Developer Christian Selig has launched an updated version of his playful Pixel Pals app that takes clever advantage of new iOS features like Live Activities, the Dynamic Island, and interactive widgets on iOS 17. The app, which originally spun out of a feature in his former Reddit client Apollo, puts cute little virtual pets that run around on your iPhone’s Dynamic Island — the black bar at the top of your iPhone’s screen.
Selig, unfortunately, was forced to shut down Apollo earlier this year after changes in Reddit’s API policies made it unsustainable as a business. But in the time since, he’s been working on a new release of Pixel Pals, version 2.0, which offers not only a full virtual pets experience but a number of extras, including interactive widgets that let you play minigames on your Home Screen, including the fully interactive PixelQuest, 2048, and Eternal Scroll.
Other widgets offer a fidget spinner you can twirl a mechanical keyboard and more.
These widgets are essentially little time wasters — something to tap on when you’re bored instead of mindlessly scrolling Instagram or Facebook, for example. They’re unnecessary and don’t serve much of a purpose but that’s also what makes them fun. It’s clear the developer was enjoying exploring the capabilities of what iOS 17 interactive widgets can now do and wanted to see how far he could push their limits. As the end user, you can do the same by interacting with the widgets.
In the original version of the Pixel Pals app, you could feed and play with your virtual pets, which are generated in a nostalgic pixel art style, or even rename them. A dog and cat were included with the app for free, but to unlock other pets and new features, you’ll have to pay for a Pixel Pals Premium subscription ($1.99/mo or $14.99/year).
With the Pixel Pals 2.0 update, the virtual pets are also turning into a social network of sorts, as users will be able to add friends to see their Pixel Pals on their iPhone or iPad’s Home Screen and even engage in battles. Plus, the Pixel Pals can run around on your Lock Screen through Live Activities — the active widgets that appear when your phone is locked — or appear as widgets when the phone is on its side in the new iOS 17 StandBy mode.
As you engage with your pals and increase their love for you, they’ll be able to transform into “Morphs,” or new forms. There’s more to do with your pets, too, like taking them camping or hiking or growing their food on a farm.
In addition to the game widgets, the app includes a standard photo widget and transparent widget, too.
The app continues to be a free download with the in-app purchases to upgrade to the full experience on iPhone and iPad.