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This year, Apple wants to make things personal – with more customization features than ever

If there was an overriding theme at WWDC this year, it was that Apple wants to make your devices feel like your own. In part, that will come through AI underpinning everything, and surfacing information that most matters to you. Relevant messages in Mail. Great images in Photos. But also, certain upcoming updates suggest Apple has – to some extent – finally broken free from its previous limiting rigidity.

Apple used the word ‘customization’ so often during its keynote that you half wondered if it would reveal the next iPhone would go old-school with snap-on replacement cases. What we got was almost no less shocking, especially if you’d avoided Apple rumors: Home Screens and Control Center will soon be able to look more like you want them to, rather than how Apple itself wants them to be.

We’re not quite into ‘anything goes’ territory. If you want a giant button for Mail right in the center of your Home Screen that – for some reason – resembles a dancing giraffe, you’re out of luck. But you will be able to place icons with precision, rather than them always streaming in, waterfall-style, from the top-left of the screen.

Tinted Home Screen

In iOS 18, app icons can be placed with precision – and tinted.

Similar flexibility is coming to Control Center, which will not only afford you more scope for personalized layouts but also allow for the integration of third-party controls. Handily, Apple has extended this customization to the Lock Screen as well – great if you’d prefer something other than flashlight and camera buttons – and will also allow such controls to be triggered using an iPhone 15 Pro Action Button.

There are other Home Screen customization options on the way too – although these need more work. The current iteration of ‘dark’ icons looks rough, and the means to tint icons to be the same color is a strange decision from a usability standpoint. Apple’s obsession with eradicating color differentiation from its interface is bad enough as it is. The company doesn’t need to be encouraging people.

However, you could argue it’s a net plus users now have the choice. And it’s positive that Apple is – gradually and carefully – replacing its unyielding past with a somewhat more pliable present. Here’s hoping it goes further in the months to come. As much as it would be nice to change the color of Home Screen icons, it would be better if those icons could launch apps that could be installed from anywhere – not just the App Store. Right now, only users in the EU have that benefit. It seems Apple’s willingness to let you make your device your own only goes so far.