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Widgets are mostly designed to provide quick access to information. To some extent, they can be useful. For example, if I am writing something using Notes on my iPad, I can add a widget that has an outline. I can swipe down and display Notification Center whenever I need to reference the outline. This can be done more easily by just adding the outline to Notes and toggling between the two documents.
I don’t think widgets are very useful. If I want to check the news or weather, I can just launch apps. The apps contain more information. Widgets have been a fixture on Mac OS X for over a decade. I never found them useful on my Mac, and I don’t find them useful on my iOS devices.
It is a good thing that Apple enables customization and has added features like widgets. Many users like these features, and they should have the option to use them. I think Apple has the correct priorities. While other mobile operating systems were focused on UI glitter, Apple prioritized an interoperable ecosystem, performance and rich APIs, enabling iOS to have the best apps and interoperability between devices. There is a tradeoff. Would you rather have a customizable user interface or awesome games and the ability to create multimedia with industry-leading apps? I prefer the latter. AirPlay is another Apple ecosystem feature that has been available for years. Other mobile operating systems are just getting these features.
Customization has never been a big deal for me. I don’t think it is for most people. It was a talking point that was used to point out deficiencies in Apple’s mobile operating system. Since most people don’t understand the layers beneath the UI, many think that the UI is the operating system. It’s not. The operating system also needs to support apps, manage memory and control hardware. A great operating system can seamlessly integrate with other devices, much like AirPlay allows one to beam content from an iPhone to an Apple TV. Continuity brings even more useful interoperability to the Apple ecosystem. These are the features I crave.
In my opinion, customization is low-hanging fruit. Apple realized that people want killer apps, and delivered. Now they are offering customization, and critics are crying foul — “this has been on other mobile operating systems for years”. Yes, and it has also been on the Mac for over a decade. Having had the experience of offering customization on the Mac, Apple correctly realized that most users don’t care about it. Everyone I know who touts the customization features of their favorite mobile operating system uses Windows on their desktop. Windows is the least customizable operating system. Wouldn’t people who love customization use Mac OS X or Linux? Not if they love customization as a talking point. Customization is a great feature to add after you have addressed the fundamentals. I think Apple got it right.