Thursday, September 22, 2022

Customizing iOS 16 Lock Screen Wallpaper

Federico Viticci:

The customization we have in iOS 16 includes wallpapers – and in fact goes above and beyond anything Apple ever offered for wallpapers on iOS – but that’s only one component of a larger system. A good way to think about it is the following: customizing the Lock Screen is now very similar to customizing your watch face on the Apple Watch.


For the first time in the iPhone’s history, Apple is also letting you create your own gradient-based Lock Screen background with the new Color wallpaper. As someone who’s constantly on the lookout for these types of images – I even made a shortcut to create colorful gradients for my devices – I am very happy with this wallpaper. By default, you can choose from a set of 18 colors with the ability to set a different intensity level via a slider. However, you can pick any color you want by accessing the system’s color picker.

Federico Viticci:

With iOS 16, Apple is also putting great emphasis on your photos as a means to turn the Lock Screen into a personal, beautiful space that is uniquely yours.


At the top of the picker, you’ll find an Albums tab, a search bar that supports the same search features of the main Photos app, and a strip of filters for the kind of content that looks great as a Lock Screen wallpaper. You can filter your photo library by people, pets, nature, or cities. Note that these filters won’t show you all matching items from your library in chronological order: they will show you a subset of featured photos for those categories.


The third way to use photos on the Lock Screen is also one of my favorite features of iOS 16. With the photo shuffle mode, you can make your Lock Screen shuffle through a set of photos on a regular interval during the day. This way, you won’t have to pick a single wallpaper for the Lock Screen, and you can treat yourself to multiple wallpapers without having to create multiple Lock Screens.

I was excited to have rotating photos on my Lock Screen, but in practice it’s been really frustrating. The interface is confusing and does not work well.

First, it seems strange (and watchOS-like) that you have to pick the type of wallpaper (Photos, Photo Shuffle, Emoji, Weather, etc.) first and then can’t change it. If you start with Photos and add some widgets to customize it, you cannot go back and change to Photo Shuffle or a color. Instead, you have to create a new wallpaper and then manually recreate your widget layout.

Photo Shuffle doesn’t seem to actually shuffle on the chosen schedule, and it’s clunky to set up. What I want to do is designate an album in my iCloud Photo Library and then periodically update it from the Photos app. Instead, it’s limited to 50 photos, and I have to manually select them. There is a way to change the 50 later, by removing some of the photos and then adding more. The button to remove photos is a trash can, which seems like it would delete them, moving them to Recently Deleted, which is like iCloud’s trash. However, fortunately, it only removes them from the list of selected photos. Whether or not I change the selected photos, each time I edit the wallpaper it takes a while to save, as if it’s processing all the photos again. Since the shuffling doesn’t work, and it feels like a lot of taps to remove an old photo and select another when I simply want to add a new photo that I just took, I’ll probably just switch to the Photos wallpaper (which always shows a single photo, despite its plural name). Then I can more easily manage the selection myself.

Ged Maheux:

Why does iOS 16 force you to create an all new wallpaper set when you want to make a simple change to the Lock or Home Screen?

Why does it treat these two screens as linked at the hip?

Andy Runton:

It’s infuriating. You also can’t add just dynamic home screens like weather without changing the lock screen. The UI constraints are baffling. The same is true with Watch OS 9. You can’t duplicate faces and you can only adjust a few colors. It makes zero sense.

Lee Bennett:

At least (as I’ve discovered) I don’t have to wait for those LONG spinner icons to finish rendering the previews. If I’m not changing the home screen wallpaper, I can go ahead and tap the button to accept the lock screen changes.


Update (2022-09-26): Nick Babich:

With all the UI changes that Apple introduced in iOS 16, including the Dynamic Island that got a lot of media attention, one subtle change hugely impacted almost everyone. Apple increased the font size of the clock display on the iPhone lock screen. Now it’s 82pt bold typeface.


The new font size doesn’t match the overall aesthetics of the iOS 16. The clock in the new design looks like an alien object to other UI elements of iOS 16; that’s why people are so bothered about this change.

I meant to write about this in my original post, but now Babich has and has included screenshots, too. I’m disappointed that there are now multiple font choices but that they all, in my opinion, look worse than the old font. I really wish I could make it smaller or less bold.

Update (2022-10-14): Josh Centers:

When you first install iOS 16, you’re given only the regular default Lock Screen, which cannot be customized, though it does pick up your existing Lock Screen wallpaper.


If you find the wallpaper selection Screen confusing, you’re not alone. Along the top is a horizontally scrolling list of buttons for the main types of Lock Screen wallpapers: Photos, People, Photo Shuffle, Emoji, Weather, Astronomy, and Color. Below that is a vertically scrolling gallery of Lock Screen wallpapers, some preconfigured with widgets. Confusingly, the Collections category is available only in the gallery, not among the buttons.


If you don’t see the third-party widgets you expect, it’s not your fault—there are bugs Apple has yet to stamp out. Many users and app developers are reporting that they do not see newly added widgets.

Alan Forkosh:

After you create the new lockscreen, you can delete the inflexible one.

I am disappointed by two issues:

The inability to use an existing lockscreen as a template for a new one ( a duplicate command would make this possible).

Treating the lockscreen and home screen wallpaper as a tandem set. I have a wallpaper, not necessarily related to the lockscreen that I wish to use with every lockscreen. Having to search out and crop the photo that forms that home screen is a pain. (The wallpaper is a double waterfall cropped so that the two falls lie between columns of apps).

Gordon Meyer:

In my case the Lock Screen image I’ve had for years is no longer present in Photos, but still shows up on the Lock screen. I love it, for sentimental reasons, and don’t want to lose it by deleting that screen, so I’m stuck.

And I completely agree about how odd it is that the Home wallpaper and Lock wallpaper are linked/paired. Makes no sense to me, and as you said, makes for extra work.

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The iOS 16 lock screen update was pretty disappointing… for the reasons listed, and how easily it is to trigger the customization accidentally, and for the complete loss of the previous light/dark mode wallpapers! Not the functionality though, that still works if you had one set on iOS 15 before updating.

Very confusing design choices all in all.

It's also 100 % impossible to have a wallpaper on the Home screen and an arbitrary photo on the Lockscreen. The other way is possible (photo on Home, wallpaper on Lock), but there's absolutely no way to put an Apple wallpaper onto the Home screen without downloading it (so it becomes a standard photo in the photo library). The UI simply doesn't show wallpapers when picking an image for the Home screen, and if you pick a wallpaper first, it always places it on both the Lock and Home.

Super baffling and zero mentions about this on Apple blogs.

I find the implementation of photo shuffle for the Lock Screen to be yet another example of how engineers are more interested in fiddling with ML than with providing a good user experience. Choose a Photos album (Favorites is the obvious target) and then having the phone shuffle those photos randomly at chosen intervals would be relatively easy to do. In fact, I already had something similar set up via Shortcuts. But no, they can’t just do the obvious. They have to “process” your photos so they can surface the ones that ML determines are the best ones, rather than the ones you actually want to use.

@Darrenoia Care to share said shortcut, please?

The gradient functionality also makes no sense. I like the gradient styles, but they cannot be used on the home screen, unless you use the same gradient for both the lock and the home screen. If you choose a photo for the lock screen, you cannot get gradient styles on the home screen. None of this makes any sense. It's all so arbitrary.

The easiest way is to go to the Photos app and set a photo as wallpaper. You can scroll right to see different styles/colors/fonts that are auto-choose for a different photo. From this point of view, this is a good enhancement. The shuffle wallpaper function is really a mess.

To replace the shuffle function, I just play around with different photos as wallpaper in the Photos app, set some as wallpapers, and manually switch them on the lock screen.

I have an app Timeflower to easily add a photo to an album (by typing, not scrolling in a long list), so I already have a "wallpaper" album.

@jie It seems like if you do it that way you have to reconfigure the widgets each time you change the photo.

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