Industry Analyst & Strategist

Customizing My iPhone

With iOS 14 in full swing, it’s time to go even more minimal with Apple’s Home Screen Widgets. Why? Well because we can, but having fewer distractions and temptations these days is a good thing. Some of the methods are updates on the original 2018 post but widgets and a new app are key to the transformation. Let’s take a look at the final product.

iOS 14 Home

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App Library and Launch Center Pro to the Rescue

App Library is the swipe left feature of iOS 14 that carefully hides all your apps. So all I need on the home screen are these four. Messages, Phone, and Safari and your good old fashioned default apps. The magic app is Launch Center Pro. It’s insanely configurable and allows more apps on the screen.

Launch Center Pro

With launch I can have multiple apps a thumb press away, the critical ones all one handed. The heights of newer iPhone make it all but impossible to reach the top two rows.

Black Wallpaper and Hidden Icons

Using Mysterious iPhone Wallpaper, Almost Black 2, folder background and the dock background disappear. It’s not just mysterious but completely magical. Follow along in the instructions and you’ll see all that extra chrome fade away. At the bottom of the post you can get the blank black icons in the section Blank Icon for Wallpapers to Hide Folders.


Widgetsmith is the ultimate breakout widget app. It is configurable for small, medium, and large widgets. To get the big date format, I need to use a Large Widget with Photo Day & Date. Why photo? While the app is great, it doesn’t (yet?) allow exact color codes to be entered. We need to see the background to #1f1f1f and the only way I’ve found so far is to create a large photo with only that shade of gray.

Widgetsmith 2.0 now supports custom colors via values! This is awesome, so if you’re using the almost black Magic Wallpaper, you can absolutely tap in #1f1f1f and your widget’s background will magically disappear. There are a bunch of other updates to Widgetsmith, but this is my most wanted and am glad it was added.

Also of note, the photo trick seems to only work for small and large widgets, not medium. Here’s the image if you are going this route.

Blank #1f1f1f

The Secret Folder

Last but not least, there are notifications that need to be reviewed but I really don’t need the apps taking up space. These include Spark Mail, Twitter, LinkedIn, and the dreaded Slack. So directly to the left of Messages is a hidden folder. The folder has no title, and the first pane of the folder is another of the blank icons. All of which makes the folder completely invisible. The best part of this is that badge icons will be shown and you can long press to see which app needs attention.

That’s it for the newest way to minimize your iPhone.


I do have a few requests of @LaunchCenterPro and @Widgetsmith/@_DavidSmith. I’d love for Launch to have a truly flat icon option. Even more important would be a color picker input for hex or RGB values, or maybe just a magic ‘#1f1f1f’ choice.

Original 2018 Post

Everyone wants to make their most personal device actually personal. Some more than others. Since the launch of iPhone there have been opportunities to do some intense changes to SpringBoard (SpringBoard is the standard application that manages the iOS home screen) but they all required jailbreaking. Now the problem is that not only is jailbreaking a bit more difficult than swiping to unlock, it’s also a quick way to screw up the security and privacy protections that keep you safe.

That doesn’t need to stop you from making some cool things happen.

Description of the Home Screen

There are a couple of things going on here on my iPhone XS:

  1. Apps moved down one row
  2. Hidden folders
  3. Hidden dock

But a quick aside about the apps installed, I actually like most of the stock apps but am insanely particular about a couple (and maybe I’ll even write full reviews one day). Email is a critical component of my work and Apple Mail just does not cut it. Spark by Readdle is number one in my book with its killer snooze feature. There are other email clients which do this (Airmail is a great second place) but I have found usability overall better with Spark (on iOS and MacOS). Next you’ll notice I’m using stock Calendar and Fantastical. Why? Well Fantastical is the best calendar app for iOS so that’s easy (though I’d love an update to that icon!) but Apple prevents dynamic icons except for its own apps (Clock and Calendar). So to have a nice in-your-face reminder of what day it is requires having Calendar available.

Back to the look. To achieve the effects above requires the right wallpaper, “empty” web Home Screen icons, and an invisible character.

The Wallpaper

This specific magical and mysterious wallpaper is provided by Mysterious iPhone Wallpaper (of course). The art and magic of Hideaki Nakatani is absolute genius. I don’t even pretend to understand how this voodoo gets created. I’m guessing some insane math and understanding of iOS rendering, regardless there is an area devoted to dock-less wallpapers. I chose one that would fade to white since I new I wanted to keep the stock calendar available to have a quick look at the date and moving that icon to the dock also hide the app title.

Blank Icons

To arrange icons we need to add “blank” icons. Using iEmpty requires a few interesting steps. Start with Create BLANK icons, this will require uploading a screenshot of a blank area of your phone. Instructions follow every step of the way. I created blank icons for the top row as well as multiple “white” icons to be utilized to hide icons within folders. You’ll also want to use the Set EMPTY folder name feature to grab the hidden character which will allow you to have no name for the icons or folders you may create. There is actually a row of folders below Spark | Todoist | Dropbox | Copper and can be tapped to open just like normal. Each first screen of every folder only contains one blank white icon while all the apps hide in subsequent screens. There is also one folder to the left, and one to the right, of the calendar in the dock. Most of the apps in the folders are not utilized on a daily basis or have alternate methods of being reached (we’ll see this in the Notifications screen later). One great thing about many of the recent iPhones is 3D Touch. So if notifications bubbles appear for any of the apps in the invisible folders, you can force push the folder and get a list of the apps the need attention.

So how to get to a bunch of the apps that needed to be used? The magic of Launcher Pro and Notification widgets.

Launcher Pro does a million cool things but what I really needed was a screen that made reaching apps easily with one hand. I’ve sized the launchers and Fantastical so that swiping left from home gets me 30 apps in the bottom half of the screen. There are additional widgets that can be reached by swiping up. For the app icons I customized with Glyphicons.

That’s it! I look forward to seeing your great concoctions on Twitter!

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