Home » Phone Reviews » iOS 18 Apple’s New Home-Screen Customization

iOS 18 Apple’s New Home-Screen Customization

Fact Check-

  • iOS 18 may add new home-screen customization options.
  • You’ll be able to put icons anywhere you like—not just in neat rows.
  • Icon grid customization is god for aesthetics, and for accessibility.
  • The iPhone’s home screen is about to get way more customizable—and it only took 17 years.

In iOS 18, according to well-sourced Apple reporter Mark Gurman, Apple will finally let us place app icons wherever we like, instead of forcing them into a strict grid, stacked left to right, top to bottom, like some kind of anti-gravity brick wall. Android has, of course, had this feature since forever, and today we’re going to see just what it might mean for iPhone users.

“The ability to customize app icons and add widgets to the Home Screen provides users with a more personalized and efficient experience. Users can prioritize their most used apps and access them quickly,” Billy Parker, Managing Director at Goldhook Group Limited, told Lifewire via email. “This feature also allows for a more aesthetically pleasing Home Screen, as users can arrange their icons and widgets in a way that suits their preferences.”

Grid Lock
Ever since the iPhone launched in 2007, the home screen has looked pretty much the same: a grid of icons that could be rearranged, but never breaking out of that strict grid. In iOS 4, we got home screen folders to help organization, in 2020’s iOS 14, Apple added home screen widgets, and in 2022 iOS 16 got lock screen widgets.

But even these widgets forced app icons to flow around them in the familiar grid. This fall, with the launch of iOS 18, that grid will be broken, and you’ll be able to place your icons and widgets wherever you like. Apple’s designers might balk at this, seeing it like a smile with a missing tooth, but on the other hand, everybody already puts a hideous photo of their kids or partner behind their icons, so this has been a lost battle for years.

We’ve already been able to fake a more organic layout, but it was a real pain, involving the creation of, say, black app icons, and using them as spacers on a matching black home-screen wallpaper.

With iOS 18, we might be able to insert blank rows or squares into the grid or have icon-free columns. We also expect to see some of the existing lock screen’s customization options. Imagine, for example, being able to have an icon partially obscured by a face in a portrait-mode photo, like you can do with the time display on the lock screen.

Custom Accessibility
For many people, our phones are our primary or even only computer, and it feels right that we should be able to fully customize our digital homes. But the utility of this goes beyond just making the place look nice, and feng shui-ing the virtual carpet to match the virtual curtains. Spatial arrangements can help people find their apps and widgets more easily.

“Allowing app icons and widgets to be placed anywhere on the home screen introduces a new level of personalization and efficiency. It enables users to design a workflow that suits their daily needs, combining the informational depth of widgets with the accessibility of app icons, thereby streamlining their interaction with the device,” Allan McNabb, VP & COO of Image Building Media, told Lifewire via email.

For example, you could group your icons by purpose, with gaps between these groups. Spatial memory is very important, and a good way to make the abstract interface of a computer more accessible. It’s how we negotiate the real world, after all. Once you learn where objects are, you can quickly find them without too much thought. Think of the pedals and gear lever in a car, or the keys on a keyboard.

Being able to better arrange your icons is also a large boon for anyone with low vision. It’s a lot easier to spot the right icon to tap if it’s surrounded by empty space and contrasts strongly with the background.

“The ability to customize app icons and add widgets to the Home Screen provides users with a more personalized and efficient experience.”

This update should be good for everyone, and it’s hard to understand why Apple took so long to make such an obvious improvement. Unless it has come up with some radical new way to display apps on the home screen, this just looks like Apple’s programmers just never got around to fixing it.

And guess what? With the ability to arbitrarily stick your icons anywhere, you’re going to be able to leave a gap to see the beautiful face of your child, or spouse, which is all we really want, anyway.

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