The photo widget on iOS is perfect for anyone who enjoys the chaos of shuffling their liked songs in public. One moment you’re listening to Idles and looking at a picture of your niece and the next thing you know, Ed Sheeran is blasting through the speakers and you’re watching a series of blurry photos of food you don’t remember taking.
Apple’s Photos widget allows you to have a few rotating “featured photos” from your photo library shown off on your screen. You can’t choose to display a specific photo, or even a selection of specific photos, so the featured photos are chosen at random. Herein lies the problem.
The feature is incalculably terrible. You can’t choose which photos it displays, so the decor of your home screen is at the whim of Apple’s algorithm. Today, my widget chose to show me a slideshow of my recent trip back home to visit my five-month-old niece. In the video, we bounce from one cute photo of a baby to another, before a meme one of my friends sent me popped up and ruined the vibe. The video continued with a few more baby photos sprinkled amongst screenshots of a mutual’s wedding announcement we were snooping through in one of my group chats.
That experience wasn’t entirely terrible or violent. But it also doesn’t meet the goal of elevating moments in our life that we’ve captured in our life and wish to remember. Last week, I opened my phone only to be met with a blurry, embarrassing photo from a party during my freshman year of college, not my cute niece. Another day, I was fed a series of cute pictures of me and my ex. Bummer!
And that’s just what I’ve seen with my own eyes. Imagine unlocking your phone around other people who might not be impressed with your collection of screenshots from Meghan Markle’s wedding. Or, worse, a continued flip through of the 400 selfies you took with your cat when you returned home after a late night. Both of these have happened to me — God gives his toughest battles to his bravest soldiers.
These scenarios are tame, but it could be a whole lot worse. Are there any photos on your camera roll you don’t want anyone else to see if they’re casually peaking over your shoulder, or grabbing your phone to change the song you’re playing? We can all relate.
You can’t blame it all on the app, though. At some point, you have to take responsibility for the actions of your past self, and the inevitable gut punch of embarrassment that comes with it. I get the same feeling from Facebook memories and TimeHop and Snapchat memories, too. But those require a bit more of searching — you have to physically log onto the site and look for your old posts. And they aren’t lumping a bunch of photos from a specific day or event or place together; instead, it’s usually a look into what you were doing that day in years prior.
The photo widget is considerably worse than all of these, though, because it slaps you across the face with your unfortunate memories each time you unlock your phone. And anyone around you with a view of your home screen can see it, too. Thankfully, it isn’t a requirement to use the photo widget on your home screen. You can disable it by pressing down on the widget until it wiggles, and clicking the “x” on the top right of the app.
You can also stop certain photos from being featured, but only after the damage has been done. First, click on the photo on your home screen to open it up on your photos app. Then, click the share button, and scroll down to “remove from featured photos.” If the widget shows you a memory, you can also remove that by clicking on the memory, opening it up on photos, clicking the three dots on the top right, and choosing “delete memory” or “suggest fewer memories like this.” The same thing goes for if you see photos of a specific person, like an ex, too often. You can’t do any of this preemptively, though, and you can’t choose which photos you’d like to feature instead.
Not everything about it is terrible, of course. It does occasionally remind you of good memories which make for a nice, nostalgic screenshot you can send to a friend. And sometimes weird slideshows of your dog are exactly what you want to see. But at what cost? The positives simply do not outweigh the negatives.
You’re better off downloading a third part photo widget app until Apple decides to roll out some new features.