Apple Bade icons FTW!
    TimeForAChangeToBetter
  • I agree.

    There were far too many useless changes in iOS 7 and not nearly enough useful changes. I'm talking really stupid stuff like removing the AirPlay button from the music player app. Instead, you now have to pull up the control panel from the bottom of the screen to select AirPlay. The continuing focus on displaying dead icons is just one bad decision of many they made. Icons should display useful live information whenever possible instead of a static image. Personally, I think they should increase the size of icons by 50%, shrink the excessive spacing a bit, and provide an API for displaying a small text box overlaid on the icons. Sadly, this probably won't happen. These days "pretty" trumps "useful" at Apple.
    BillDem
    • Yes...

      ...because your limited user preference is correct and the tens of millions who like iPhones as they are...are all wrong?
      If they did as you suggest, you would then accuse them of making a dumbed-down Tonka toy sized interface.
      frogspaw
      • Who said iPhone users are wrong

        Many iPhone users want widgets. I am typing this on an iPad and I find iOS poorly designed in this case, though it it well designed when it comes to gestures. Just because people buy devices doesn't mean they think that they are perfect.

        The main reason I have an iPad still are apps like GoodReader, ZotPad, and a few games. It is not because Apple does not make inferior design decisions for the sake of marketing. They do.
        DaveJMo
        • Contradict yourself much

          If there are so many iPhone uses who want widgets, then how is Apple's not adding them "marketing"?!?
          .DeusExMachina.
      • Speak for yourself

        Just because iPhone owners like their phone just as they are, doesn't mean none of them would interested in additional features. Why do you think tens of millions keep upgrading their phone every 1 or 2 years. You can't say not any of them would've liked better widgets.
        the.crizn
  • Re: A feature notably absent in iOS are widgets....

    ....which is precisely the reason I like iOS7. Simple, Functional and no gimmicks.
    5735guy
    • Yeah, weather is such a gimmick, who needs it?

      Real men just put on a black sweater and jeans 365 days a year. If you really need to know something, just stick your head out the window. For that reason, who needs a smart phone. They are so damn gimmicky. Ma Bell FTW.
      A Gray
      • There's a weather app for that, you know.

        One extra tap on a weather app icon and one will get much more detailed info than can be viewed from a widget or a live tile. Really, this "live vs dead" icon or "to widget or not to widget" is an topic issue best placed under the "Making a mountain out of a mole hill" catagory.
        kenosha77a
  • Re: iOS7 Weather App.

    The Weather App. is both useful and informative. A smart phone has much going for it. Just some such as the iPhone are more useful than others.

    If you want to stick with tin cans and string that's fine by me LOL
    5735guy
  • Yeah, it's such a drag to have to pull down the notification page. :P

    BTW, aren't the real-time updating icons in the top row of the illustration considered "widgets"?
    Userama
  • I can think of over 9000 better ways to waste $10

    n/t
    BGunnells
  • AAPL real-time stock price App / bidget?

    That's one I would pay $0.99 for, it if exists. Anyone?
    geedeezy
    • Tuesday close report: up 15+

      Woohoo!!!
      Userama
  • Let's be honest..

    I'd bet most iOS users (like me) are envious of the Android home screen's customizations and versatility. Wallpapers aren't enough... In addition, some of the animated stuff I've seen like current weather imagery etc. is cool. Sure - I'd love to see swaying palm trees on a white sanded beach every time I turn on the device - or have the ability to randomize that experience. But... those things are pretty the ONLY thing I'd want similar to Android...
    2dOpinion
    • There's a lot more to it than palm trees on the screen man...

      It's about freedom and customization throughout the entire OS. Heck, Apple won't even let you set default apps to open things. They force you to open items using the Apple apps for email, music, webpages and everything else. They control you. But if simplicity is what you want then you got it. It is simple that way...
      clayelliott