How will Android react to Apple’s new iOS 16 tweaks?

Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

If you want customization, get an Android. That was my main argument to friends and family in favor of Google’s operating system. You can place apps where you want them, add widgets the way you want, and Material You opened the door to a rainbow of possibilities – literally. Android still has all those freedoms, but iOS is now catching up. Apple showed off a ton of new customization options as part of iOS 16, and I’m glad Android is finally on to something.

Need a summary? Here’s everything Apple showed at WWDC 2022

Love for the lock screen

iPhone 13 Pro in hand with lock screen iOS 16

Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

Apple’s biggest claim to fame with iOS 16 is the lock screen customization. After years of looking like the lock screen above, with a simple clock and quick access to the camera and flashlight, you now have plenty of power in the palm of your hand. For starters, Apple finally lets you change the color and style of the clock. Not exactly groundbreaking, but it’s a step towards your own iOS.

Part of customizing your clock involves controlling a multi-layered photo effect. You can set the subject of your photo on the lock screen to appear in front of your clock instead of letting time block their face. iOS 16 even includes a Lock Screen gallery of pre-designed options that adapt to your subject in different colors and styles.

iOS 16 shows customizable love for the lock screen in a way we haven’t seen before.

More importantly, iOS 16 marks the beginning of lock screen widgets on iOS. They’re not the most in-depth (yet), but lock screen widgets are a new claim to fame that Android no longer rivals. Right now, Apple’s widgets include the weather, calendar access, upcoming alarms, your Activity Rings, and a few more. Early versions of Android supported lock screen widgets, and you can still get them in some skins like Samsung’s One UI, but it’s not a standard Android feature.

Material You introduced a lot of customizations for Android, but it seemed to skip the lock screen. You can color coordinate your clock, but that’s about it. iOS 16, on the other hand, lets you scroll through lock screens to fit different times of your day. You can set a lock screen for work, one for the gym, and one for home if needed. That’s not enough, you can also take advantage of dynamic lock screens that reflect the weather outside or view the phases of the moon in real time.

Learn more: Here are the Android 13 features you need to know:

Google still controls the home screen

Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max screen with apps and widgets

Rita El Khoury / Android Authority

Despite Apple’s advances on the lock screen, Google still has an advantage when you unlock your phone. Android supported widgets for years before iOS brought them back, and there’s still a lot more freedom when it comes to Material You. You can reshape and resize certain Android widgets — Google Photos is a prime example — while Apple is all-in on the rectangle. Rectangles are great, but any Tetris player will tell you that there are only so many ways to put four-sided shapes together.

Apple’s rectangles are great, but any Tetris player will tell you that there are only so many ways to put four-sided shapes together.

While Apple may have cohesive shapes, Android’s Material You options feel like a well-executed themed party. The optional color palettes pick up on Google’s first-party apps and widgets and make sure they’re all dressed in the same color. We can’t skip the fact that there’s no third-party widget color customization, but it’s much easier to get a clean, simplistic look in recent versions of Android.

Also see: The best Material You apps to try on your Android phone

It almost feels wrong to compare iOS to Pennywise the clown, but in some ways it still fits. Apps still float to the top of your iOS home screen, and there’s almost nothing you can do to get them down. The power of friendship won’t help, and neither will overcoming your fears. Instead, you have to ballast your apps to the bottom with widgets. There is no other way around it. Depending on the size of your screen, you might need a trio of double-height widgets to put your apps at your fingertips.

Don’t mind the iPad in the corner

iPad Mini iPadOS 15 home screen with apps iOS 16

Nick Fernandez / Android Authority

For all the credit we want to give iOS 16, it comes with one notable tablet-sized omission. All of the customization features we’ve mentioned end up on iOS and iOS only. Of course, iOS and iPadOS are meant to be two separate operating systems at this point. Still, it seems that the larger screens would be a golden opportunity to make even better use of Apple’s customization developments.

Android has its differences from smartphones to tablets, but Material You is a common presence. It should become even more ubiquitous by the time the Pixel tablet hits the market next year. There’s also Android 12L to consider – a tablet-sized version of Android optimized to run smoothly on larger screens. It scales everything from the lock screen to the home screen and even the notification shade, all with a healthy flavoring from Material You on top.

Apple’s iOS 16 updates come with a hefty iPad-sized hole in it.

As for iPadOS, it’s finally getting a proper weather widget. For those of you keeping up at home, it took 15 years from the iPad’s introduction to get proper weather support. It’s still a drop in the ocean when you consider what the iPad lacks. The larger screen is practically begging for lock screen widgets, and it has to go further to keep up with Apple’s iOS innovations.

So, how does Android respond?

Google Pixel 6 Pro front lockscreen with clock

Rita El Khoury / Android Authority

Nobody likes to be stepped on, but that’s exactly what Apple is doing to Google. Now the only way for Google to protect its so-called toes is to take a few more steps. It has to match Apple’s love of the lock screen or go even further.

Thankfully, there’s no shortage of rumors to suggest what Google’s next customization options might look like. We’ve heard talk of customizable clocks on the lock screen as part of Android 13, although it seems easy to switch between a one-line or two-line clock. Yes, you can already change your clock as many times as you want with certain devices — like Samsung’s — but the feature is missing from Google’s own Pixel lineup.

Google is not for everyone: Material Your single color themes will surely fail

There is also no reason for Google to stop at the clock. It already loves to build albums in Google Photos, especially based on the faces of your family and friends. Why not integrate those albums into wallpapers so you can get a fresh, color-matched shot of your selected album whenever you want? You may need to make sure nothing is too spicy if you let Google handle the shuffling.

If Google wants to take its lock screen to the next level, make contextual a reality at a glance.

Another idea if Google wants to tackle Apple head-on is to revive the concept of the contextual lock screen. We got to see what the super-powerful At A Glance widget would look like back in February, and it’s giving lock screen widgets a run for their money. Essentially, it monitors your location and other factors to intelligently suggest maps you may need. If you were at the train station, it would open popular routes or metro maps. If you just plugged in some headphones, At A Glance features some of your most popular playlists. It may not be a color-changing lock screen, but it would certainly be a more powerful one.

Android remains the king of customizable freedom. It still puts the power in your hands over a whole range of smartphones and tablets. However, it’s hard to argue that Google has an edge over the lock screen. Apple is doing its best to make iOS 16 feel like the most personal version yet, and it may poke the bear. Now we just wait and see what kind of bite Google can respond with.

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