iOS 16: How to get the most out of your iPhone’s new lock screen

Starting with iOS 16, your iPhone’s lock screen is so much more than just a long list of alerts and a clock stacked on top of your wallpaper. You can now customize the first screen you see every time you pick up or wake up your iPhone, including the font and color used for the clock. You also have the option to add widgets to your lock screen for quick access to an app or information.

Apple released iOS 16 on September 12, you can download and install it now – reviews so far have been positive.

Of course, the new lock screen is getting a lot of attention from users after the update, and with good reason. It’s just too much fun to use. Below I’ll walk you through everything you need to know to choose your own interactive wallpaper, customize the clock, and then add widgets.

How to set a custom interactive wallpaper

Widgets are an important part of the new lock screen experience on your iPhone, but the whole setup starts with being able to customize your wallpaper and clock. It sounds pretty trite, but the truth is that you can do some really cool things with your lock screen, photos, and clock that bring your iPhone’s screen to life in some way — and all before you’ve ever unlocked your phone .

Creating new or editing existing lock screens is familiar if you’ve ever created a new watch face on your Apple Watch. I’ve tried many different ways to view and edit lock screens and this is the easiest way I’ve found for me. I suspect it will work for you too, but once you’ve done the core steps, feel free to customize the process.

Start with the phone locked and the screen off. Double-tap to wake it up and have FaceID or TouchID unlock your phone—but don’t swipe up or press the home button to get to your home screen—long-press the lock screen instead.

If you did it correctly, you’ll see a thumbnail preview of your current lock screen. (If you open the Settings app and select Wallpaper from the list of options, you can edit your current collection or create a new one, but you can’t switch between existing collections.)

Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/ZDNET

To customize any of the existing collections, tap To adjust button at the bottom of the screen. To create a new collection from scratch, tap + Sign.

When you create a new lock screen, a screen will open showing you a few different wallpaper options to choose from. Apple has some curated wallpapers in the Featured section, or you can scroll down to the Suggested Photos or Photo Shuffle sections. The former selects photos that your iPhone determined would look good on your lock screen, while the shuffle option switches between random photos of your choosing or based on category. There are currently four different categories: People, Pets, Nature, and Cities. You can choose specific people to include in the rotation, provided you have Face ID enabled in the Photos app.

If you keep scrolling down you’ll find more categories including Weather & Astronomy, Emoji, Collections and finally Color.

If you’re looking for the clownfish wallpaper that Steve Jobs famously used to unveil the original iPhone and that’s finally making an appearance in iOS 16, you’ll find it as a final option in the Collections section.

Alternatively, you can jump directly to each section by tapping the icon at the top of the screen.

Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/ZDNET

When you choose a wallpaper you like, you can swipe left or right to see different variations of it. For example, if you view the astronomy option, you can see the entire solar system, the earth, a close-up of your location on earth, or the moon.

When you find one you like, tap Add to at the top of the screen. You can either use it as it is as a wallpaper pair or select it Customize home screen to use a different image as the home screen wallpaper.

Don’t worry, we’ll go back and customize the clock and widgets for that particular lock screen – if you add them now, you won’t lose them.

Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/ZDNET

How to adjust the clock on your iPhone’s lock screen

When a background image has been added, go back to the editing overview by long pressing on your iPhone’s lock screen and then selecting To adjust under the background image you want to edit.

Next, tap the time to bring up eight different font options. Select the different fonts to preview how it will look with your specific wallpaper. Note that if you have a photo as a background with no widgets under the clock, the time will disappear behind an element in the image. Not all images work with this unique feature, but if you find one that does it right, it’s pretty damn cool.

You can also tap on the different colors and adjust the slider to preview how it will look. When you have decided on the right combination for your background, tap anywhere on the background image.

Now for the fun part – adding widgets.

Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/ZDNET

How to add lock screen widgets on your iPhone’s lock screen

Apple, along with third-party developers, can create widgets that you can place on your lock screen to access information without having to do anything more than activate your iPhone or if you have one of the new iPhone 14 Pro models , you can quickly glance at the always-on display.

With the release of iOS 16 in early September, developers could start submitting app updates that take advantage of iOS 16’s new features, including the new widget type.

As you begin installing these app updates, keep in mind that not all widgets will appear in the editor until you open the updated app. At least that was my experience last week. On a few occasions I’ve read the release notes and seen an update add lock screen widget support, only to find that the app is only listed as an option after opening it.

Okay, how do you add widgets to your iPhone’s lock screen? Nice that you asked.

Access the customization menu the same way you did when changing your wallpaper or customizing the clock, find the lock screen creation you want to add or edit widgets for, then tap To adjust button at the bottom of the screen.

There are two locations for widgets – the long, slim box above the clock where the current day of the week and date are located, along with the larger rectangle just below the time.

Tap on one of the boxes to bring up a menu asking you to choose which widget to use. The top widget area is best for apps that can display information in a single line of text.

The lower widget area offers more space and thus more flexibility. You can spread up to four 1×1 square widgets across the area, or a mix of the wider widgets and the smaller widgets.

You can drag and drop widgets within the panel to rearrange them, or if you decide to delete one, tap the “-” sign in the upper-left corner of the widget.

Jason Cipriani/ZDNET

How to edit what information a widget displays

You can customize what information a particular widget displays by tapping it once it’s added to the display area. For example, the Calendar app shows you all your upcoming events by default, but if you add it to your lock screen and then tap it again, you’ll be prompted to choose a specific calendar to use for upcoming events.

Not all widgets offer additional customization options, but the easiest way to find out is to add it and then tap on it and see if you see additional options. If nothing shows up, you’re stuck with the default information.

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