With iOS 14, you can finally get creative with your iPhone home screen.
For 13 years, the iOS home screen has featured rows of rounded square app icons, but with last week’s mobile OS upgrade, Apple takes a page from Android to allow apps of various shapes and sizes wherever you want them. People are going nuts with custom looks for their apps and widgets; just check out the #ios14homescreen hashtag on Twitter.
One user, for example, used MS Paint to produce amusingly amateur-looking icons. The secret here is the Shortcuts app. Read on to find out how to upgrade your iOS home screen.
Custom Icons for Your iPhone
Open the Shortcuts app on your iPhone and tap the plus sign (+) in the upper-right corner of the screen, which takes you to the New Shortcut page. Choose Add Action.
Tap on the Scripting icon. (If you’re tempted to click on Apps, you’ll only see actions created by the app maker, such as starting a tweet, rather than just opening the app.) Tap on Open App, then select the three-dot menu icon at the top right to show Details. Choose Add to Home Screen. Tap on the lower, smaller icon next to the name of your new shortcut (New Shortcut is the default name; tap the circled X to rename it).
Here we get to the meat of the tip: the mini Edit Icon menu lets you choose a file, a photo from your camera roll, or snap a picture with the iPhone’s camera to replace the icon. Tap Add to Home Screen and tap the icon next to your shortcut under Home Screen Name and Icon. In the pop-up window that appears, select File, Photo, or Take Photo. You can crop an image to customize what will show, but happily, the image needn’t be square or a specific size.
Tap Add > Done. You can see my new icons in the screenshot, the last two on the home page, for Acrobat and AccuWeather. (I used Windows 10’s Paint 3D for the Acrobat icon).
Note that, while this is a fun, personality-injecting activity, using Shortcuts with custom icon images has drawbacks. You don’t go directly to the app as you do with the app’s default app. Instead, the action first opens the Shortcuts app, which then shunts you to the app you want.
Also, you lose any long-press menu options the official icon provides. For example, the WhatsApp icon offers starting a chat or taking a picture on a long tap. The only option with the custom icon is to delete it (it’s called a Bookmark in this menu rather than an App) or to edit the home page.
While the custom icons are a fun exercise, I’m far more excited by widgets on the home screen. iOS has offered widgets for a while, accessible by swiping left to right on the home page, but the home page itself could only contain icons. With iOS 14, that changes: you can now place big widgets for a clock, the weather, maps, or stock prices right on the home pages.
Adding a widget to a home page is dead simple. Long-tap on the home page, then tap the plus sign (+) button at the top left. Select the widget you want. You can then scroll through whatever size and design choices the app developer has offered by swiping to the right.
To make a selection, hit the big blue Add Widget bar along the bottom of the screen. You may have to allow privacy information the app widget requires. That’s it! Enjoy your new widget.
Most of the options are now Apple services, though as developers update their apps, you should get a lot more in the coming days. Google has updated its widgets to the new style, as have DuckDuckGo and Night Sky.
A good way around this, though, is to scroll down to the section of old-style third-party widgets, where the page stays in the same position next time you swipe to it. The pre-iOS 14 widget-only page is still there behind a left swipe, but these widgets are in the new redesigned, round-cornered shapes—at least the first-party ones are, until third-party developers recode their apps.