One of the nifty features, is the ability to use custom widgets in iOS 8. We haven’t yet reached the point where you can place widgets on your home screen. Honestly, I don’t see that happening anytime soon on iOS. For now, widgets call the Today notification view, home. From anywhere on your iPhone or iPad, pulling down the notification tab will reveal your today information, followed by widgets you’ve added. By having these occupy your Today notification panel, it means quick access from the lock screen, which adds the utility of these apps. The functionality of the Today panel becomes infinitely more useful. That’s a big thing, because for some folks, I’m sure the Today view had become an afterthought. We’ve put together a list of the best iOS widgets for iOS 8 from those available now. It’s a great way to get started using widgets and to start rekindling your appreciate for the Today screen. Sports, weather, photos, battery life and so much more.
How to add widgets
Not all apps have widgets. In fact, the rollout is slower than you might expect. Apps that support widgets will be available in the Today view drop-down from Notification Center. If you scroll to the bottom and tap on ‘Edit’, you’ll see a list of widgets available to you. If you start downloading apps mentioned below, you’ll have a number of widgets available to you.
Wdgts – A Collection of Awesome Notification Center Widgets
What better way to start things off, than with Wdgts. Where some apps use widgets as an added feature, the Wdgts apps is nothing more than an area to configure your widgets. It’s a good thing too, because there are no shortage of options here. The free version offers you a number of customizable widgets including a calculator, currency converter, time zones, calendar or a photo frame. The Pro version adds support for a cool looking battery widget, memory and disk usage and network monitoring utility.
Here’s a look at the Photo Frame. You can add multiple photos from your Photo Library or iCloud and it’ll change photos. This particular widget isn’t overly useful, but it’s nice to have a favorite photo or two appear in your Today view.
What’s nice about Wdgts is the swiss-army knife aspect. There’s definitely something for everyone and most of it, is free.
When Apple failed mass transit when taking over the stock Maps app from Google, a window of opportunity opened for third party developers. Since then, Transit has been among one of the best apps for finding local train and bus departures, times and locations. If you take mass transit, your commute is likely filled with a bit of hustle and when you need information, you need it fast. While Transit was good before, the addition of a widget builds upon that success. From the lock screen, you drag down to access the Transit widget, in all its glory. You don’t have to get caught up in unlocking your phone, looking for the app and finding your train or bus.
If you know where you are going, this is a useful app. For those of you traveling to metropolitan cities, it’s an absolute must-have. You may not be in a hurry, but have correct information at a glance will let you find buses and trains with relative ease.
Sure we’re talking widgets today, but Transit deserves to be metioned not only for an awesome widget, but for being a go-to app for finding train and bus departures.
Confession, I absolutely love television. Our TiVo has over 100 season passes. There’s a TiVo app that’s good for watching TV or recorded programs, but it’s not great for quickly finding out something as basic as “what’s on tonight.” That’s where TeeVee shines. The app lets you add your favorite TV shows in a flash. In fact, the first time you launch TeeVee 3, it will bring up popular shows. Tap on a show and it’s added. It’s does a fantastic job of grabbing cover art and displaying a countdown to when a show will be on. There are many more features, including previews, cast, episode guides and more. It has the look and feel of a personal IMDB for TV. TeeVee 3 has a widget, that brings a calendar of upcoming shows to your notification center. It displays a list with channel, date and time. The list is limited to five shows, which is slightly disappointing. Still, all in all, this is a great way to quickly see what’s on TV.
Download TeeVee 3
Clips – Copy and paste anywhere
Clips provides with access to your 5 most recent text clippings. The app works in the background, keeping track of when you copy text. If you copied a URL last week, it’ll show up in the ‘recent clips’ section of the Clips widget. There are even options as to how you wanted it copied, opting for either URL or Title + URL. While still technically in the clipboard, the utility of Clips comes when you have multiple clippings. Now I used a website URL as an example, but it works with any text selection.
If you find yourself repeatedly typing a specific selection of text or website URLs, Clips will save you time. Let’s say you receive an email that requires a canned reply. Swipe down, tap to copy and off to Mail you go, ready to paste the response.
The $1.99 Pro version offers an unlimited number of clips and will sync clips across all of your devices.
Yahoo continues to be among the best weather apps. It’s simple, clean UI coupled with beautiful photography (courtesy of Flickr) makes it a pleasure to check the weather. Hey, sunny skies do help, but there’s nothing Yahoo can do about that. What they have done is created an widget for their weather app. Why mess with success and that’s the philosophy followed by the developers who authored this widget.
Yahoo Weather is both informative and gorgeous. You get today’s forecast that features highs and lows for the day. It’s also broken up to provide you with a preview of evening and night. If rain is in the forecast, you’ll see the percentage chance, which should be a good indicator of whether you need foul weather gear.
Yahoo Weather is visual, informative and free. It’s worthy of any notification center.
Download Yahoo Weather
Need to keep tabs on your favorite teams. ESPN lets you customize your favorite teams. You’ll get up to date scores, information on upcoming games and current record. If you tap on a sporting event, you’ll jump in the ESPN app with either a recap of the game or a preview. The widget is great if you only follow a few teams. Sports Scores and Alerts offers a more complete listing of league-wide scores. The latter could make for a busy widget, but ESPN should offer more and hopefully they will with new updates. For one, there should be a breaking news widget, bringing the most important headlines to the widget. You can get these via notification alerts, but those might not be ideal.
If you’re a sports fan, SportsCenter is a good start and worth downloading.
Download ESPN SportsCenter
Remember the feature in iOS 6 that let you update your status or tweet from Notification Center? Apple dropped it in iOS 7, but with the addition of widgets, social networking updates can once again be accomplished from the Notification Center. TapToShare requires that open the app and keep it running. That allows it to be in keeping with Apple’s guidelines. Add it to widgets and TapToShare brings social updates to iOS 8.
Big Day Lite – Event Countdown
Do you have a big day coming up? Maybe it’s the delivery date for your iPhone 6, Christmas, birthday or the Super Bowl. Big Day lets you setup a countdown to the event that will be displayed as a widget. You can configure it to include an image, which gives your big event the pizazz it needs. Next to your image, it’ll give the number of days remaining and the name of your big event. The lite version is full featured, but limited to just one event. If you have big things happening, then the $0.99 countdown should be well worth it. The only limitation is that it does not allow for hourly configurations. So your Big Day always starts at 12:00 a.m.
So if you’ve got a baby on the way, getting married, have an iPad Air 2 that’s arriving soon or an upcoming vacation, Big Day Lite will help you count the days, directly within Notification Center.
Download Big Day Lite
If Wdgts is the swiss army knife of widgets, this app is the kitchen sink. The free version of Vidgets lets you set all sorts of widget configurations including clocks, system, network speed monitors, GPS and weather. Given the scope of widgets offered, the developers included spacers and separators to help keep your widgets neatly organized.
Clocks and time seem like duplication, but hey, some folks like them. Having a timer seems like a practical widget that anyone can get behind. The free version also provides for extensive system monitoring including battery life, free space, free memory and monitoring of your network speeds over mobile and WiFi.
There’s plenty to like about Vidgets, with so many features included in the free version. The $2.99 IAP pro version removes all restrictions and you can hide widget titles, create custom widget colors, themes and more.
You didn’t think we were going to do the best iOS 8 widgets and only include one weather widget! While Yahoo shines in its simplicity, Weather Underground excels in the amount of information offered via its widget. It’s not what you’d call minimal design, but I found the added information to be displayed in a way that wasn’t graphically heavy, which seems to be a growing problem with some of the major weather apps. Some are using widgets as an opportunity to push video forecasts, only available on their websites.
Weather Underground shows the current date, time along with highs, lows, current temperature and the percentage chance for rain. Highs and lows don’t always tell the full story for your day. A chart displays the weather temperature line throughout your day. On the Y axis, you can view the changing percentage chance of rain.
Both Yahoo Weather and Weather Underground do a good job with their iOS 8 widgets, though neither offers a long-term view. That’s certainly where both could improve.
Download Weather Underground
Widgets in iOS 8 are a great way to access content and tools that matter most to you. From the lock screen or anywhere in iOS, sliding down the Today View in Notification Center will reveal information that you’ve customized. You can use widgets for weather, sports, system information, text clipping, photo gallery and so much more. The list we’ve compiled are some of the best widgets for iOS 8, but you can expect this list to grow over time as more developers upgrade their apps. If you need more widget recommendations, our forum has a running thread that may be of interest. Are you using Notification Center more since widgets became available? What widgets are you using?