Get hands-on with the new interactive widgets for the Home app in iOS 17

Cupertino, August 3, 2023

One of the major changes in iOS 17 is the introduction of interactive widgets, a significant improvement over the initial version of widgets that were introduced in iOS 14. Alongside this update, Apple has also introduced special widgets for the Home app, which allow users to customize their favorite HomeKit accessories directly from the iPhone's home screen. In previous versions of iOS, tapping on a widget would take you directly to the associated app. For example, tapping on the Music app widget would open the Music app rather than allowing immediate playback from the widget itself. This limitation is likely why Apple only provided Home app widgets this year.

In iOS 17, Apple has added two different widgets for the Home app. There is a 2x2 widget that grants quick access to four HomeKit accessories, as well as a larger version that can display up to eight accessories. Similarly, iPadOS 17 offers the same two widget sizes for the Home app, with the same level of interactivity. Each of these Home app widgets provides two different options for settings to control which accessories appear at any given time. Users can choose the "Recommended" option, and iOS 17 will intelligently select the HomeKit accessories to control based on the time of day. Alternatively, users can uncheck the "Recommended" option and manually choose which HomeKit accessories and scenes will appear in the widgets. Tapping on the individual squares for each accessory will toggle them on or off, in the case of lights, or perform actions such as locking/unlocking doors and opening/closing garage doors. More advanced changes, such as adjusting brightness levels, colors, or thermostat temperatures, must still be done through the Home app itself.

If users have custom home screens associated with focus modes, they can have different versions of the widget for each focus mode. For example, if there is a specific home screen for the "Sleep" focus mode, a version of the Home app widget can be set up to display the accessories most commonly used during nighttime and early mornings.

iOS 17 is currently only available in its first developer beta, so there is optimism that Apple can make some minor adjustments before releasing the update to the public later this fall. One notable issue that may need addressing is that if accessory or room names consist of more than one very short word, there may be a significant amount of truncated text in the widgets, which can clutter the design.

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