Why Android widgets are better than iOS widgets

Nice design is not everything: iOS 14 widgets are not as useful as Android ones.

iOS 14 is already here, and with the new version, widgets finally reach iPhone home screen. During the presentation of the new installment of its mobile software, Apple spent a good part of the time showing how its new widgets –all of them with an exquisite design, everything must be said– They came to give a breath of fresh air to the iOS home screen after years without changes, giving users more freedom to configure their homescreen, and incidentally making the Android widgets they appear, by comparison, to have come from a much earlier time. Or so we believed.

As usual, reality can be very different from what we had been led to believe from the beginning. Why not even the iOS widgets are that good, nor those of Android are as bad as many imagine. In fact, the implementation of Google in its mobile operating system offers both users and developers two clear advantages versus the solution developed by Apple.

iOS 14

Widgets are one of the great novelties of iOS 14

Exquisite design, questionable functionality

Many of the developers of the iOS landscape are already adapting your applications based on the guidelines and guidelines set by Apple with iOS 14, and of course taking advantage of the new utilities and tools provided by the new version, including widgets. So it’s no surprise that some independent companies and developers are already showing their widget ideas that will come with the passing of the months and the arrival of updates. This is the case of Readdle, the company behind the development of apps as famous as the Spark email client, and many other tools for iOS and iPadOS.

We have also seen other ideas They imagine how it would be possible to gather the most important functions of an application in a small widget for the iPhone and iPad home screen. A fantastic example is the following prototype widget devised by a Reddit user, intended to control a Tesla vehicle from the home screen of the mobile or tablet:

Tesla widget prototype in iOS 14

A fantastic idea for a widget, which Apple’s restrictions prevent to bring to reality

A widget like the previous one would, without a doubt, be very useful for all those who own a vehicle from Elon Musk’s company, because with a simple glance they could check, among other things: the battery level, the interior temperature of the car or the remaining autonomy based on the load; as well as control parameters such as locking or unlocking the doors, or even start the car from distance. All this with a single touch and from the home screen.

A pity that Apple Prevent Prototyping Like This.

And it is that under the careful and consistent appearance for which the widgets of iOS stand out, they are extremely limited software elements for developers and users, whose utility is reduced only to show info and act as shortcuts to the applications themselves.

I’m not saying it, Apple’s own developer guides say it, within the widgets section, where the company comes to explain that iOS 14 widgets are not fully interactive, since the possibility of performing specific actions through touches or gestures on the different areas of the widget itself – such as buttons or sliders – is not offered, but these touches only allow access parts of the application through deep links or deep links. Also, only medium and large size widgets They can have these types of limited access areas: the small ones only allow you to open the application by tapping on them.

That is precisely the first big advantage of Android widgets compared to iOS. In Google’s operating system, it is possible to find widgets that act as switches to activate or deactivate any function of the phone or tablet, control external devices or operate the applications directly from the home screen, without having to access them. That, without talking about how some widgets like KWGT can be combined with utilities like Tasker to carry out basically any action that you imagine directly from the widgets themselves.

Spotify widget on Android

The Spotify is an example of an Android widget with integrated controls

But that it’s not the only downside present in the implementation of widgets devised by Apple. Another of its major drawbacks is the inability to represent information in real time. Instead, applications should take advantage of the few moments when the operating system gives them the ability to activate in the background to refresh the information and capture it in the widget. And, for the same reason that it is not possible to implement buttons or shortcuts to specific functions in widgets, there is also no possibility of include a button to refresh the information manually in the widgets themselves. So, going back to the Tesla widget example, nor the information about the autonomy or reference to the battery level of the vehicle they would be too relevant, as most of the time it would be out of date.

It is often said that Apple is almost always late when implementing functions already present on competing platforms, but which always does better. Perhaps such a statement is not entirely valid when talking about widgets; It is true that the existing implementation on Android needs a good review by Google – just take a look at the widget development guides on Android and its examples from the time of Android 4.4 – but the reality is that it is a more versatile, configurable solution with greater potential than that developed by Apple, as much as its infinitely more careful and consistent design leads us to think otherwise. In addition, nothing prevents you from having widgets in the style of iOS 14 on your Android mobile.

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