iOS 8 Has Widgets! Here's How to Use Them

Illustration for article titled iOS 8 Has Widgets! Heres How to Use Them

Yesterday, Apple finally pushed out iOS 8. Unlike last year's refresh, iOS 8 is more about functional tweaks and additions than it is about looks. One of the most useful, and long-awaited features is finally adopting third-party widgets.

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Before iOS 8, iPhone owners had a very restricted—read: Apple-only—widget ecosystem. Sure, you could jailbreak, but only apps like Calendar, Reminders, and Stock, pushed information to your iDevice's Notification Center by default. Now third parties are welcome. So how do you get in on the fun?

Once you've slogged through the long iOS 8 update process, make sure all your apps are up to date and then pop into Notification Center. At first, everything will look as it did on iOS 7, but scroll down to the bottom and click on "Edit." As you download more apps, Apple will inform you of how many have widget support right below this button.

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Illustration for article titled iOS 8 Has Widgets! Heres How to Use Them

When you click on "Edit," you'll see that Apple sets by default all third-party widgets under a "Do Not Include" section, so you'll need to go in a select which ones you want to use. This list shows all apps you currently own that support widgets.

Android faithful should note that these aren't widgets in the sense you might be used to; in iOS 8, they're simply present to give more power to the Notification Center. Once added to the list above, you can move the position of each widget by grabbing the small handle on the right.

Illustration for article titled iOS 8 Has Widgets! Heres How to Use Them
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However, you can't move apps above Today Summary or below Tomorrow Summary. Those are fixed in those positions. Of course, you could always just delete them.

That's all there is to setup, but what apps are even offering widgets worth using? As you can expect, news pubs such as NYT Now, WSJ, VICE News and a few others have widgets that push breaking stories to Notification Center. A collection of calendars and task managers help you keep track of your day. eBay's bidding widget makes it easy to one up that asshole who keeps trying to outbid you. pCalc packs in a simplified calculator into a widget body, perfect for the arithmetic deficient. OpenTable will track your reservations, and fitness apps like Pedometer++ and Runtime keep track of your step count while Lose It tracks your calories all from just a swipe away. Duolingo, the popular language learning app, also embeds its owl mascot to make you feel even worse about your foreign tongue ambitions. You can even keep track celestial mechanics and other astronomical goings on with Star Guide and Luminos.

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Interestingly, Craig Federighi demoed an ESPN SportsCenter app showing updates your favorite teams, but the app doesn't seem to be updated yet. We can expect an update soon, though, as well as similar functions from its competitors.

iOS 8 widgets are in their nascent phase. For one, they don't support any kind of keyboard input, only existing for quick, glanceable information, access to certain apps, and tap-friendly interactions that are built into the widget, such as tapping a buy button or different keys on a digital calculator.

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Also every widget needs a parent app. For instance, so if you really just like visual design of Yahoo's weather widget, its parent app, which you may never even open, needs to live somewhere on your home screen. But now that Apple has embraced them, they'll only grow in utility with iOS 9 and beyond. Any favorites that you're already using that we missed? Let us know below.

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DISCUSSION

It's good to see Apple being much more open under Tim Cook. I know a lot of people will say, ''oh, these features were on Android first!". Ironically enough, Apple was getting criticized for now having many of these features. Apple's just integrating these ideas in a more ''secure'' and unifed environment. I don't think anybody is saying that Apple was first at this point. For example, with Apple Pay at least T. Cook and crew talked to banks to make sure they were at least accepted in a lot of common places. This didn't happen with Google Wallet. I had a Nexus S on Sprint and used my phone to pay at 7-11 before, but it's like a ''build and they will come'' scenario. Really, both OSes are slowing down in terms of features and are essentially copying each other at this point. I think now it's just what you want your overall experience to be. I'm jumping back to iOS, but that's just for now.

I can't wait until Android L comes out and can't wait to see what else is on the horizon. We're incredibly lucky right now because almost everyone can have access to a smartphone and some decent features.

I also have no idea why I just wrote this.