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Easy to use home screens with Mister Icon

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In my previous post, I wrote about some important considerations if you are helping a friend or family member to choose a new iPhone or iPad.

But actually selecting the right device is really just the first step.

The next step is to set up that new device so that it is both easy to use and highly functional.

Apple's iOS and iPadOS operating systems are fairly user-friendly, but people who aren't used to technical gadgets can still find them a bit overwhelming at times.

In fact, anyone who is simply unfamiliar with a certain device could potentially benefit by a friend or family member setting up their iPhone or iPad to enable easier access to a range of the most frequently needed functions.

This is where you can help, and hopefully my Mister Icon app can help too.

Mister Icon making an easy to use iPhone home screen

How my Mister Icon app fits in

Mister Icon is able to assist by providing icons that can bring some sanity to the chaos of the iOS/iPadOS home screen.

By default, the home screen can be a little bit of a mess, with all of Apple's stock apps there from the get go, spanning two pages before you even begin to download any apps or games of your own. Each downloaded app goes straight into the first available home screen space (apart from on the first page), so it can quickly get out of control.

Innovations like the swipe down Spotlight search and the swipe all the way to the right App Library introduced in iOS 14 and iPadOS 15 can make it easier to find apps you use frequently, but can also be confusing or difficult to use.

I think well organised home screen pages are the best way to go for many users, particularly those less quick fingered. There's a reason why Apple has stuck with virtually the same home screen setup ever since the very first iPhone—it works!

Using the label icons from the Mister Icon app allows you to basically categorise apps into groups on the home screen itself. No need to use folders with tiny icons or search through a library full of unnamed apps.

An iPhone or iPad with a set of fully sorted home screen pages, utilising page numbers and various category labels like ‘Games’, ‘Work’, ‘Health’, etc. throughout can be a genuinely beautiful (and functional) thing.

The only real issue with my app is that although it provides some nice icon labels, the only way to make those icons truly useful is to use Apple's home screen reorganising system to move them into the desired positions. The tap-and-hold-icon-until-it-starts-wobbling-then-move-around-as-you-see-fit system can work pretty well once you get the hang of it, but it can also be a bit touchy.

Sample iPhone home screen in edit (wobble) mode, featuring three different Mister Icon category labels and a blank icon.

Even though I've been making home screen icons and moving them around for years while creating and testing all the updates for Mister Icon, I still often get icons jumping across to the wrong page while dragging, or I accidentally create a folder by holding one icon above another for just a fraction too much time. It's frustrating, but there is a logic to how it all works and if you look on the bright side, the difficulty just adds to the sense of satisfaction you get once you finally have a classy, fully labelled home screen looking really great.

Since icon arranging can be a bit tricky, this is where you can really help out a technically-challenged friend.

Set them up an Apple ID if they don't have one already, set up iCloud with whatever services you think they need, then purchase my Mister Icon app (or gift them a copy via the App Store if you're feeling extra generous) and use it to arrange all their apps into logical groupings.

I think the page number icons are very useful and can even help you if you're ever called on for telephone support for your friend in the future. If you put all of your friend's apps in logical locations, you can say “Ah, Uncle Bill, you should use the ABCDEF app for that, I remember I put it in the ‘Useful’ section on ‘Page 2’”. Or something like that.

Partial home screen icon arrangement featuring ‘Page 2’ and ‘Useful’ labels from the Mister Icon app.

Phone number shortcuts

Another great way to make an iPhone simpler for someone, particularly someone who really only wants a phone to make phone calls to family and friends, is to create home screen shortcut icons for each phone number they are likely to want to call regularly.

Apple's Shortcuts app does this job very well, and you can even put photos of each person directly on the home screen. Then if your friend wants to give you a call, all they need to do is tap your photo on their home screen.

Sample home screen featuring ‘Family’ and ‘Friends’ labels from the Mister icon app.

Pop a ‘Family’ or ‘Friends’ icon from the Mister Icon app close to your phone number shortcut icons and everything can look really neat and can be very functional.

To conclude

I'd like to think that my Mister Icon app would be helpful for a lot of people, but I recognise that it won't be for everyone either. Some people only need a phone to make phone calls, and might only have one page of apps, most of which are the original ones from Apple. And there's nothing wrong with that.

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