In praise of Apple's new Contacts widget for iPhones and iPads

The Home Screen widget turns your device into a powerful contact and communication management system.

Apple, WWDC, iOS, iOS 15, iPad, iPhone, widget

While we wait for Apple to properly repair Safari’s user interface, there's good news: the all-new Contacts widget in iOS 15 is going to be really useful, not just to every iPhone or iPad user, but to every enterprise user, too. Because the widget turns your device into a powerful contact and communication management system.

How so? Read on.

A useful addition to the Home Screen

Contacts is, well, basically a contacts book. But Apple has improved it with the addition of a vamped-up widget in iOS 15.

You add the widget just like any other, long-press on an app or widget on your device and select Edit Home Screen, tap the plus (+) button and then choose one you might want to use.

If you install the Contacts widget, you get what I think is a powerful and useful tool to provide you with a valuable personal information manager. It's available in four configurations: A single-pane view connects you to the person you communicate with the most, and four-, six-, and 10-person views are populated automatically. The widget tracks the people you are in contact with most and makes them available to you via the widget.

That’s nice when you want a quick-and-easy way to contact your partner, family, or close friends who you might be in contact with frequently. But it should be of equal value to any enterprise worker involved in frequent communication with internal or external partners. It makes it easy to contact that person directly from the home screen.

Staying on top of relationships

But that’s not the reason I think so highly of this widget. It’s what happens when you tap one of those panes that makes it exciting, because if you interact with that contact a lot, then what you’ll see when you tap their icon is a digest of all your recent interactions.

You can see recent Messages, emails, photos ,and shared links; any files that mention that person; any shared Notes; calendar appointments that feature that person; and all recent Reminders.

That’s extremely useful. It will even show you that person’s birthday if you add it to your calendar. (Do you know how many successful contract wins have happened as a result of someone noting someone else’s birthday and sending them a greeting? I don’t know the answer, but I reckon it’s the kind of social glue that should be in any marketing 101.)

It means you can maintain oversight across all your current key contacts and communications from the home screen on your iPhone.

That’s invaluable for on-the-go project planning, and while it doesn’t (and arguably, shouldn’t) replace a full-weight project management or collaboration tool, it will help. This is the kind of solution people once paid for in its own right and now it’s available as standard issue on every iPad and iPhone, beginning with iOS/iPad OS 15.

It should be great in a Smart Stack with another new widget – Mail.

In praise of Mail

Another widget I’m finding really useful is the Mail widget, which lets you track incoming messages in a specific mailbox. That's fine in its own right, but can be extraordinarily useful if you make good use of the VIP tool in Mail.

The latter lets you define key contacts as VIPs, which then lets you prioritize incoming messages from those people. The Mail widget lets you track incoming VIP mails or any other In-box, meaning you can always scan recently received messages from your most important contacts on your Home screen.

But for me, the Contacts widget is going to be something I use a lot. I think most people will, too.

Please follow me on Twitter, or join me in the AppleHolic’s bar & grill and Apple Discussions groups on MeWe.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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