Between the launch of iOS 16, Glance’s upcoming US expansion, and updates to the Google Pixel phones, it’s clear that the lock screen is about to change.
Why it matters
The lock screen is the first thing most people see when they pick up their phone. These updates suggest that companies are trying to make better use of that space.
Apple’s iOS 16 update officially launched in the fall and just hit public beta on Monday. Glance did not give a timeline for its US debut.
Consider how often you check yoursevery day. Now think about the first thing you see when you pick up your device: the lock screen wallpaper. Maybe it’s a photo of your pet, a picture of a beautiful sunset from a recent vacation, or just a cool piece of art. All that could change very soon.
The lock screen has long been considered an intimate space reserved for personal photos, important notifications and tools like the flashlight. But companies increasingly want to do more with that valuable real estate, as evidencedand other changes that are supposedly coming .
Apple’s iOS 16 update, whichon Monday, will bring more customization options and new widgets to the iPhone’s lock screen when it arrives this fall. You’ll be able to quickly see more information and apply stylish effects to your lock screen photos, similar to the Portrait mode photo feature on the iPhone.
Glance, a subsidiary of Google-backed mobile ad tech company InMobi, also reiterated its plans to bring its lock screen platform to the US. And Google is reportedly planning to incorporate more bits of information into its own lock screen widget for Pixel phones.
Taken together, changes like these suggest that in the future, we might not want to swipe past lock screens so quickly.
The iPhone lock screen is getting a major overhaul
One of the biggest features coming to iOS 16 is. Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering, called it “the biggest update ever” when he unveiled the update on . You’ll 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, the new widgets will bring more utility to the iPhone lock screen. iPhone already lets you place widgets on the secondary Today View screen on your lock screen, which you can access by swiping right.
But iOS 16 adds widgets to the main lock screen to display information at a glance, such as the temperature, Apple Watch activity rings, and upcoming calendar appointments. Android phones have offered this kind of functionality for years, and it’s nice to seefollow suit. You can even create multiple lock screens and cycle through them, similar to Apple Watch faces.
Since you can add widgets from apps like Spotify, Google Maps, and Outlook to the iPhone’s Today View, I wouldn’t be surprised if third-party widgets were available for the new lock screen as well. If you look closely at Apple’s WWDC demo, you can even see an option for a Nike widget. That means 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 unless you spend a significant amount of time with iOS 16. But as I’ve written before, it sounds like iOS 16’s new widgets will make your iPhone feel more like, which looks like an upgrade. Like the Apple Watch, the new lock screen should make it easier to view key information without having to dig through apps or even unlock the phone.
Android phone owners may soon have new lock screen options
Glance, which offers entertainment and other digital content on the lock screens of select Android devices in India and Southeast Asia, is in talks with wireless carriers to launch in the US in the next two months, according to TechCrunch. While the company didn’t reveal a US launch time or other details, it did provide a glimpse of its US lock screen offering on Monday.
Glance’s lock screen will appear in what it calls “spaces,” which are essentially curated lock screens designed to match specific themes. For example, a fitness-oriented lock screen would display stats like calories burned and workout goals alongside a music player. A newspaper “universe” would show headlines and weather forecasts, while a musical version could appear at live concerts. It reminds me of how the new iPhone lock screen in iOS 16 can be tied to different “focuses”, such as work mode or personal mode.
A TechCrunch report on Glance’s arrival in the US raised concerns that ads would also be coming to the lock screen. Glance’s business page shows examples of advertisers who have used its platform to reach potential customers on the first screen they see when they pick up the phone. Case studies cited include Intel, Zomato and Garnier.
But Rohan Choudhary, vice president and general manager of the Glance feed, told CNET that the US version will be ad-free.
“We are very clear that in the US we will not have any ads on the lock screen at all,” he said.
The company also released a press release on Monday saying it “does not intend to display ads on the surface of the lock screen.” Still, Glance will have to prove that its lock screen offerings provide more value than the many widgets and other options already available to Android users. It will also need to strike the right balance of displaying useful information without being too distracting.
The company says it plans to monetize its service through news subscriptions and merchant links from shopping platforms that appear through Glance. But those picks have to be useful and relevant, or they could feel just as intrusive as ads. The company says it has a 60% retention rate and can be found on 400 million phones in its current markets.
Google, meanwhile, has its own ways of making the lock screen more useful. Company function At a glance fordisplays relevant information on the lock screen when applicable, just as the name suggests. A recent report from 9to5Google suggests that new goodies may be visible in this widget soon. Updates to ride-sharing apps like Lyft and Uber could be among the new alerts available in the At a Glance app, which might make it even easier to see emergency notifications from the lock screen.
Regardless of the implementation, these expected changes prove that the lock screen needs an update. As our phones have evolved into hubs for accessing information, controlling home appliances and ordering everything from taxis to full grocery orders, the lock screen has taken on an important new role. Just showing timely alerts is not enough.
Whether it’s the new widgets in iOS 16, updates to Pixel At a Glance, or lock screen “spaces” from Glance, the goal seems to be the same: to make our lock screens better at organizing the barrage of notifications and updates that bombard us our phones every day. It remains to be seen how successful these attempts will be.