The Mac is nothing more than an iPad, the iPad is never more than a big iPhone, and now the iPhone is recovering the crumbs left by the Apple Watch! Inspired by their work on the complications of the watch, Apple engineers set out to rewrite the widgets of iOS and macOS, using the framework SwiftUI… designed for watchOS.
The titanic work of unifying software libraries is clearly bearing fruit. It is no longer the Mac that “down” its functions, or the iPhone which “up” its new features, but all the devices that keep each other informed. The Apple Watch is contributing today with SwiftUI, its framework declarative of interface design, and its complications.
Like complications, new ones widgets are designed to get information back as quickly as possible. “On average, a user makes 90 visits per day to the home screen”says Nadir Khan, part of the iOS System Experience team. “The last thing you want to see”, he adds, “It’s a home screen lined with loading indicators”.
The widgets are extensions of applications. With SwiftUI, the application declares a chronology of views, which will be presented at the appropriate time. It’s not clear ? Take the example of the calendar: in the early morning, the application prepares all versions of its widget that will be needed during the day, and asks the system to display a certain version at a certain time.
Thus, the system does not need to calculate the display of the widget here or there. The gallery displays the widget as it will appear on the home screen, with real data, rather than a generic preview. The widget on the home screen and widget on the search screen are one. If there is a change, of course, the app can rewrite the timeline.
Add a new appointment, and the calendar refreshes its widget. A single application can provide several widgets, static (all calendars) or dynamic (the calendar of your choice). Finally, developers can use three sizes of widgets, from the small square taking the place of four icons to the large block occupying the width of the screen.
WidgetKit, the framework which allows to design these new widgets, is compatible with iOS like macOS. The same widget could take place on the home screen of the iPhone, in the “Today” view of the iPad, or in the Mac Notification Center. And without much effort, it will be able to adapt to the text size settings and the dark mode.
And the elders widgets ? They can still be used on iOS, but cannot be moved to the home screen. They can no longer be used on macOS, and for good reason, the new Notification Center is de facto a Catalyst application.
Apple sees them widgets as small units of information, not as small applications. Even more than the old one, the new mechanism severely limits interactions. Some developers will likely abandon their widgets – the days of the PCalc mini-calculator, for example, seem to be numbered.