Updated 9/12/22: iOS 16 is now available to the general public.
If you’re like, well, just about anyone who’s had an iPhone for a few years, you probably have hundreds, if not thousands of images in your Photos library. Sure, you’ve always had the ability to set an image as a desktop wallpaper but it’s a manual process. And if you’d like to switch the image, you have to go to your wallpaper settings and choose something all over again.
In my case, I’ve got over 80,000 pictures in Photos. Some of them are precious (or just goofy) family photos. Some are beautiful shots of landscapes I’ve seen or cities I’ve visited. An inordinately large number of them are of my cat, Loki. I’d love to be able to see more than one one at a time, without having to manually choose or dig through thousands of images to find the right one.
Enter the new Photo Shuffle wallpaper in iOS 16.
What Is It?
In the first iOS 16 public beta (edit: this is now out for everyone now!), Apple enabled the Photo Shuffle wallpaper, one of the new lock screen customizations being introduced. When enabled, Photo Shuffle sifts through your Photos library, picking the best images in the categories you select and showing them on your lock screen on a schedule you determine.
It’s reminiscent of using Photo Library as the image source for your macOS screensaver, but a whole lot better.
How Do I Select It?
You’ll need to be running iOS 16 on your device (not enrolled in the public beta? You can get started here). Then, long press on your iPhone’s lock screen, scroll to the right, and click Add New (or just customize your current wallpaper).
As you scroll down, you’ll see Suggested Photos. While you can pick one of these as a static wallpaper, you can also use this section as a quick preview to see the kind of pictures iOS 16 has selected from your Photos library as wallpaper-worthy. If you don’t like the featured pics, don’t worry, you’ll have a couple of ways to optimize things in a bit.
Just under Suggested Photos is Photo Shuffle. Select it, choose the categories of pictures you’d like iOS 16 to feature on your lock screen, and click Done. Just like that, you’ve got an ever-changing gallery of your best images on your lock screen.
How Do I Improve Photo Selection?
However, if you’re staring at your lock screen thinking “these pictures kind of suck,” don’t panic! There’s plenty you can do to optimize the images that show up in Photo Shuffle.
During setup, if you’re using the People category, click Choose to make sure the right people are selected or that you don’t need to do some maintenance in Photos to its People category.
For instance, Photos had baby and toddler pictures of both my kids listed as completely separate people. First, I went into Photos, clicked on People, and merged those errant childhood extras with the kid they belonged to (just drag and drop onto the main person). Also, in Photo Shuffle, I made sure only my immediate family was selected to show up on my lock screen (for some reason, iOS 16 though I wanted pics of my kids’ friends. I mean, they’re fine, but no).
But that still didn’t give me the optimal pictures I was hoping for. Fun fact, when you take thousands of pictures of someone on burst mode and you never delete anything, you get a lot of weird shots.
Luckily, you can train Photo Shuffle to pick better images. When you see an image on your lock screen that you’d rather not see again, long press your wallpaper and click Customize. Then, tap through until you get to the picture you want to remove from the stack. Click the … icon in the bottom right and choose Don’t Feature Photo. Click Done when you’re finished removing errant pics and iOS 16 will save your choices (warning, saving your changes may instead hang without finishing in the current beta).
Don’t worry that you’re going to end up never seeing a person or place again if you delete their photo. Photo Shuffle will look for additional images of the subjects you’ve selected and add those to the wallpaper stack.
If that still doesn’t work, you can manually select the images that you’d like iOS 16 to shuffle through.
Photo Shuffle is a fun new way to interact with your Photos library and rediscover images that you might have forgotten. You can adjust the duration to see more or less images over time or even have iOS 16 change it up every time you tap your screen or wake up your iPhone.
About the only thing I’d like is the ability to click through and see the photo in the Photos app itself. Sometimes I’d love to see the rest of the images I took on a trip or around a certain event without having to dig for it in my library.
That feature request aside, Photo Shuffle is probably my favorite new thing about iOS 16 and I have a feeling it’ll be yours as well.