Hands-on Google lock screen tools for iOS [Video]

We don’t talk much about iOS or iPhone here at 9to5GoogleHowever, for those firmly rooted in the Apple hardware ecosystem, you have access to a number of Google Apps lock screen widgets that are exclusive to iOS that you won’t find on Android. Are they any good? We’ve been working practically to see if Android users miss out.

Apple’s attempt at an always-on screen app isn’t exactly what we expected. It’s almost a “non-stop view” rather than the dull monochrome options that have become synonymous with Android. In iOS 16, Apple also introduced basic lock screen widgets which is something that some Android device manufacturers have long supported. In terms of functionality, it is nothing more than decorating windows and behaving like shortcuts to your favorite apps.

That didn’t stop Google from adding some iOS-exclusive lock screen widgets for six apps: Maps, Search, Chrome, Drive, Gmail, and News. You literally won’t find anything like this on Android, unless we see a huge shift in how Google sees the mobile operating system in Android 14 and beyond.

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Google Search Tools requires a custom Google Search app from the App Store. So if you’re wondering why they don’t exist, go ahead and download just Google Search or Google Search from Apple’s digital storefront. It’s obviously not as integrated into iOS as it is on Android where none of these apps exist, but you’ll probably use them more consistently.

You can put one of two search tools. Double or single size toggle opens directly to the search bar in the text field. Voice search will play immediately in the basic assistant-powered full-screen view provided microphone access is enabled. If you hate Siri, this might be the way to get a more powerful voice assistant in a prominent location that’s quick and easy to access on your device.

The two strongest options here are the widgets that allow you to launch directly into Google Lens. The Lens primary option only opens this section of the Google app, but the custom app widget can be changed to any translation, shopping, or even Solve Homework option. Simply add it to your lock screen, tap to expand and choose your preferred widget. This will save time and effort and we can see that it is useful in a variety of scenarios.


google lock screen tools for ios

Chrome has a number of nifty 1×1 widgets that can be placed on the iPhone lock screen. This includes a quick “New Tab” search option. This takes you directly to the text entry field of your favorite search engine even if it’s not Google. The fast incognito tab option provides the same utility but this time in an untracked search window.

The voice search option is similar to the Google search option, but this triggers the voice search within a new browser tab. This also means that you can close it and open a new tab without restricting access just like with the Google app. By far, the included Chrome Dino 1×1 game widget is the most fun. Clicking launches directly into a new tab where you can jump over as many cactus plants as possible.


google lock screen tools for ios

If you use Gmail as your default email client, lock screen widgets for iOS will be especially helpful or useful. Gmail’s tools are a little different in that you can even add an overhead line around the default lock screen clock. This displays the current calendar date with a prompt showing only the number of new messages available.

The 2 x 1 rectangular Gmail widget displays inbox sections categorized as Primary, Promotions, and Social. If Google Chat is active, you may also see any unread notifications here as well. The simple 1 in 1 tool simply shows how many unread emails are waiting with the Gmail logo below them. Clicking on any of the gadgets will take you directly to your inbox in the Gmail app.

Google Maps

google lock screen tools for ios

As long as you use Google Maps as your default mode of navigation, you can then have access to some quick and nifty toggles along with the information at a glance. Maps offers a 2 in 1 “Frequent Trips” tool, which should learn over time what type of regular trips you take. If you have a “home” address and set a preferred method of transport, directions, traffic conditions, and the estimated flight time to that location are shown by default.

The 1 in 1 map tool can be customized so that you can quickly search for notable or useful locations such as restaurants, local amenities such as coffee shops, parking lots, electric vehicle charging, gas stations, hotels and more. When paired with Google Lens shortcuts, this can come in handy when traveling internationally.

Google News

google lock screen tools for ios

Google News Lock Screen Widget for iOS provides a simple live news ticker based on your previous viewing or reading habits. It only comes in a simple 2×1 icon size that displays the publication’s name next to the Google News logo, while the title is located at the bottom more prominently. Each news story will change periodically throughout the day. Clicking will open Google News and then load the publishing site within the app’s page viewer.

Google Drive

Of all the Google gadgets running iOS 16, the Drive options feel the most comfortable. As a way to quickly access any uploaded or shared files, it doesn’t feel like the best fit for your smartphone lock screen.

There is a 2 x 1 widget for suggested files. This only shows a snippet of any text files or provides a little bit of information based on the last time you opened or used Drive. While two additional 1×1 widget options for searching allow you to jump into file searches within the app. The starred tool allows you to quickly access your favorite files without having to unlock and launch the Drive app.

last thoughts

If you’re on an iPhone, the new widgets are probably very useful for your reference but in terms of functionality, Google’s iOS lock screen widgets add very little. Apple’s limits on the number of toggles you can put on your lock screen means that, at most, you can have up to four (4) small, two (2) double-sized ones, or a combination of two small and one large each Profile personly.

Visually, this makes sense but in terms of functionality, it can be discouraging. However, it is a step in the right direction for people who prefer iOS over Android. You get a little extra Always-on without sacrificing Apple’s often-cited “clean” aesthetics.

For those of us who use Android, there’s not much to miss in saving a little alert info. Fortunately, the At a Glance widget on Pixel phones is slowly starting to expand with more functionality that will undoubtedly outpace these limited iOS gadgets over the coming months.

If you use an iPhone, how do you find the limited set of Google lock screen tools on iOS? Do you have a favorite app and what apps would you like to add in the future? Let us know in the comments section below.

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