Tech

Android 15 might bring back lock screen widgets

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Enlarge / Jelly Bean is back!

Andrew Cunningham

It sure looks like Android 15 is going to have lock screen widgets. The Android 14 QPR2 beta landed the other day, and Mishaal Rahman over at Android Authority found a hidden unfinished feature that brings back lock screen widgets. We’ve expected this to happen since Apple’s big lock screen widget release with iOS 16.

Rahman found a new “communal” space feature that resembles lock screen widgets. After enabling the feature and swiping in from the right of the lock screen, a pencil icon will pop up. Tapping the icon opens up a widget list, allowing you to move some widgets to the lock screen. Right now, in this unfinished state, the default lock screen clock and notification panel UI don’t know how to get out of the way yet, so you get a pile of widgets with the usual lock screen UI on top. It’s a mess.

Lock screen widgets... sort of. It's early.
Enlarge / Lock screen widgets… sort of. It’s early.

Any time one smartphone operating system does something, the other tends to copy it, and iOS added lock screen widgets in 2022. Two years later is plenty of time for Google to adjust and copy the feature. The thing is, Android added lock screen widgets in 2012 with Android 4.2. Google removed the feature two years later in Android 5.0, so really, this is Android copying iOS copying Android. Some of this code is apparently making a comeback, as all the widgets available to the lock screen were ones that still had the 10-year-old “keyguard” flag set for Android 4.2.

The widget lock screen has strangely been named the “communal” space, and Rahman speculates this might be because this particular UI experiment was meant for tablets in a dock mode. “Communal” would mean that everyone in your house could see them, and maybe it would be good to limit the amount of personal data displayed without needing to pass the lock screen. This is just one of the feature experiments that happened to slip out the door, though, and it’s hard to imagine Google not letting phones do this, too, when iOS already does it.

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