Apple doesn’t allow for really individual customization of its devices or user interfaces, so anyone who wants to alter the appearance of their Apple goods, particularly their home screens, will have to spend a lot of time doing it. With the release of iOS 16 in September, Apple has the chance to give customers the independence they need.
My only cell phones have been an iPhone, a Blackberry, and a Nokia (shoutout to Snake, my first love), none of which I’ve ever truly customized.
I presently have a sixth iPhone, and I’ve always accepted that the design of the home screen is what it is. I can organize my home screen with programs, widgets, and folders, but I’ve never been able to customize it to be more like myself, like Android users can with their phones. All of that changed this week when I tried to personalize the home screen of my phone using two icon packs I got from Etsy.
I gradually learned how to use the Shortcuts app, Widgetsmith, and everything else necessary to design a unique home screen aesthetic for my iPhone using this article as my reference and its author, my coworker Michael Potuck. This is what I had to do, and because it took so long, I won’t ever have to.
PICK AN ICON PACK. First off, there are an astounding number of icon packs available online. It’s entertaining for a moment to look through possibilities, but I quickly ran out of patience and interest; it’s similar to the difference between shopping at a mall and going to a single independently-owned boutique.
There are literally tens of thousands of packs to select from, and you can discover free icon packs, buy icon packs on Etsy, or make your own (though I understand this is difficult). I browsed the internet for almost five minutes before selecting this icon pack for $6 and starting my task.
TAKE DOWN MANY ZIP FILES AND PDFS Even while it was initially only little painful, this step was where things really started to hurt. I followed the Etsy seller’s directions and had to download zip files and PDFs, drag them to my desktop, open them, and then access the folders the zip file generated. I had to choose the icons and widgets I wanted from among the hundreds in the icon pack once I had access to them, even though I had no idea how awful things would get.
ICONS INTO PHOTOS BY COPYING AND PASTE I didn’t expect this phase to be so time-consuming, but boy was I wrong. You must compare the icons from the downloaded zip folders with the corresponding apps you already have on your phone, then copy and paste those icons into Photos. You won’t be able to access the icons you choose on your phone until iCloud synchronization is turned on.
REDESIGN APPS BY TAKING SHORT CUTBACKS Here it is—the source of all of my annoyance with Apple’s home screen personalization.
Throughout this process, I have never gotten as comfortable with an app as I have with Shortcuts, and I have no doubt that I have only begun to explore its full potential.
I’m not even sure where to start.
In order to modify one of my phone’s apps, I basically had to open Shortcuts, click the sign in the top right corner, select Add Action, put “open app” into the search bar, select “Open App” under Scripting, and THEN select from a list of apps I had on my phone.
Imagine that I wanted to alter the Instagram app.
After selecting Instagram, I had to hit the three small blue lines in the top right corner, select Add to Home Screen, give the app a new name, select the iCloud-synced photo to go with it, and then tap Add. GOODNESS. Since I’m experiencing it all again, it’s really too much. I regret having to write about it, but here we are.
At this point, I had the program in my possession and was using the icon set I had bought, downloaded, copied, and placed into Photos before effectively redesigning in Shortcuts to use as I saw fit. It took me at least two hours to repeat the redesign using Shortcuts with each app I wanted on my home screen. The exciting part is about to begin.
ESSENCE OVER ALL ELSE This step in personalizing your home screen may take hours if you’re like me and like things to be straight and aligned. You have your redesigned shortcuts for apps! You believe their color scheme is appropriate. For reasons you can’t adequately explain, you’ve changed the names of every app (apart from WhatsApp) to all lowercase letters.
Determining how to use your clean home screen with your cool new app icons might take hours, even if you’re not like me and are more creative with how you use space. In order to clear up clutter and make way for your shortcuts, you must long-press the original apps to remove them from the home screen. Be cautious not to actually delete the original app, though, otherwise your shortcuts won’t function.
After spending the entire morning customizing my home screen, I actually adore how my phone looks now, however there are still problems.
There is no remedy for this, lest I download a third-party calendar program, which I am definitely not doing, thus the gray widget calendar at the top instead opens the Widgetsmith app, which I had to download to make that specific widget in the first place. This means that in order to access my actual calendar, I either need to swipe right on my home screen or look it up in the pull-down menu. When I told my coworker Kyle, an Android user, about this, all he could say was, “OMG.” Oh my god, for sure.
Additionally, if I open any of my recently made earthy apps (in terms of shortcuts), I get this little swoopdy-woop that comes and goes and can be dismissed with a swipe, but it always shows up whenever I open a shortcut, forever and ever.
Last but not least, I now have a mess of icons, widgets, and wallpapers in my photo album(s), in addition to zip files and folders on my desktop, that need to be cleaned up since I’ve redesigned all of my apps to look exactly how I want them to. This was made possible with the help of my icon pack on my home screen.
TO THE RESCUE WITH IOS 16? I learnt some things that Apple’s next iOS 16 may do to enhance this process after speaking with some of my colleagues over at 9to5Google.
For starters, iOS 16 may simply integrate any themes that are now accessible for our home screens, let alone individualized ones. Did you know that what I did in four hours would only take someone an Android device for around a minute and a half? I’ve watched a video of how it’s done. There are countless built-in themes available for Android users to select from—and that is only the beginning.
More specifically, did you know that native Android apps are updated to the chosen color scheme when you choose a color theme for your phone’s home screen? Imagine not having to individually design and modify every single one of your apps—whether or not they are from a third party—into a shortcut. It would be a tremendous step in the right direction if iOS 16 at the very least allowed us to personalize native apps and widgets using pre-selected themes.
LAST THOUGHTS For the record, I want to say that I consider myself to be about a 7 on a scale of 10 being incredibly tech-savvy and 1 being not at all, at least in relation to the ordinary person ( not in comparison to literally any of my coworkers). Having said that, this process was quite difficult, even with the assistance of my coworkers and despite the fact that I am an expert in a very specialized area of technology. I spent a total of four hours, beginning to end, designing my home screen.
What more did we provide Apple besides fervent and, at least in my case, illogically devoted patronage, for which they withheld the option to modify our own products? I want everyone to have icons, widgets, and themes that reflect their personalities now that I’ve seen what my home screen can look like and also understand on a level that I wish I didn’t what it takes to have a home screen that you love. Why won’t Apple allow us as customers any choice?
Ben Schoon responded pretty gleefully when I was complaining to my 9to5Google coworkers about my customisation ordeal: “Come to Android it’s so lot easier.” Again, for reasons I cannot fully explain, I won’t, but that is not the point.
The fact is that, at this time, preventing users from customizing Apple devices is an archaic, annoying, and downright absurd strategy for a corporation that prides itself on the creativity, inspiration, and innovation of each of its various products. Why can’t I personalize my device if I want to be inspired by it, be creative with it, and innovate on it?
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