How to Use Widgets on an iPhone or iPad With iOS 8

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iPhones and iPads can now use widgets thanks to iOS 8. In fact, you probably already have some widgets installed — they’re all just disabled by default. Here’s how to enable and use those widgets you already have.

Unlike on Android, widgets can’t appear on our home screen — that’s still reserved just for apps and app folders. Instead, widgets appear in your notification center. This means you can access them from any app with a quick swipe.

Get Widgets

Widgets on iOS are all included with an associated app. For example, the Evernote app includes an Evernote widget. You don’t have to install anything separately.

To get widgets, just install an app that includes a widget. For example, Evernote includes a widget that allows you to quickly add notes and  Yahoo! Weather offers a weather widget with photos. News apps could offer widgets with recent stories. Productivity apps could offer quick access to your tasks. Airline apps could display information about your next flight and even a boarding pass on this screen. We’ll see more apps include new types of widgets in the future.

Enable Widgets

To enable widgets, open the notification center by pulling down from the top of the screen. Tap the Edit button at the bottom of the Today view.

If you used iOS 7, you’ll notice that the confusing “Missed” tab is now gone. There are now just two tabs here — the Today view, and a Notifications view that lists all recent notifications.

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You’ll see a list of your installed widgets. The standard parts of the Today view — Today Summary, Traffic Conditions, Calendar, Reminders, and Tomorrow Summary — are all now preinstalled widgets. Below them, you’ll see a list of widgets from apps you have installed.

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Tap the + button next to a widget to enable it. You can then touch the handles at the right side of the screen and drag them up or down to rearrange your list of widgets. Tap the – button to remove a widget from the list.

You can’t re-order some of Apple’s included widgets, but you can remove them from the list if you don’t want to see them. For example, the Today Summary widget will always appear on top of the Today view — unless you remove it, in which case it won’t appear at all. You can’t make it appear further down in the list.

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Access and Use Widgets

You can access widgets from anywhere — whether you’re on the home screen, in an app, or on the lock screen — by swiping down from the top of your screen and accessing the notification center. They’ll all appear on the Today view in the order you arranged them.

These aren’t Android’s widgets: There’s no way to place widgets on your home screen, and there’s also no way to create multiple different screens of widgets you can swipe between.

Depending on the widget, you can use buttons to quickly access parts of an app — like Evernote’s quick-note-taking buttons — or tap the widget to open the associated app.

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Do Widgets Drain the Battery?

Widgets only run and refresh their data when you open the notification center. They don’t have the ability to use “background refresh” — so, for example, the Yahoo! Weather widget here isn’t automatically checking for new weather throughout the day. This makes them more battery-friendly. If you’re not looking at them, they’re not using your battery.

You shouldn’t see a noticeable battery drain from using widgets. Of course, you could take this to extremes — if you added twenty widgets that all needed to refresh data from the network and frequently accessed your notification center, you’d probably see greater battery drain on your device.


That’s it for widgets — they’re all confined to the Today view in the notification center. There are no home screen widgets, nor are there lock screen widgets like there are on Android. Widgets also can’t be resized or positioned horizontally — something the seems a bit silly on an iPad’s much-larger screen.

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.