6 Home Screen Hacks for Your iPhone Apple Won’t Tell You About

There are many ways to customize your iPhone’s Home Screen on iOS 16, but some of the more interesting ones are the options Apple won’t tell you about or hasn’t even thought of.

Since its inception, the iPhone has come a long way in terms of customization. Over the years, Apple has included some innovative Home Screen personalization features on iOS while incorporating other useful options inspired by Android and old jailbreak tweaks. There are only a few Home Screen modifications we still can’t perform, such as changing an app’s name directly, hiding widget names, and placing app icons and folders with spaces between them. But that pales in comparison to what we can do.

Currently, Apple has Home Screen features that let you add widgets, remove apps, hide entire Home Screen pages, set specific Home Screen pages per custom Focus, change wallpaper tones, effects, and colors, view your iPhone’s battery percentage, and more. But there are a few “features” you won’t find Apple recommending on iOS for iPhone, and here are some of them:

1. Choose Alternate App Icons

A little-known feature in some iOS apps allows you to change their Home Screen icons with official alternative designs. Apple has guidance for developers on implementing this feature in their apps, but it’s up to the app developers themselves to tell you about the option, and that doesn’t always happen.

If there are alternate app icons available, you can find them via the in-app settings menu, its preferences in the Settings app, and sometimes even as a quick action on the app icon itself. But it’s better to consult our full roundup of apps with alternative Home Screen app icons you can select. Below, you can see Target’s and DuckDuckGo’s current offerings.

2. Create Your Own App Icons

When iOS 12 came out, people began slowly catching on to the trend of making custom icons for apps on the Home Screen using the Shortcuts app. However, it didn’t blow up until iOS 14 when Apple improved the feature tenfold, making it possible to hide the original app and just keep the custom version.

Still, Apple hasn’t actually ever given explicit instructions or promoted the use of custom Home Screen icons for iPhone apps. That’s likely because it isn’t a perfect system.

Simply create a new shortcut, add the “Open App” action, and pick the app for the action. Then, hit the drop-down icon next to the shortcut name at the top or the info (i) button in the toolbar and choose “Add to Home Screen.” Change the title to the app’s name, select your custom image for the app, and hit “Add.”

When it’s added, you can move the real app icon off your Home Screen, banishing it to the App Library, where your new custom alias will also appear. So while you can keep just your custom one on the Home Screen, you’ll still see both in the App Library, but that’s a fair trade as far as I’m concerned. For the instructions, see our complete guide on creating custom app icons for your Home Screen.

3. Write Messages to Yourself

Try renaming all the folders on a single Home Screen page to give yourself an inspirational quote, a reminder, or some other type of message every time you view the page. To do so, make a grid of folders, enter the Home Screen editor, and then name each folder as a part of the message until the entire message is complete.

You can even do this with app icons if you replace the current ones with bookmarks from the Shortcuts app, as described above. However, you must assign the words while adding the app shortcuts to the Home Screen, not after.

4. Remove Folder Names

If you prefer a more tidy Home Screen, you can remove all your folder names and just rely on the tiny icons within each folder icon to know which one’s which. To do so, enter the Home Screen editor and replace each folder name with a special invisible character, such as the braille blank space (copy the contents between the brackets below). Simply deleting the folder name won’t work.

[⠀]     U+2800  Braille blank space

For more invisible Unicode characters that can work, see our complete guide to removing folder names on your Home Screen.

5. Remove App Names

You can also remove all the app names on your Home Screen, but it’s not as simple as wiping out all your folder names. Instead, you must replace the current app icons with bookmarks from the Shortcuts app, as described above for custom app icons.

Follow the instructions above to create a custom app icon on your Home Screen, but use the app’s original icon instead of a custom one when adding it to your Home Screen. Before adding it, delete the contents of the name and hit “Add.” Unlike folder names, you don’t need a special invisible character to go nameless. And these bookmarks will appear at the very bottom of the App Library, out of the way.

To learn the whole process with more details and tips, see our full guide to hiding app icon names on your Home Screen.

6. Create Contact Pages

Apple offers a Contacts widget, where you can have up to six contacts within easy reach on your iPhone’s Home Screen, but that’s a waste of a lot of space. The most contacts you can have on one Home Screen page at a time is nine using two different widget sizes. For a better contacts page — one you can hide or unhide anytime you want — Shortcuts can help yet again.

You could use two Shortcuts widgets to bring the contacts number per Home Screen page up to 12, but you won’t have contact pictures to go by. Instead, make a shortcut for each contact, give them each a custom image, and add those to your Home Screen. With this approach, you can fit up to 24 contacts on each Home Screen page, and you can even hide their names if you want to go by pictures only.

Check out our guide on turning contacts into Home Screen bookmarks for the instructions and some tips on further ways to customize this idea.

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Cover photo and screenshots by Justin Meyers/Gadget Hacks
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