My iPhone is becoming increasingly annoying. While that is in large part due to the fact that I’m still rocking an iPhone 3G, there’s something else that’s been missing from iOS for far too long—a customizable lock screen.

There’s a lot of wasted space on the lock screen. Sure, some of us like looking at our customized wallpapers, but some of us also still use the default wallpaper. I’m the later, and I’d certainly prefer an overview of missed calls, meeetings, emails, tweets, and other information from my apps, wouldn’t you?

So how do we get it done?

Start with the iPhone 5 and iOS 5

iOS applications seem to lie somewhere between OS X widgets and OS X apps. They aren’t as single serving as an OS X widget, but they certainly aren’t as robust as some desktop applications either. Apple’s doing a lot to close that gap, as evidenced by Garageband and iMovie on the iPad, but we’re still a little ways off at this point. But, OS X widgets in the dashboard are pretty much an abandoned technology. I don’t know one person who uses them on a daily basis, and if you do, I’d suggest that you’re in the minority. Taking a moment to think about it, it becomes pretty obvious that the dashboard in OS X is an awful lot like the lock screen on the iPhone and iPad. They’re both there, they’re both accessible, and they’re both rarely used for anything except checking the time (iOS) or loading a calculator (OS X). The key difference between the two is that we’re forced to look at the lock screen at regular intervals whereas the dashboard rarely ever gets opened.

What if Apple changed their approach to the lock screen? What if they took the widget approach from OS X, and directly applied it to the lock screen of the iPhone 5? Users could then add an email list, a to-do list, a calendar, or anything else that developers could squeeze into the newly widgetized space.

I often find myself clicking my lock button just to check the time, but it would be incredibly more useful if I could click the lock button and see the weather, missed calls, or latest direct message from Twitter.

How it might work

These types of “widgets” could get out of hand pretty quickly, once they catch on. Everyone and their brother would be creating widgets, and it could become a pain tracking down the best of the best. A curated, free-for-all environment won’t work. There are too many variable, and we’re talking about iOS here, not OS X. Apple will need to control the process from beginning to end.

The easiest thing to do would be release an API in the upcoming iOS 5 release that would let developers build in lockscreen widgets. The widgets would obviously have to take advantage of multitasking, but I think it would work quite nicely. You’d only get widgets from the applications you’ve already installed with this approach. Widgets would be an extension of the application, and not a competitor to it.

Obviously users would have to have the ability to re-organize the widgetized information on their lock screen, but I’d be willing to bet that Apple could easily figure that one out.

What do you think? Is this something we might see in the near future? Would you use it? This kind of thing is already available on Cydia for those who have jailbroken their devices, so it’s certainly possible on the iPhone.

Let’s put some smart back into smartphone.

Photo Credit: Geoff Teehan

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