Technology

Apple leapfrogs Android in customization while fanboys bring up decade-old failed concepts

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The big new feature in iOS 16 is lock screen widgets: true, actionable, customizable widgets that work on everything from a 5-year old iPhone 8 to the newest iPhone 13 series.

And now, a bunch of bloggers claim that Apple “Table” this feature from Android.

Accepting this premise however, is a very, very slippery slope for… Android itself! The reality is that in 2022, no major Android phone supports lockscreen widgets in a user-friendly fashion. You don’t have the feature on the flagship Google Pixel, you have very limited customization on Samsung phones, the reality is that it doesn’t really exist natively on Android.

Google had lock screen widgets … but then removed the feature!

See, Google had native lock screen widgets … in Android 4.1 Jelly Bean! We’d forgive you if you don’t remember those times (we barely do), but that was exactly 10 years ago with devices like the Nexus 4 and Nexus 7 in the vogue at those times.

Back then, you could actually add widgets on your lock screen and see information at a glance without unlocking your phone. Unfortunately, Google quickly changed its mind about that functionality and it only lasted a short while before the company voluntarily removed the feature from Android and it’s been missing in a native form ever since.

Does this mean it’s absolutely impossible to get lock screen widgets on Android? Technically: no, it is in fact still possible. However, in order to do that, you have to go through some serious hoops. And let’s be honest, what percentage of Android users are actually using lock screen widgets right now? I can bet you money that it’s less than 1%! But why is this feature that Android users are so quick to pound their chest about inventing … missing in action on most users’ phones right now?

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Lock Screen widgets on Android in 2022 are … a mess!

A quick attempt to use lockscreen widgets brings you to one of two places. If you are among the few who know about Samsung’s power user tools, you will probably download the Good Lock Samsung-made app that unlocks all sorts of power moves. For most other phones, you will end up on the Google Play Store. This is exactly where I looked for a “lock screen widget” app for the Pixel 5a that I have as a back-up phone. The Play Store gave me dozens of results but most of the apps seemed ancient and had a concerningly small audience. I tried using the most popular one, KLCK, short for Kustom Lock screen probably, an app with 100K + downloads. 100K + was not a reassuring number, and it’s definitely not the mass adoption that you would expect to see on an app that Apple allegedly “Table” from Android, but I gave it a go.

Trying to use KLCK was an exercise in frustration. The app itself is free, but if you want some sort of usable presets you’d need to buy them separately (they cost $ 1 – $ 2 each), and users might also need the $ 6 Pro Key app. But even a quick glance at the app on the Play Store and you notice that the screenshots showcasing its functionality seemed to be captured on a device running… Android 7 ?! I might not get the exact version right but it’s in that ballpark and yes, that is a terribly outdated version of Android. Widgets looked equally out of date.

Here is one review of the Circles widget for the Kustom app on the Google Play Store: “I’ll never understand how to use the KWGT, KLWP apps even after watching the super confusing how-to videos on YouTube.”

And here is the first review of the KWGT Kustom Widget Maker app on the Google Play Store which has more than 5 million downloads: “Been using this app for about a year now. If I could give it negative stars I would. The app is complete garbage. Yeah, it’s customizable, but the app is so incredibly clunky at best. ”

In one of the replies to customer complaints the developer of the app says: “I know [about the issues]. And I am working on a new UI which will slowly make this better. It will take time though as the team is microscopic. ”

Claiming that Apple stole THIS from Android is not only absurd, it’s laughable.

It’s as valid a comparison as saying the original iPhone copied the… LG Prada! Yes some people did say that in the past! Looking in retrospect, the only real similarity is that they have a screen and a rectangular shape, but that’s about it … and one can only laugh at such a comparison, it truly sounds bonkers. Yet still, some people still run with titles such as “LG once out-iPhoned the iPhone” …

The moral of the story: we should demand better from everyone!

So going back to my original point, we have something similar happening now with iOS 16 and its new lock screen widgets. Yes, technically you had something very remotely similar earlier on Android, but it was never that powerful, nor as intuitive as you now have on iOS. Not to mention, Android never had powerful features like the ability to switch between lock screens with just a couple of swipes and tie each of those custom lock screens to a particular Focus mode.

It is this unprecedented level of customization that Apple offers natively in an extremely approachable format that everyone can use vs an obscure app on Android that uses 6-year-old design concepts and is run by one or a few enthusiast developers.So, my plea here is to not just be blind defenders of one ecosystem and defend it no matter what. This is what fanboys do. Instead, in this case, let’s not be afraid to actually keep a Google accountable!

Yes, in this case, it is clearly Google and Android that now feel like they have to catch up, not the other way around. And even if Google was first to come up with a vague idea about lock screen widgets a decade ago, let’s not forget that this very same Google turned its back and abandoned that idea soon after.

That process should go 2 ways of course. In quite a few other aspects, it is Apple that deserves to be criticized for falling behind Android. Let’s not close our eyes and defend our favorite brand though, even when the best we can do to help it grow is … give it some heat!

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