New iOS 16 Lock Screens Rule

The attitude could undoubtedly be used for one of the centerpieces of iOS 16: new lock screens. On a high level, this update counts more customizability to the lock screen, with more wallpaper options and the ability to add widgets.

There’s a tendency among the highly tech-literate to approach new features with a tired, seen-it-all-before sentiment. That’s true when Apple discloses new iPhone features with lots of fanfare and self-congratulation.

But, of course, the Android authentic will point out that this groundbreaking achievement lived on a Nexus mobile seven years ago, and the first three versions stank, but it’s incredible now.

Not groundbreaking stuff, believing that Android 12 lets you easily customize your natural UI to fit your wallpaper, go down to the app icon colors. But as you’ve used the developer beta over the past few weeks, the new lock screen has impressed me more than you imagined. It’s a simple update, but it will probably be noticed and adopted widely by iPhone users — nerds or otherwise.

You can do much more with your lock screen in iOS 16. Previously, you could transform your wallpaper and… actually, that’s it. That’s all you could accomplish. In iOS 16, there are more wallpaper styles — like grids of emoji and real-time weather animations — along with additional clock fonts and customizable typeface colors.

In addition, you can count widgets to acquire more information at a glimpse, like when your next meeting begins or the possibility of rain that day.

Apple has created subtle tweaks to the lock screen to allow your wallpaper to take center stage. Like the Portraits watch face raised in WatchOS 8, the clock can partially float behind a human or animal subject in specific pictures.

It’s a subtle but meaningful difference — nothing spoils a cute kid’s photo lock screen like having the time-stamped right in the middle of their forehead. Notifications have also been relocated to share photos and more breathing room. Instead of stacking up across the middle of the screen and obscuring the wallpaper, they now appear at the bottom of the screen.

You can now hold multiple lock screens — and there’s no necessity to dive into a settings menu to change them. That appears simple, but it fundamentally changes how you think of your lock screen—having more than one withdrawals the pressure of picking out a single wallpaper or photo you’ll see in all situations.

Instead, you can have a lock screen for the weekend, one for a particular mood, a holiday, or whatever moment you like. It’s easy to flip between your collection of lock screens when the mood hits, but if you merge lock screens to focus modes, they’ll switch automatically when that mode begins.

The most exciting thing about new lock screens is the very un-Apple-ness of it all. It is a company that likes to keep rigid control over the formation of its products; you might be the owner of your iPhone, but Apple is the HOA, and it bears a very tight ship. Hitherto, the best you could do to make your residence a little homier was to place a wreath on the door. It’s open season on festive embellishments with iOS 16.

Of course, Apple isn’t permitting you to go too far — there will be no pink flamingo lawn decorations in this neighborhood. You’re limited to eight font choices, and they all have a distinct on-trend look about them — no Comic Sans knockoff in view. There’s also very little space assigned to widgets — the most you can squeeze into the “shelf” below the clock is four. It maintains things simple for the person employing the phone but also supports a little reign over how messy your lock screen can look.

Even within Apple’s boundaries, some of its auto-generated photo suggestions have worked well — it seems to choose landscapes and pictures of people or pets. However, it overestimates how much you want to look at your cat throughout the day.

They’re not all champions, but a few hiking photos you’d forgotten about have made for surprisingly good wallpapers. You’ve spent longer than you’d like to admit trying to assemble a wallpaper with just the right combination of funny emojis or finding the right accent color for a photo of said cat flashing from on top of the couch.

There’s also certain visibility to the lock screen that promotes its importance. It’s the part of the device’s interface that someone else is likely to catch a glimpse of while you glance at the time or use Face ID.

Setting a new, self-styled wallpaper is like putting on a fancy new pair of socks: it’s partly for your amusement, but there’s also a chance someone else will see it and be appropriately impressed/amused/mystified by my choices. It’s part fashion, part function, and part fun. Even the most exhausted among us can appreciate that combination.