Your iPhone Home Screen Will Be More Colorful and Customizable in iOS 18

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The most exciting enhancements in Apple’s major iPhone software releases are often the system-wide changes, and that’s certainly the case in iOS 18. This year, Apple continues the trend toward a more customizable user interface that began with iOS 14 by taking your Home Screen to an entirely new level.

While Android users will be quick to point out that they’ve had these features for years (and they’re entirely right), those who don’t want to switch platforms to get a more customizable Home Screen will be delighted to know that iOS 18 raised the bar in two significant ways.

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First up, you’ll (finally) be able to place an icon nearly anywhere you like on the screen without worrying about leaving blank spaces. The icons will still snap into the standard grid layout, but they don’t need to be lined up starting at the top of the screen.

You could create a single Home Screen page with one or two icons in the middle if that’s your thing. However, perhaps more useful here is that, as Apple’s Craig Federighi pointed out during yesterday’s iOS 18 presentation, you can move the icons out of the way so that your background wallpaper shows through.

But that’s not all. Apple is also finally bringing Dark Mode to the Home Screen — complete with a gorgeous set of dark icons to match.

A new Customize option when editing your Home Screen will let you switch to the dark look permanently or have it follow your device’s settings. This can also be used to customize the look of your Home Screen in several other ways.

  1. You can toggle on large icons if you’d prefer to get rid of the app titles and focus on the graphics.
  2. You can choose the Tinted option to apply shading to all your Home Screen icons and widgets, with two sliders to adjust hue and saturation.
  3. In the Tinted mode, you can darken the wallpaper for more of a nighttime look.
  4. If you can’t quite get the right shade, you can also use the eyedropper tool to match the color to part of your background wallpaper.

While the tinted icons work throughout the entire UI, even into the widgets, third-party developers will presumably have to add their own dark icon renders to their apps. As of the first iOS 18 beta, only Apple’s first-party apps support Dark Mode, which can make things look a bit strange when you’re mixing in third-party apps, which most of us do.

Hopefully, developers will get on board; Apple may require them to provide a proper dark icon when submitting updates for iOS 18, but that won’t help for apps that aren’t regularly updated.

Locking and Hiding Apps

You’ll also be able to lock apps behind Face ID to keep prying eyes out of them whenever someone else is using your iPhone, or even hide apps entirely if you don’t even want folks to see that you have them installed.

While we’ve shared some workarounds for both these things in the past — you can lock an app behind Face ID using a Shortcut and use the App Library to keep apps out of sight — these are both imperfect solutions. Locking an app using Shortcuts will only prevent someone from opening it, but it doesn’t prevent notifications from showing up or information being found from that app in a Spotlight search. Using the App Library is an even more kludgy workaround, as it has similar problems with notifications and searches. More significantly, it doesn’t completely hide the app — it just puts it somewhere that most folks are less likely to see it.

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With iOS 18, both of these features are fully built into the operating system, and hiding an app actually hides it entirely from sight. You won’t even get notifications from it, nor will it show up in any searches. The app icon will be obscured and tucked away in a “Hidden” folder in the App Library that requires Face ID or Touch ID to open. Granted, this will still reveal that you have some hidden apps, but nobody will be able to find out what those apps are. (Note that this feature doesn’t appear to be working yet in the first iOS 18 developer beta; the Hidden folder is there, but there are no options to actually hide an app, and dragging an app into the folder does nothing).

Similarly, locking an app removes the need for app developers to have their own built-in security protections — and it works far better than most of those do anyway. A locked app will still show notifications, but these won’t contain any content; they’ll show up similarly to what you get when your iPhone is locked. Locked VoIP apps also won’t appear in Call History or suggestions from Siri or Spotlight.

You’ll even need to authenticate if you try to interact with the app using Siri. For example, if you lock Reminders and ask Siri to remind you to do something, you’ll be told to look at your iPhone’s screen to continue so that Siri can make sure it’s you making the request.

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