The feature I'm enjoying the most in iOS 8 is its Notification Center widgets. I was always a little envious of my Android-touting friends who had custom widgets with handy info on one glanceable screen, so I'm thrilled that widgets finally got the iOS treatment. Just a quick swipe down from the top of your iPhone's screen brings you to a snapshot of all of the need-to-know info from different apps, and you get to pick what widgets show up there.
Though not all third-party apps are compatible with Notification Center widgets, there are a bunch of outstanding apps that are. Here's a look at apps that you can install as widgets, right now.
First things first
Before you download any new apps, take a look at your current Notification Center to see what's already there. Swipe down from the top of your screen, then tap the Today tab. This is how iOS 8 does widgets--in a uniform, minimalist design that's easy on the eyes.
You should already see Apple's widget listings there, which include Calendar, Weather, Stocks, and Reminders. Scroll down to the bottom of the Today tab and tap Edit to add more. You'll then see a list of every app on your iPhone that is compatible with widgets, meaning that the developer has built that functionality into the app itself. The apps already included your personal Notification Center are marked on the top; apps that are compatible but not included are found below. Just tap the red circle to remove an app, or the green circle to add one.
(For more details on Notification Center widgets, check out our widget customization guide.)
There are plenty more apps available if you'd like to add more widgets. Download any of the following apps, then go back to Notification Center to edit and add them to your Today view. I'll warn you, though: It's really easy to add too many widgets, way too fast, making your lovely clean Notification Center look like a TMI explosion. If you choose carefully, you can curate the perfect collection of widgets for your needs.
Though having the day's news right in your Notification Center sounds awesome in theory, I found all of these options to be too overwhelming as widgets. The included photos take up too much space, and you can't mark stories as read, meaning they'll be in Notification Center until the app replaces it with something else. I personally won't be keeping any of these in my Today feed, but the one I thought looked best was News360, with small image thumbnails and just the story headline.
BuzzFeed: For the latest in adorable animals and celebrity listicles, BuzzFeed has you covered. Its widget shows you one article at a time, with an image, which you can tap to read, bookmark, or skip to check out another story.
Vice News: Vice released a news app just in time for iOS 8's launch, and its widget displays the top stories of the day.
Yahoo News Digest: This app delivers the top news stories of the day, twice a day. Its widget displays these stories one at a time.
News360: News360 calls itself "your personalized news reader," as it learns what you like to read the more you use it. Its widget shows the latest stories in your feed.
NYT Now: If you have a subscription to NYT Now ($8/month), you can access the most important stories of the day through its widget.
Duolingo: Language-learning app Duolingo built its widget to include your daily goal and progress. It's cute, simple, and unobtrusive while delivering useful info--perfect as a widget.
iTranslate: This app's widget quickly translates whatever is on your iPhone's clipboard to another language, which you pre-select in the app itself. It's handy for travelers, and works great in widget form.
Travel Guide by AFAR: Gorgeous travel guide and magazine AFAR built its widget to display cool things nearby to explore, broken down by tabs (eat, drink, do, and more). I don't think I'd categorize the Powell Street BART Station as something fun to do, but other than that, this widget is a winner in terms of design and info.
Hotel Tonight: Hotel Tonight's widget shows the top hotel deals nearby, but since I doubt you'll need a hotel every single night, this is probably best experienced within the app itself.
App in the Air: This flight-tracking tool displays your upcoming flight information in its widget, including your airline, flight number, check-in time, and flight duration. This widget makes App in the Air a must-have for travelers, and it's even compatible with TripIt, which makes setup a snap.
WorldMate: WorldMate should really just be its own widget, since it shows you a comprehensive breakdown of your daily travel itinerary. It's handy for frequent travelers, and organizes a lot of information in a neat package. I'd suggest only including this widget when you're actually traveling, however, just to free up the widget clutter.
Business and productivity
Evernote: I'm delighted by Evernote's widget. Instead of cramming entire notes into the Today tab, you have buttons to launch new actions instead; pick Text, Camera, Photos, Reminder, or List to start a new note within Evernote. This is a no-brainer for any Evernote user.
PCalc: PCalc is arguably the best calculator app for iOS, but I think it looks too clunky in Notification Center. It's an app best served as a standalone experience.
Hours: Hours is a timer app for time management, and lets you set multiple timers so you can keep track of how much time you spend on certain tasks throughout the day. It quickly became one of my favorite apps for work, and now I can start, stop, or switch timers straight from its widget. I'd call it a keeper.
Personal Capital: This is a financial management app with the investor in mind, thus showing your recent transactions across accounts in your Today view. If you like having quick access to that info, than this widget is for you.
LinkedIn: For LinkedIn's widget, the company focused on just displaying who has viewed your profile recently. Maybe this is helpful if you're actively on the job hunt, but I personally don't think this is widget-worthy info.
Having your to-do list in widget-form is super efficient, but if you use more than one of these apps, be wary of information overload. I'd suggest choosing only one or two of these to include in Notification Center, depending on your needs and workflow.
Clear: I love Clear, a color-coded gesture-based to-do list app, but its widget only shows tasks you've marked with a time or due date, then displays only tasks with upcoming due dates. That's not how I use Clear, so I won't be keeping it in Notification Center.
Wunderlist: Wunderlist, on the other hand, displays to-do lists marvelously in Notification Center. It shows four to-dos at a time, and you can check them off as you complete them from within the widget itself.
Study Cal: If you're a student, you'll like Study Cal, widget and all. This study-planning app displays your weekly tasks in its widget, which you can check off as you complete them.
Calendars 5: This all-in-one task manager and calendar shows what's on deck for the day in its widget. It is clearly presented, and surely a welcome addition to Calendars 5 users.
OmniFocus 2: OmniFocus 2 is the ultimate task manager, and its widget almost mirrors what's listed in your daily Forecast within the app: It shows just what's due today.
Finish: Finish shows the next three items in your to-do list, and you can check them off from within the widget.
Gneo: Another task manager, Gneo displays the next few items on your list within Notification Center. Like the others, you can mark items as complete straight from the widget.
Slice: We've raved about Slice and its usefulness before, and its widget sticks to that promise. It shows only package delivery statuses and pinned orders so you can monitor its price. This isn't information that I absolutely must have in my Notification Center, but if you're a heavy Slice user, you might be into it.
Parcels: Parcels is another package tracking app, but unlike Slice, its widget only shows what packages are due to be delivered today or tomorrow. I think this is more useful than Slice's approach.
Spring: Spring is hands down the best retail-shopping app available, due to its one-tap checkout system and gorgeously curated feed of goodies to buy. It's kind of like Instagram and your favorite high-end clothing catalog rolled into one. But, sorry Spring, your widget isn't doing us any favors: It limits the items in your feed to a tiny list of thumbnails. Ditch the widget and use the app instead.
House and home
Real Estate by Redfin: This app for house hunters has a new widget that shows properties nearby for sale, and properties nearby that have recently been sold. Though this is a useful tool if you're trying to scope out a neighborhood, I think the info is best served within the app instead of contained to Notification Center.
Estately Flip: Estately also shows homes nearby that are for sale in its widget, but only one at a time--which keeps it from getting cluttered, but also prevents it from being really useful. Like Redfin, this is an app where the widget is not required.
Kitchen Stories Cookbook: Recipe app Kitchen Stories Cookbook serves up a new recipe every day in its widget. It's a quick recommendation, but random--you might get a dessert recipe one day and spring rolls the next. I'd rather search for specific recipes or get ideas for certain meals, so I'm not sure a random one-off recipe is a worthwhile widget. The app, however, is excellent, with scrumptious-looking photography and detailed cooking tips.
Weather is perfect in widget form: Most of the time, we just need to check the immediate forecast, so a quick glance in Notification Center does the trick. Of course, you could just leave Apple's Weather app as your default weather widget, but you have other options if you prefer another source.
The Weather Channel: The Weather Channel's widget displays the weather, a quick forecast summary, and a video icon. I could do without the video, but the info is useful and to the point.
Yahoo Weather: Yahoo Weather shows the current temperature, the daily high and low temperatures, and an icon summarizing the forecast (like a rainy cloud, for example), all displayed over a landscape image from Flickr.
Getty Images Stream: This new app serves up stunning photography pulled from Getty Images' impressive database, which you can then save or share with friends. The widget just shows thumbnails of the three newest images, but looks a little cluttered.
N3twork: N3twork bills itself as the first personal Internet video network, recommending videos it thinks you'll like based on your interests, hashtags, and people you follow on social media. The widget lists one video that's playing on N3twork now--which is cool, but not a must-have widget in my book.
Magisto: Video editing app Magisto automatically stitches photos and videos together to make mini movies. It has manual video editing tools as well. Its widget shows the latest batch of videos and photos you've shot, urging you to create a movie. The image thumbs are so small that it's hard to make out the details, and tapping anything just launches the app. I don't think the functionality of this widget is all that useful.
A handful of others
Sky Guide: An essential for astronomy fans, this app shows you constellations in the sky when you direct your phone upwards. Its widget shows rise and set times for the sun, moon, and planets, and will also show if there are any special events like an eclipse or meteor shower. It's pretty, and if you're into stargazing, it will help you determine the best time to bust out the scale.
Day One: Journaling app Day One's widget shows graphs on how many entries you've written in the past 50 days, along with a Timehop-esque flashback of older photos from the current day in your history.
Memoir: This nifty little life-logging app that resurfaces old photos, posts, check-ins, and memories for you to browse--also kind of like Timehop, but with more detail. Its widget takes up a lot of space, showing a single memory out of your daily collection, which of course then prompts you to check out the full app. I don't think the widget is doing any service, here.
Kindle: Amazon Kindle's widget lists the books you're currently reading and shows your progress. Tap any to open the book in Kindle and pick up where you left off. Although this widget only makes things slightly quicker, it looks nice and neat within Notification Center.
OpenTable: Restaurant reservation app OpenTable lists upcoming reservations within its widget. It's simple, easy information that looks great in Notification Center.
Ancestry: Ancestry's widget reminds you of milestones from your family tree, like birthdays, anniversaries, and death dates, in the form of day-of reminders. If you typically don't jot those dates down in your calendar app, Ancestry's widget is a helpful reminder.