Why iOS 15 Widgets Were Made for Podcast Apps

See, tap, listen

Key Takeaways

  • Popular podcast app Overcast has finally added an iOS widget.
  • In iPadOS 15, the iPad gets home screen widgets, too.
  • Not all apps are suited to the widget treatment.
Weather widget in iPadOS 15

Apple

Only a year after the iPhone got widgets, popular podcast app Overcast has added one to the home screen, and it’s great. 

Widgets are super handy, glanceable quick-launchers for apps on your iPhone, and as of the newly launched iPadOS 15, your iPad, too. As we saw over the past year, not all apps are suited to widgets. Sometimes, they add more confusion than convenience. But when they fit, they fit, and podcasts apps are just perfect. 

"App widgets are ideal for information that can be consumed ‘at a glance,’ like sport scores, stock prices, weather forecasts, photos, etc.," Adam Fingerman, founder of software design company ArcTouch, told Lifewire via email. "They are also perfect for micro-engagements—user interactions that require quick actions, such as tapping play or pause, and are faster than launching a full app."

Podcasts and Music

Widgets are best when they’re simple. Like a clock on the wall, you just want to glance at it, learn what you need to know, and carry on. Podcast apps like Overcast, Castro, and Apple’s own Podcasts app all have glanceable widgets, in which you can see the few most recent podcast episodes. 

And then, if you want to listen, you just tap it. The app launches, and the selected episode starts to play. And that’s exactly what you need. No more, and no less.

The beauty of the podcast app widget is the app’s purpose perfectly fits the widget’s capabilities. Usually, you want to listen to the most recent episode of your favorite podcasts, and those are exactly the items the app surfaces to its easily-checkable widget. In fact, unless you subscribe to many podcasts, or you’re constantly adding new podcasts to your subscription list, then you may never need to open the app.

Overcast app widget on iPhone

Lifewire / Charlie Sorrel

We could go further and say podcasts apps are perfect not just for widgets, but for the rest of Apple’s constellation of features. Let’s use an example. When the latest episode of, say, the You’re Wrong About podcast arrives on my iPhone, I get a notification (but only if I chose to get alerts for this particular podcast). I can tap the notification and start listening, or dismiss it, and use the Castro widget later, knowing that it will be at the top of the list.

Then, while listening, I can play, pause, skip, and adjust volume from the Apple Watch. Or I could skip and play using AirPods. If I want to set a sleep timer, I can do so by long-pressing the app icon on the iPhone’s home screen, then access it from there. Castro also has several Shortcuts actions, so I can automate it even more if I like. All without ever needing to open the app, itself.

Widget Friendly

The best widgets are those that give you the info you need, then let you act on it. Calendars and to-do lists are good examples. You can see your tasks and appointments right there on the home screen, and tapping a task will open it. Weather apps are also excellent, especially those like Hello Weather and Carrot Weather, which offer extensive widget customization. 

Sometimes, you don’t even need a widget. 3D Touch may be dead, but you can still long-press on an app icon and access a short menu of app functions. The settings app offers a short list shortcuts to options within the settings. Citymapper offers shortcuts to get you home, or find a nearby transit stop, and so on. Try long pressing some of your apps. You might be surprised. 

Various app widget and complication controls on apple watch

Apple

The iPad already has some great new giant-sized widgets—like the Calendar app—which take up almost half the screen, and act more like mini apps than simple widgets. But it's not all good news. iPad widgets are great, but there are still some weird restrictions on how you can arrange them. 

"I do not understand why iPadOS allows us to put widgets almost everywhere on the home screen, but not quite," podcaster Al McKinlay says on Twitter. "They still force things to flow from the top left, so if you only have 1 thing on your home screen, it'll be at the top left, you can't have it anywhere else."

Still, we’re getting there.

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