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iOS 14 widgets make Android's look like an absolute embarrassment

Google Widget iOS 14 iPhone 11 Pro Hero
Google Widget iOS 14 iPhone 11 Pro Hero (Image credit: Joe Keller / iMore)

I've been theming my Android phones since before I knew what widgets even were. While Android home screens have continually evolved — launchers have continued to improve and icon packs get bigger and better — there's one aspect of the home screen that has remained painfully, abominably stagnant: widgets.

Widgets offer up amazing utility and potential for customization, but only if app developers actually take the time to make them functional, scale-able, and beautiful.

I had hoped back in the spring that iOS 14's widgets would spur Android widgets forward, that this would remind developers and Google itself that widgets can get great when done right. Well, summer has passed, iOS 14 is finally here, and what do we have to show for it? Proof positive that Google cares more about widgets on iPhone than Android.

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Android has had home screen widgets for a decade, and they've been surpassed by iOS widgets in a single day. A single day. This isn't to say there aren't beautiful widgets (opens in new tab) out there, because there are (opens in new tab), but the fact that good widgets almost always come from third-party widget makers rather than from app developers — and almost never from Google itself — is an absolute embarrassment for the platform.

Pixel 3 XL home screen

Source: Android Central (Image credit: Source: Android Central)

We now know Google can make widgets that look good, widgets that don't look like they were dropped out of 2014. Like so many areas of Android, however, Google chooses not to put forth a clear standard, refuses to lead by example. Just as Google itself fails to optimize most of its apps for tablets and Chromebooks, Google's widgets are all old, clunky, and not well optimized. Arguably the best widget Google makes is the At A Glance widget, which was made for Pixels in 2016 and added to all other Android phones in 2018.

Android has had home screen widgets for a decade, and they've been surpassed by iOS widgets in a single day.

Google's Calendar widgets haven't changed in years. Google Chrome's widgets haven't changed in years. Hell, the widget for Google Books is from 2012, and I get flashbacks to my Nexus 7 tablet every time I look at it. Even YouTube Music's widget — which was added only last fall— looks like it came from the Holo era: it doesn't resize, it's not color responsive, and it's even in that same dark grey of 2013-era Android.

Android 11 Beta 2 on the Pixel 4

Source: Hayato Huseman / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Hayato Huseman / Android Central)

We know Google has the capacity to give us more colorful, more responsive widgets. We know this because the persistent notification for playing music — which got another upgrade in Android 11 — pulls colors in order to provide a vibrant, adaptive media experience. We know this is something that could be done with widgets just as easily at the notification, because you can do it with KWGT right now.

Google tries to be the design standard-bearer for Android. Every year, it tries to get Android more consistent and user-friendly, and yet time and time again, the company's own products don't follow suit. Google rolled out Adaptive Icons back in 2017 with Android Oreo, and three years later, not even all of Google's own apps use them, to say nothing of millions upon millions of app icons that do only the bare minimum to meet Google Play requirements.

Themes are wonderful

Source: Ara Wagoner / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Ara Wagoner / Android Central)

Imagine how wonderful Android home screens could look if Google gave Android widgets half the attention to detail that Apple did. Imagine how much better the Android app experience could be on Chromebooks and Android tablets if Google gave half the dedication to large screen optimization that Apple did.

Now burn that dream into your mind, because it's never going to happen under Android's current leadership. At least we have KWGT to pick up Google's slack, if you're willing to build it yourself.

Ara Wagoner was a staff writer at Android Central. She themes phones and pokes YouTube Music with a stick. When she's not writing about cases, Chromebooks, or customization, she's wandering around Walt Disney World. If you see her without headphones, RUN. You can follow her on Twitter at @arawagco.

77 Comments
  • It needed to be said. I miss Windows Phone 😭
  • No Doubt! That is why I only use Square Home launcher. Closest thing I can get to Windowsphone.
  • Me too but let's be honest. Livetiles other than the stock ones were pretty awful with the exception of a few 3rd party apps like WhatsApp
  • Absolutely. Windows Phone really took widgets to next level with Live Tiles. iOS 14 widgets would look like an absolute embarrassment next to Live Tiles.
  • True. There was a reason for that, of course. Microsoft kept breaking the development platforms, making developers start from a scratch, and most decided not to bother - making their Live Tiles just bloated icons. Second issue was that Live Tiles were live - and in photos in ads and websites, you couldn't show how they behave. That's the reason why most Android and iOS users couldn't understand what the fuss was about when we were raving about Live Tiles.
  • Yes indeed. So much of Android seems garish compared to the simple elegance of WM. That's what kept me away from Android until WP's last gasp. It's also what kept me away from iOS. I really hated the crowded mess of the home screen. Meanwhile, the appearance of Android is improving, but far too slowly. I do wish they would give design a higher priority. Not long ago, my Pixel 2 died. The repair cost was more than the phone's worth at the time, so I ordered a Pixel 4 and used my Lumia 950 XL for a time while all this was going on. It was a refreshing reminder of how beautiful and well designed WM was. I'm sure Android can do better in the design department. I just wish they'd realize that. Otherwise I like using Android.
  • Couldn't agree more that is what I was just saying the other day... Reason I may consider Duo next year if they bring some back.
  • no argument here, at all 👍
  • Yup. These days I have to keep talking myself out of switching to iPhone. I feel like I did when I was on Windows Phone, always hoping and waiting for it to get better.
  • I moved to iPhone last year when the Pixel4 battery was abysmal. I couldn't take Googles complete failures on simple things anymore. That and the tablets basically being unsupported by app developers. I miss some things but in general iPhone/iPad is just better now that widgets are part of the mix. That was the one thing keeping me at Android for so long. Android feels like a constant beta platform. It was a difficult move but unless Google makes wholesale changes I won't be going back anytime soon.
  • Android tablets are an absolute joke. I think I've hit my limit with Android, as much as I kicked and screamed I'd never go to the "dark side".......it's time to give old Apple a shot. Especially seeing as how I can't even get a messaging app to be reliable. Missed texts, missed pics.........
  • Android has been amazing the past few years. I've NEVER had any sort of problem whatsoever with messaging apps or any other apps functioning correctly... Not to say it's perfect by any means, but people like you still love to say this crap as if it holds any weight anymore in the slightest... It doesn't... Seems your problems with Android are just that... your problems... I recently just tried using an iPhone for a week or so... Absolutely torturous experience... You can have it... Ipad, on the other hand, is maybe a different discussion...
  • "People like this love to say this crap....".....this is MY EXPERIENCE you moron. Things I have been dealing with. Now shut up and go to the corner.
  • "Absolutely torturous experience..." LMAO I think you're talking about the Pixel experience or perhaps Samsungs 🤣🤣🤣
  • I just switched to an iPhone 11 Pro this past month from the Pixel 3, and while I have some usability issues on iPhone that I need to adapt to, the experience so far has been really good.
  • Moved to IoS in 2018 iPhone 8 plus + Ipad pro(MacBook pro in 2019) after being the only person in my circle of friends with an Android phone and holding the torch for android and I have to say I honestly don't see myself switching back. I am now in the process of getting my mom an iPhone either giving her my old iPhone or getting her an SE or XR. I always hear people who use apple say it just works and even though you get a few bugs " It just works" it does. I still have my Pixel, and probable will always get a budge pixel to keep up with android, but the iPhone will be my daily driver for long into the future.
  • No one I know actually use widgets, either Android or iPhone. And I know alot,alot of people.
  • Uh, you just proved her point.
  • Not necessarily, there's no proof yet that any "normal" people will use them on iOS either. You'd be surprised how man iPhone users don't know they've got a quick settings panel.
  • People used them all the time on the today screen. You’re cracked.
  • Is it weird that I've never asked, or weird that you have?
  • Is widgets like you main topic of conversation with people? I know ALOT of people too and have never had a widget conversation.
  • I agree... Other than maybe the weather widget, I haven't used them. Idk maybe I'm the only one, but I doubt it.
  • Not a widget fan myself. Don't use on iOS or Android and few people's devices I have seen do either. Subjective info for sure. I like simple interfaces with less chuff. Widgets always remind me of my parents browser bar on top with maximum crap enabled. I get they can and are useful, but meh
  • People like me who switched from Windows Phone use widgets a lot. And I use a lot of widgets.
  • This is really funny. First of all, I don't use widgets on my S10+. My kids just "discovered" them on their iPhones. I showed them the Apple Music widget that I can use and their minds were blown on how interactive it was. They immediately tried to use the Apple Music widget on their iPhones and quickly commented that the widget sucks compared to the one on my Samsung.
  • There is only one way and it will never happen. Samsung needs to be thet only company supply Google phones and only with the S line merging with the Note lineup. Samsung eith the hardware and turn the software completely over to Google. I'm am now firmly a believer. Fragmentation is real and has become a nightmare.
  • Good god, no! Samsung is bloated BS. There are what, 20 some variations of the S20 out now? And how many of those will even see an update? Just the top end? I wouldn't buy a Samsung if it was the only model available.
  • Well, Samsung's widgets at least have a unified look.
  • and it's not a bad look, either
  • Oh look, another person who is more concerned about how their phone looks rather than how they actually use it. I guess if you spend all day trying to get people to notice you and tell you, "wow, I love your phone!", you'll never be satisfied.
  • What the hell is wrong with you?
  • I love your comment... It definitely puts it in perspective. Yep, vanity is the thing baby! Hahaha
  • There are functional widgets from Google. The direct dial widget from the Contacts app in particular is one I commonly find myself using.
  • Editor: "you need to write a blog for Sunday" Writer: "Crap. About what?" Editor: "it's Sunday, no one cares. Just write about something that only 1% of smartphone users care about. Whine, compliment Apple & seem self righteous." Writer: "done."
  • Great comment. Thanks. 🙄
  • You haven't seen my writing history, have you?
  • Just ignore the haters and keep writing. Great job on this article.
  • I have, and it's spectacular!
  • The problem is that only 3% of smartphone users have experienced an OS that really delivered on widgets. Another 2% have used widgets on Android. Another 5% aren't aware yet what widgets can do for them. The remaining 90% are idiots.
  • 90% of the entire world population are complete idiots...
  • All I've been wanting for android widgets all these years are rounded corners. Everything has been rounded off (Google's Pixel icons are full circles) and yet almost all widgets have the sharpest corners possible. There's nothing cohesive about it at all.
  • Rounding wastes space. Rounded corners means unused/unsuable space on top, bottom, and sides... Like having bezels on a phone. Windows Phone did it right by going with square shapes for Live Tiles. That was optimal.
  • Optimal... But pretty ugly and boring after a short while
  • I'm a bit confused here. You're claiming iOS has better widgets, but so a screen shot of a single one of them? A widget for the Google app is the one least likely to be on someone's screen, so yay for iPhones having a nicer Google widget now?
  • I see ONE widget from Apple shown here and it isn't even a useful one. What are they talking about?
  • It's funny that you judge the power of widgets on android after comparing couple of apps.
  • Odd. I just removed them as they are fairly pointless on iOS. Looked cool at first but really don’t have much function.
  • I removed them too. In my opinion they're a failed attempt at imitating the superb Windows Phone homescreen (which I loved and miss) and on iOS add nothing worthwhile. I use an iPhone as a second device. It was ok and perfectly functional before Apple invented Widgets.
  • The siri suggestions widget alone should embarrass Google.....updated the wife's 6S plus (a disappointment for another time) and was enthralled by the choices...
  • I have to disagree with the article. While iOS widgets are more streamlined and easier to program for developers, there are some widget apps out there that outshine iOS widgets in many ways. Sure your default Outlook widget or Clock widget is mediocre at best. Looking at apps like KLWP or KWGT shows the true beauty of a widget model like Androids. Although technically KLWP is a live WP
  • I have to agree with you. Apple's widgets do look very nice but people need to realize they are predominantly Apple designed ones at this point. They are good at design. Android's widgets are all over the place, but there certainly ones as good as anything Apple has right now. You just need to dig through the 100 weather widgets to find the one. Give it time. I'm sure developers can rise to the occasion and make some truly awful iOS widgets. I am very surprised how many here say they don't use widgets. Do you have your screens set up as a grid of icons, trying to make people think you have an iPhone? I thought widgets were part of the allure of Android. I don't go nuts with mine, making my home screen look like a 1990's flash based website, but I carefully pick some.
  • 1st world problems?
  • Yes. What's your problem?
  • So let's get this straight, I'm going to base the phone platform I purchase i.e., iOS or Android, based on widgets? Hahahahah! Oh man I've read it all. LOVE MY NOTE 20 ULTRA 5G!!!!!! Uh... I use my phone for REAL things, you know, s pen, productivity, dex, etc. The heck with widgets. Ever notice Apple is always a step behind in features Android already has. So they do some things better, and Android as well. I'll stick with Android thank you.
  • The article says nothing of the sort. Android may be the better choice for a lot of people for a lot of reasons but does not excuse the poor job Google has done with many aspects of the OS like widgets.
  • That's because Google realizes nobody gives a fork about widgets anymore, so why bother...
  • That's because nobody uses single app widgets anymore we are surpassed those times. It's all about the widgets you can customize on your own that can do multiple things and designed how you want it to look. For example KWGT. Android Central needs to get writers who really know Android. If Ara really knows about theming phones then this article should've had a different approach. SMH.
  • Thank you for this! I was a little skeptic about the headline but I knew it had to be some real ones in the comments lol
  • Android widgets are so much more powerful and useful. The iOS ones are prettier.
  • Pure BS...widgets on Android are elegant and evolved. Widgets on IOS are still in its infancy. The options are unlimited on Android...you can resize them move them around where ever you want them.
    IOS still a very controlled interface that won't let people do even the simplest things you can do on Android with widgets.
  • That's my experience too. I'm always Android in a phone, but iOS on the tablet. Was playing around with the new Apple widgets yesterday and was left with a meh feeling. I don't get the excitement for them. Very limited.
  • I like the widgets on android. Never really had a huge issue with them. I do wish there were more for certain things but that is up to the app devs and not android. Regardless, I am fine with what has always been offered. I like weather widgets, ecobee wrap, tuya, abode, tailwind, system status, and buds live widget the most. But hey having a shortcut to lens would be cool despite the fact I'd use it 3 times in a year.
  • Even if they are better, Android fans would NEVER admit it.
  • They're both fine man.
  • But... They're not, so...
  • OP sounds like she'd be happier with an Apple Phone.
  • Trust me, she has one lol
  • iPhone widgets are ok. They're still a long way off the maturity and functionality of Androids but that'll change quickly now they're a thing. I tend to only use them on the page to the left of the homeacreen still the same as I do on Android but maybe a big clock/weather widget at the top of my home page
  • You can't even interact with IOS widgets. There are good Android widgets and bad ones. Just use the good ones. Google moved away from widgets, only for Apple to add them.
  • Of course you can interact with them
  • The problem with this article is the terrible click bait. If it says "Google widgets on IOS are miles better than their Android counterparts" no one would be complaining.
    But click bait works right? I even made an account just to write this comment.
  • Monday morning quarterbacking. Should you ever have access to a turnstile, I suggest inverting and changing this article to something on Ambient Computing... remember to avoid coming in contact with the old self to avoid imploding the universe.
  • "...they've been surpassed by iOS widgets in a single day. A single day." Yes; so true. A single day. That is frickin' hilarious!
  • This is just proof positive that design on iOS is miles ahead still of Android even though, I agree that the customization is amazing but my thing is who cares if there are thousands of different icons or themes if only 2 of them are good? I've always thought Android widgets looked like crap even when I was a major Android fanatic back in 2010-2012. The design language of Android has been disjointed and still is. 
  • Your widget might be gorgeous honey..... you still have to live with an iPong though.....
  • The headline is extreme hyperbole. I personally don't like the iOS widgets. I don't like the rounded corners and just the overall design. It looks boring and non functional. Typical Apple is form over function.