Hands-on with Google lock screen widgets for iOS [Video]

It’s not often that we talk about iOS or iPhone over here 9to5Google, but for those anchored in the Apple hardware ecosystem, you’ll have access to a suite of iOS-exclusive Google app lock screen widgets that you won’t find on Android. Are you good? We lent a hand to find out if Android users are missing out.

Apple’s attempt to implement an always-on display isn’t exactly what we expected. It’s almost a “never-off display” rather than the dimmed monotonous options that have become synonymous with Android. In iOS 16, Apple also introduced basic lock screen widgets, which some Android OEMs have long supported. In terms of functionality, they’re nothing more than window dressing, behaving more like shortcuts for your favorite apps.

That hasn’t stopped Google from adding a couple of iOS-exclusive lock screen widgets for six apps: Maps, Search, Chrome, Drive, Gmail, and News. You literally won’t find anything like this on Android, unless we see a big shift in how Google views the mobile operating system in Android 14 and later.

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The Google Search “widgets” require the dedicated Google Search app from the App Store. So if you’re wondering why you don’t have them, download Google Search, or simply “Google,” from Apple’s digital storefront. It’s obviously not built into iOS like Android, as none of these apps are, but you’ll likely use them more consistently.

You can place one of two search widgets. A double or single toggle that opens directly to the text box search bar. Voice search launches immediately in the basic Assistant-powered full-screen view, provided you have microphone access enabled. If you hate Siri, this could be the way to get a more powerful voice assistant in a prominent, quickly accessible place on your device.

The two most powerful options here are widgets, which you can use to launch directly into Google Lens. A basic Lens option only opens that section of the Google app, but a dedicated app features widget can be changed to any option from Translate, Shopping, or even a Solve Homework feature. Just add it to your lock screen, then tap to expand and choose your favorite tool. This saves time and effort and we can see that it is useful in a variety of scenarios.


Google lock screen widgets for iOS

Chrome has a bunch of nice 1×1 widgets that can be placed on your iPhone lock screen. This includes a quick search option for new tabs. This will take you straight to the text entry box of your favorite search engine, even if it’s not Google. A quick incognito tab option offers the same utility, but this time in an untracked search window.

The voice search option is similar to the Google search option but launches the voice search in a new browser tab. It also means you can close it and open a new tab without completely restricting access like the Google app. By far the funniest shot is a 1×1 Chrome Dino Game widget. Tapping will take you straight into a new tab where you can jump over as many cacti as you can handle.


Google lock screen widgets for iOS

If you use Gmail as your default email client, the lock screen widgets for iOS are particularly helpful or useful. The Gmail widgets are a bit different as you can even add a top line over the default lock screen clock. This shows the current calendar date with a prompt showing how many new messages are available.

The 2×1 rectangular Gmail widget shows categorized inbox sections like Primary, Promotions, and Social. If Google Chat is active, you can also see unread notifications here. The simplest 1×1 widget simply displays how many unread email messages are waiting with the Gmail logo underneath. Tapping any of the widgets will take you straight to your inbox in the Gmail app.

Google Maps

Google lock screen widgets for iOS

As long as you use Google Maps as your default navigation method, you can access some nice quick toggles in addition to at-a-glance information. Maps provides a “Frequent Trips” 2×1 widget that should learn over time what kind of regular trips you take. By default, if you’ve set a “home address” and preferred transportation method, you’ll see driving directions, traffic conditions, and the estimated travel time to that location.

The 1×1 Map widget can be customized so you can quickly search for prominent or useful places like restaurants, local amenities like coffee shops, parking lots, EV charging and gas stations, hotels, and more. Combined with Google Lens shortcuts, this can be useful when traveling internationally.

Google news

Google lock screen widgets for iOS

The Google News lock screen widget for iOS provides a simple live news ticker based on your previous viewing or reading habits. It’s just a simple icon size of 2×1, displaying the publication’s name next to the Google News logo, while the headline is more prominently found underneath. Each message will change regularly throughout the day. Tapping will open Google News and load the publishing website in the application page viewer.

Google Drive

Of all of Google’s iOS 16 widgets, the Drive options feel the most out of place. As a way to quickly access uploaded or shared files, it doesn’t feel the best for your lock screen on a smartphone.

There is a 2×1 widget for suggested files. This only shows a snippet of any text file or provides a bit of information based on when you last opened or used Google Drive. While two more 1×1 widget options for search lets you jump into the in-app file search. The Starred widget gives you quick access to your favorite files without having to unlock and launch the Drive app.

Final Thoughts

If you’re using an iPhone, the new widgets are probably pretty useful for reference, but in terms of functionality, Google’s iOS lock screen widgets add very little. Apple’s limits on the number of toggles you can place on your lock screen mean that you can have a maximum of four (4) small, two (2) double-sized, or a combination of two small and one large widget per profile .

Visually this makes sense, but in terms of functionality it can feel inhibiting. However, it’s a step in the right direction for people who prefer iOS over Android. You get a little extra always-on-display utility without sacrificing Apple’s oft-cited “clean” aesthetic.

For those of us who use Android, there’s not much to miss other than some heads-up information. Thankfully, the At a Glance widget on Pixel phones is slowly being expanded to include more features that will no doubt eclipse these iOS-only widgets in the months to come.

If you’re using an iPhone, how did you find the limited pool of Google lock screen widgets on iOS? Do you have a favorite and which apps would you like to see added in the future? Let us know in the comment section below.

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