How to use Google lock screen widgets for iPhone


Google’s lock screen widgets not only make information available at a glance but also let you access search with a tap.

A Google Lock Screen with 4 widgets on an iPhone screen.
Image: Andy Wolber/TechRepublic

In October 2022, Apple made it easier to get information at a glance with two significant changes. First, iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max added support for an always-on display, selectable with a setting: Settings > Display & Brightness > Always On, slide to enable. Second, with iOS 16, you may not only customize wallpaper and backgrounds but also add a limited number of lock screen widgets: Lift your phone, then touch and hold the lock screen until customization options display.

See: How to customize your Lock Screen in iOS 16 (TechRepublic)

The lock screen offers two widget areas, with up to four custom widgets added below the clock and one custom widget selected above the clock. To add a widget, you first need to have installed the corresponding app. For example, you need the Google Drive app installed in order to add the Google Drive widget. Additionally, you may need to sign in with an account before a widget will work. For example, you need to sign in with a Google account to the Gmail app before a widget can display the number of new emails received.

The following are a few of the most useful lock screen widgets available from Google in mid-October 2022.

Gmail lock screen widgets on iOS

You may choose from three different Gmail widgets, two that display below the clock (Figure A, left) and one available above the clock (Figure A, right):

Figure A

The Gmail app on iPhone offers three lock screen widgets that indicate the number of new messages received.
The Gmail app on iPhone offers three lock screen widgets that indicate the number of new messages received.
  • The circular widget displays the number of new unread emails you have received.
  • The rectangular widget shows the new email count for five different categories: Inbox, Social, Promotions, Updates and Forums.
  • Alternatively, if you tap above the clock indicator, you may add an inline indicator that displays the number of new emails received.

Google Drive lock screen widgets on iOS

The three Google Drive lock screen widgets offer varying degrees of data:

  • The rectangular widget offers suggested files, with the specific item recommended based on your actions (Figure B, left).
  • The circular search widget (Figure B, middle), when tapped, opens the Google Drive app and places your cursor in a Google Drive search box, ready for your input.
  • The circular starred widget (Figure B, right), when tapped, opens the Google Drive app and displays all starred Drive items.

Figure B

The Google Drive app on iPhone offers lock screen widgets for fast access to suggested files, search and starred items.
The Google Drive app on iPhone offers lock screen widgets for fast access to suggested files, search and starred items.

Google search lock screen widgets on iOS

Lock screen options for the Google search app on iPhone deliver one-tap access to:

  • Search (Figure C, left) for standard text-based keyword search;
  • Voice search (Figure C, middle left) for voice input of a search;
  • Lens (Figure C, middle right) for camera or image based search; and
  • Lens Shortcuts (Figure C, right) for customizable access to three selectable Lens features.

Figure C

Google app lock screen widgets let you search with keywords, with your voice, or with your camera or an image.
Google app lock screen widgets let you search with keywords, with your voice, or with your camera or an image.

While in the Customize screen, after you select and add the Lens Shortcuts widgets, you may again tap directly on the added widget, then choose whether the widget will provide access to Google Lens translate, shopping or solve homework features. For example, if you set translate as the default, when you tap the widget it will open the Google App automatically and activate the camera, so you may point your camera at text to translate into your selected language.

Figure D

Customize the Lens Shortcuts widget to open directly to the feature you desire: translate, shopping or solve homework.
Customize the Lens Shortcuts widget to open directly to the feature you desire: translate, shopping or solve homework.

Chrome lock screen widgets on iOS

The Chrome browser, interestingly, includes two lock screen widgets that essentially duplicate functions available in the Google search app: Search (Figure E, left) and Voice Search (Figure E, middle right). The other useful lock screen widget available is access to Incognito Search (Figure E, middle left). Unlike the Google app widgets, which expressly rely on Google search, these Chrome widgets connect to your configured search engine, which on iOS may be adjusted in the Chrome app settings to be Google, Bing, Yahoo, DuckDuckGo or Ecosia.

Should you have an urgent need for one-tap lock screen access to the Chrome Dino Game, then that’s available also (Figure E, right). As of mid-October 2022, however, there’s no Reading List widget available for people who prefer to read saved articles—rather than play a game—to pass the time.

Figure E

Chrome lock screen offerings include Search and Voice Search widgets as well as an Incognito Search widget. Access to the Chrome Dino Game is also available via a lock screen widget.
Chrome lock screen offerings include Search and Voice Search widgets as well as an Incognito Search widget. Access to the Chrome Dino Game is also available via a lock screen widget.

Google Calendar lock screen widget on iOS

While the Google Calendar app lacks a lock screen widget, as of mid-October 2022, Apple offers three different lock screen widget options: One circular widget, one rectangular widget (Figure F, left) and one inline widget that displays above the clock (Figure F, right).

Figure F

To display upcoming Google Calendar events, connect your Google Calendar to the built-in Apple Calendar, then select from three lock screen calendar widgets.
To display upcoming Google Calendar events, connect your Google Calendar to the built-in Apple Calendar, then select from three lock screen calendar widgets.

So, to view upcoming Google Calendar events, connect your Google Calendar to the built-in Apple Calendar. Navigate to Settings > Calendar > Accounts > Add Account > Google, and enter your Google account details. Then, select a Calendar widget. The circular widget displays the least amount of information, as it only shows the time of an upcoming event, while the other two display at least a portion of the event name.

What’s your experience?

If you have an iPhone model that offers the always-on display, do you find it to be useful? What lock screen widgets have you chosen to add? Have you filled all available widget spaces on your phone? Or do you not want or need an always-on phone screen? Which of the Google widgets do you like the most? Are there other widgets that you highly recommend? Mention or message me on Twitter (@awolber) to let me know how you use lock screen widgets on iPhone.





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