Why Lock Screen Widgets Make Even More Sense On a Big iPadOS 17 Screen

Bigger is better

  • iPadOS 17 will bring lock-screen widgets to the iPad. 
  • The large screen can fit more, and richer widgets than the iPhone. 
  • An always-on display will have to wait for OLED iPads. 
iPad Lock Screen

Rahul Chakraborty / Unsplash

The iPad may get lock-screen widgets in iPadOS 17, and like a few other iPhone-only features, they'll be a lot more useful on the iPad's nice big display. 

As leaks and rumors go, this one is at the "like, duh, obviously," end of the scale. When the iPhone got widgets in iOS 14, the iPad followed in iPadOS 15. Last year, the iPhone got lock-screen widgets and customizations in iOS 16, so it won't surprise anyone that the iPad is getting them too. And unlike the iPhone, which struggles to squeeze in more than a few widgets, the iPad has plenty of space for this and more. In fact, a few iPhone UI features would be better on the iPad. 

"The weather wallpaper will become my permanent iPad wallpaper. My location makes use of every weather image and it changes frequently," says iPad user and weather watcher Charles Shaw on a MacRumors forum thread about the new feature. 

iPad Lock Screen Widgets = Useful

The iPhone's lock-screen situation is quite complex. First, there are the lock-screen widgets, of which you can only add four (five, if you opt to replace the date display above the time). Then, there are Live Activities, which allow apps to show real-time updates for things like sports scores or flight status.

Finally, away from the lock screen but still related—and still iPhone-only—is the Dynamic Island, Apple's whimsical status and alert box that never leaves the screen, turning the camera cutout into a lively assistant, kind of like a Clippy that nobody hates. 

Propped up in a stand or mounted on the Magic Keyboard, the iPad would be a perfect, glanceable information center. 

I would argue that all of these are great, but would be even greater on the iPad, thanks partly to its large screen but also because of the fundamentally different way we interact with it.

But not everybody agrees. It all depends on how you use the iPad. 

"If you use your iPad as a Mac, all set up on your desk and such, then maybe," UI designer Graham Bower told Lifewire via email. "But for most people, this will be useless."

First, you could fit a lot more on the iPad's screen. To be fair, the iPhone's four- (or five-) widget limit is arbitrary. There's clearly space for a lot more widgets, but Apple has chosen to keep it sparse and tidy. The iPad's screen could also stand bigger widgets with more information. The iPhone widgets are just icons that convey data. The iPad could display richer widgets, like a custom now-playing panel, the weather, a to-do list, or any of the widgets you already have on your home screen.

iPadOS 17 Always-On

This brings us to Live Activities, which are essentially home-screen widgets on the lock screen. Live Activities lets you glance at a locked device and immediately see the latest football score/pizza delivery status/taxi ETA. It works best with the iPhone 14 Pro's always-on screen, but it would work even better with an iPad. Why? Because your iPad is not always in your pocket. 

An iPad sitting on a stone surface with light from a window over it.

Francois Hoang / Unsplash

Used in a normal fashion, the advantage is just that you can fit more widgets on the screen, and widgets are not just dumb icons that show data: they can execute custom functions when tapped, like playing the latest episode of your favorite podcast. 

But an iPad left propped up on a desk, kitchen counter, or anywhere else would make an amazing status board. This is where an always-on display makes total sense. Who needs an always-on phone display when the thing is in and out of your pocket? But propped up in a stand or mounted on the Magic Keyboard, the iPad would be a perfect, glanceable information center. 

The only problem with this idea is that an always-on display requires OLED that only has to light up the required pixels, so it can stay on without burning through the battery. OLED screens may be coming to the iPad either this year or next, although, of course, nobody outside Apple is sure. 

Finally, the iPhone's Dynamic Island would be even better on the iPad. The Island started as a way to disguise the iPhone's camera cutout but turned into a beloved UI element. On an iPad, it's a lot easier to get the little Island out of the way, but more importantly, there's no camera cutout on the iPad's screen, so the Dynamic Island could go anywhere. 

Was this page helpful?