The lock screen on your phone is evolving and will soon be much more useful

The lock screen on your phone is evolving and will soon be much more useful

Tech Highlights:

  • Think about how often you check your phone each day. Now consider the first thing you see when you pick up your device: your lock screen’s 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 artwork. That could all change very soon.

  • The lock screen is about to change, as evidenced by the impending US expansion of lock screen content provider Glance and improvements to Google’s Pixel phone widgets. When most users pick up their phones, the lock screen is the first thing they see. These improvements imply that businesses are attempting to utilise that area more effectively. Apple’s upcoming iOS 16 upgrade, which will go on sale in the fall, just entered public beta on Monday. The launch date for Glance in the US has not been disclosed.

The lock screen has long been considered an intimate space reserved for personal photos, important notifications and tools like the flashlight. But companies are increasingly looking to do more with that valuable real estate, as evidenced by Apple’s iOS 16 update and other changes reportedly coming to Android phones.

Glance, a Google-backed subsidiary of 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 we might not want to swipe past our lock screens so quickly in the future. One of the biggest features coming in iOS 16 is the new lock screen. Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering, called it “the biggest update ever” when he introduced the update at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference in June. You’ll be able to customize font styles and colors for the date and time in addition to giving your background photo a magazine cover-like aesthetic.

Apple’s iOS 16 update, which launched in public beta on 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 see more information quickly and apply stylistic effects to lock screen photos similar to the iPhone’s Portrait Mode photography feature.

As I wrote previously, it’s really the new widgets that will bring more utility to the iPhone’s lock screen. The iPhone already lets you place widgets on your lock screen’s secondary Today View screen, which you can access by swiping to the right. But iOS 16 adds widgets to the main lock screen for showing bits of information at a glance, like the temperature, Activity Rings from the Apple Watch and upcoming calendar appointments. Android phones have offered this type of functionality for years, and it’s nice to see the iPhone follow suit. You can even create multiple lock screens and cycle through them, much like 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 to see widgets from third parties available for the new lock screen too. If you watch Apple’s WWDC demo closely, 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 getting buried deep within a user’s app library.

It’s impossible to know how useful this new lock screen will be without spending 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 similar to the Apple Watch, which seems like an upgrade. Like the Apple Watch, the new lock screen should make it easier to see crucial pieces of information without having to dig into apps or even unlock your phone.

Glance, which offers entertainment and other digital content on the lock screens of certain Android devices in India and Southeast Asia, is in talks with wireless carriers to launch in the US over the next two months, according to TechCrunch. While the company hasn’t revealed its US launch timing or other details, it did provide a glimpse at its US lock screen offering on Monday. Glance’s lock screen will appear in the form of what it calls “spaces,” which are essentially curated lock screens designed to fit specific themes. A fitness-oriented lock screen, for example, would show statistics such as calories burned and exercise goals alongside a music player. A news “space” would show headlines and the weather, while a music version could surface live concerts. It reminds me of how the iPhone’s new lock screen in iOS 16 can be tied to different “focuses,” like work or personal mode.

The TechCrunch report about Glance’s US arrival sparked concerns that advertisements would be coming to the lock screen, too. Glance’s business page shows examples of advertisers that have used its platform to reach potential customers on the very first screen they see when picking up their phone. Intel, Zomato and Garnier are among the listed case studies.

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