Widgets, smidgets

Published October 15, 2020, 5:50 AM

by Professor Rom Feria

Well, ever since iOS 14 dropped, I have seen dozens and dozens of customized home screens on Twitter. I also fell “victim” to some third-party apps that provide more personalization of your widgets (some are not worth it, really, YMMV). I am sure that iPhone users are sick of hearing about Android having widgets since the HTC One. Nevertheless, we all have another outlet to personalize the look of our iPhone’s screen — no matter how functional or cute/pretty, or borderline distasteful it is.

I have used the HTC One before and personally, widgets aren’t a thing for me. I stuck with the clock-calendar-weather widget at the top on the HTC One, and that was it. That being said, the same is true for my iPhone. I would rather have one widget, similar to the HTC One, on top. Thanks to iOS 14’s Smart Stack, the utility of having one area dedicated for widgets just expanded considerably. Here’s a list of my favorite widgets on my Smart Stack:

First is CARROT Weather. This is my favorite weather app. How can you go about your day without CARROT’s snarky comment? Well, mine is set to Homicidal — a setting that is described as “CARROT may threaten you and your loved ones with bodily harm”. The “worst” setting is Overkill — “CARROT will make creative use of profanity in her forecasts”. Right now, it is 30 degrees Celsius, Cloudy, and the message is ‘Abandon all hope ye who venture out into this weather’. How can you not love CARROT?

Next on the stack is battery. If you are someone who is paranoid at making sure you have enough battery charge, then this widget is very useful. For me, it displays the iPhone, Apple Watch and the Airpods Pro that I am using. Very useful when you need to make sure that your earphones have enough juice during your Zoom meeting.

This is followed by the Fitness widget. Am such a sucker for closing those Apple Watch rings. Whilst watchOS 7.0.2 provide you with the feature to set those goals, specially exercise and stand goals, I did not change it — mine remains at 30 minutes of exercises and 12 hours of stand (one minute standing per hour).

On a more serious note, the following widget is Fantastical — which displays the current month along with the list of events for the day. When you have classes and meetings to attend to on Zoom, you definitely need to make sure that they’re right smack on the front page of your smart phone.

When working from home, it is important to have a break for time to time. Sometimes I glance at the Top Stories provided by Apple News app. Although this widget is a big candidate for being replaced with something else — but at the moment, I am still looking for one of my favorite apps to support widgets. 

What is a smart widget without the Shortcuts? I have arranged my shortcuts with the four most used ones on top — which the widget exposes. Currently, these shortcuts are: Coffee (for logging my coffee consumption), Total Caffeine Today (yeah, pretty obvious), Browse Top News (to check out the Manila Bulletin TechNews RSS feed, which is a hit or miss lately) and, finally, the PiHole Stats (displays the uptime, percentage of requests blocked, top blocked URL, most recently blocked URL and the top device making the most number of requests). I wish that Apple can modify this to allow more widgets on iOS 14.2.

And finally, I have the Apple Music widget to wrap up the stack. Pretty useful when winding down during the day. The new Disney Instrumentals playlist is my current favorite. 

I wish that the Siri App Suggestions can be added to the Smart Stack, though. The suggested applications are almost always spot on. Truly Siri has learned when I use a specific application during the day, and surfaces it as a suggested app.

Whilst I am at it, here is a list of applications that I wish have Smart Stack widget support: Overcast, Tot, PayMaya, GCash, Micro.blog (for mentions), iTV Shows, and Grab.

How about you? What are your favorite widgets?