Who needs defaults? One of the best things about iOS is how much customisation it gives you over how your Home Screen and Lock Screen look and feel. Your iPhone’s built-in features go way beyond simply changing your wallpaper and calling it a day. Take a look under the hood and you’ll find that iOS lets you change far more than you thought was possible.

For example, in iOS 16 you can place small widgets on your iPhone’s Lock Screen that show your activity rings, upcoming reminders, and much more. There are toggles to change Lock Screen fonts, wallpaper colours, gradients and effects, and even add wallpapers that sparkle with beautiful animated effects or show the weather in real time.

That’s not all. You can also create custom Home Screens and Lock Screens that activate when you launch a specific Focus mode, saving you the time and hassle of manually setting everything up each time. There are oodles of options available, enabling you to create a theme that’s tailor-made to your specific requirements.

To get all this to work, just ensure your iPhone is compatible. Home Screen widgets require iOS 14 or later, while Focus mode needs iOS 15. For Lock Screen widgets, it’s iOS 16. (Note: the depth effect described on pages 72 and 73 requires an iPhone XR or later.) Let’s dive in.

Customise your Home Screen

Design a Home Screen that works perfectly for you

Adjusting your Home and Lock Screensis easy: just tap and hold on your Lock Screen then tap Customise. Next, tap either Lock Screen or Home Screen and you’ll see various options, from adding new widgets to applying gradient effects.

You can use different wallpapers when your iPhone is locked and unlocked, tweak everything from fonts to colours, and much more. We’ll show you how it’s all done.

1 Widgets

> Widgets live at the top of your Lock Screen. Tap one to replace or edit it.

2 Move or scale

> You can move or rescale the wallpaper by pinching your fingers together or apart.

3 Swipe for effects

> Swipe left or right or tap the dots to apply a colour effect to your wallpaper.

4 Change it up

> Change your wallpaper or apply a depth effect by tapping the buttons in the bottom corners.

HOW TO Add Lock Screen widgets

1 Add a new screen

Tap and hold your Lock Screen and add a new screen by scrolling all the way to the right, then tapping ‘+’ below Add New. Choose a Lock Screen style – there are screens with photos, colours, emoji and more – and tap it to begin.

2 Date widget

Tap the date at the top to open a widget list. You can scroll through any app that supports widgets below. Apple’s Weather app can display the weather at your location, moon cycles, wind speeds and more, for instance.

3 Secondary widgets

Below the time is an area for smaller widgets. Tap a widget (or tap Add Widgets if the area is empty), then tap an option to add it to the Lock Screen. You can drag widgets to this area or rearrange them into a new order.

HOW TO Change up the font

1 Fonts and colours

When editing a Lock Screen, tap the time to alter the font it uses. There are eight fonts to choose from, plus various colours. Font changes only apply to the time widget, but colour tweaks affect every widget’s text.

2 Digit scripts

In the font and colour menu, tap the globe icon. This lets you choose a different display script for the time on your Lock Screen. At the time of writing, the choices were Arabic, Arabic Indic, or Devanagari numerals.

3 Theme fonts

Some Lock Screen themes change the font and the overlay effect at the same time when you swipe left or right. These pre-made combinations are handy, but you can still change each font individually by tapping the time.

HOW TO Use animations and photos

1 Switch themes

Touch and hold your Lock Screen to see your existing screens. Changing your theme is as simple as swiping between them and tapping a new choice. Or you can swipe up and tap the trash can icon to delete a theme entirely.

2 Animated wallpapers

Touch and hold your Lock Screen to add a new screen. The wallpaper gallery contains a few interactive options. Tap Weather to see an animated view of your forecast, or tap Astronomy to see the moon or your location on Earth.

3 Depth effects

After adding a photo wallpaper, tap the ‘…’ icon (bottom right) to add a depth effect. This places a subject in front of the time (you might need to remove widgets first). You can also swipe left or right to apply colourful effects.

HOW TO Tweak the Home Screen

1 Change the photo

Touch and hold the Lock Screen and tap Customise > Home Screen. You’ll see a preview of the Home Screen, along with options at the bottom. Tap Photo if you want to choose a different wallpaper than the one used on your Lock Screen.

2 Colour or gradient

Now tap Done, tap Customise again, then tap your Home Screen. At the bottom, tap either Colour or Gradient, then tap the ‘+’ to change the hue. You can pick from 18 options and tweak each one’s tint using the slider.

3 Pair wallpapers

On the same screen, tap Pair to match the Home Screen background to the Lock Screen one. If they are paired, you can tap Blur to cloud the wallpaper. This could help your Home Screen apps and widgets stand out a bit more.

Image credit: Apple Inc

Focus modes & widget stacks

Cut out distractions with these handy tools

Not everyone knows that you can link a Home Screen or Lock Screen to one of iOS’s Focus modes, but it’s a powerful feature. It means you can create custom screens that contain just what you need to focus and, in the case of Sleep and Driving modes, have them apply themselves automatically without you having to lift a finger. Pair them with a few judicious widget stacks and you’ll be ready to go.

HOW TO Use Focus modes from the Lock Screen

1 Pick a Focus mode

You can link a Lock Screen to a Focus mode so the former can enable the latter (or vice versa). First, open Settings and tap Focus, then create a Focus mode. Alternatively, you might want to just use one of the default modes.

2 Create a link

Touch and hold the Lock Screen and tap Focus. A pop-up will appear with your Focus modes listed. Tap one to link it to your chosen Lock Screen; this Focus mode will now start whenever the selected Lock Screen is active.

3 Add some widgets

You can add widgets that will be helpful for your chosen Focus mode, such as a Google Maps widget showing estimated arrival times in Driving mode, or a Calendar widget with the day’s events in your work Focus mode.

HOW TO Hide Home Screen apps and pages

1 Customise Screens

In the Settings app, tap Focus and pick a Focus mode. You’ll see a Customise Screens section. The left image here lets you adjust the Lock Screen in Focus Mode, while the right image is for an Apple Watch (if available).

2 Hide some pages

Tap the middle option to tweak your Home Screen while the chosen Focus mode is active. Tap the pages you want to show and a tick appears below them. Any pages not selected will be hidden when your device is in this Focus mode.

3 Add new pages

Some Focus modes let you add new pages with suggested apps/widgets. Tap a page, then Edit Apps to change what appears. Tap Add to create the page. Tap Options if you want to hide notification badges on Home Screen apps.

HOW TO Create multi-layered widget stacks

1 Widget stacks

If you hide Home Screen pages in a Focus mode, you can still access your favourite widgets using widget stacks. These let you scroll between apps within a single widget, and are great for saving space and reducing clutter.

2 Merge two widgets

Touch and hold your unlocked iPhone’s background, then tap the ‘+’ (top-left). Add two widgets to your Home Screen. You can drop the second widget on to the first one (providing they’re the same size) to create a widget stack.

3 Keep customising

You can swipe up or down on the widget to scroll through the app widgets it contains. Add as many widgets to the stack as you like. Note that iOS also has a Smart Stack widget filled with widgets from apps you regularly use.

Create custom app icons with Shortcuts

First, save an iOS icon pack to your iPhone – there are plenty of free or paid-for options online. Now open Shortcuts and tap the ‘+’ button, then tap Add Action > Scripting > Open App. Tap App and pick the app you want to open. Now tap the Share icon, tap Add to Home Screen and give the shortcut a name. Tap the icon and press Choose Photo and pick an icon from your library. Finally, tap Add, then Done.