October is shaping up to be a fantastic month for smartphone enthusiasts. Not only did Google release its highly-praised Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro this week, but Android 14 also made its official debut on all supported Google devices. One particular feature on iOS caught my attention and got me thinking: Google’s lock screens could learn a thing or two from Apple’s photo tricks.
If you’ve had a chance to play with a Pixel running Android 14, you’ve likely explored the new lock screen customization options. They’re among the most noticeable visual changes in this year’s Android update. You can tweak your clock’s design and size, and even sync it with Material You for a color-coordinated look, a major improvement from the plain appearance of Android 13 and earlier.
This seems like a response to Apple’s lock screen customization introduced with iOS 16 last year. However, I believe Google falls short in a few key ways. Sure, we could wish for widgets or the ability to place photo elements in front of the clock for a cool depth effect, but my request is actually much simpler and more practical.
I recently attempted to set a picture of my two cats on my Pixel 8 Pro’s lock screen. If you have multiple pets or kids, you know the frustration when your photo just won’t fit your phone’s screen. You could go through the trouble of creating a collage in Photoshop, but late in the evening, that’s hardly appealing. Mobile photo editing tools can be a hassle and often don’t achieve the desired result. So, I gave up and went to sleep.
Then, a surprise arrived: the iPhone 15 Pro Max, which I ordered for comparisons and content. When I tried to change my iOS lock screen wallpaper for the first time in months, I stumbled upon a new feature added just last month. Using the same cat photo that had frustrated me on the Pixel, I was able to adjust the image perfectly, with a blurred extension filling in the display’s top.
Of course, it’s not perfect. The blur begins a bit too early for my liking, and the ears of one cat are faded. Notifications on iOS tend to cover up my other cat, but that’s a common issue on lock screens meant to show your missed notifications.
Compared to Google’s lack of such a feature, this was a pleasant surprise. The image was nearly unusable on the Pixel without external editing. Apple’s lock screen is clever enough to anticipate that I might want to use poorly framed photos, adding a blur as I crop the image.
This feature feels like something Google should excel at, especially considering its camera-focused software like Best Take, Magic Editor, and Zoom Enhance. Their strategy appears to focus on improving photos through software tricks after they’re taken. Features like Best Take aim to salvage less-than-perfect shots, while Magic Editor enhances and optimizes images post-capture. Isn’t this what’s happening on the iPhone’s lock screen when I crop an image?
Both Apple and Google draw inspiration from each other’s ideas regularly. Android 14’s lock screen customizations are evidence of that. I’m not one to be frustrated by this cross-pollination of ideas; instead, I hope Google takes note of what Apple did in iOS 17 and considers incorporating a similar concept into future OS updates. There was something truly magical about pinching the lock screen image on iOS and watching the display intelligently fill in the missing space. I can only hope my Pixel 8 Pro will do the same someday.