Despite being unable to hold WWDC ’20 in person as has been done for years, Apple executives still “took to the stage” for this year’s developer conference. There were rumors aplenty about what the next move from Apple would be for its lineup of various devices.
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- Will My iPad Support iPadOS 14?
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Kicking off the Keynote was Tim Cook on stage by himself, giving us a quick update about what the company’s been up to as of late. Then, we were presented with the latest features coming to iOS, iPadOS, watchOS, macOS, and much more.
The big additions to iOS 14
iOS 13 presented a number of new features with a few design changes, along with the addition of Shortcuts as a system app. Rumors were swirling that iOS 14 would be a minor iteration, and in some ways it was, but in other ways, it will revolutionize how you interact with your iPhone.
Home Screen Widgets
The biggest new feature is the ability to add Widgets right to your home screen. Previously, these were limited to the Today View, although iPadOS users were able to pin this view to their Home Screen to show the widgets.
With iOS 14, you can now pin specific widgets right to your home screen, with your icons being “pushed” out of the way. This obviously depends on where you place the widget, but you can pretty much put these wherever on the home screen you choose. Just don’t be surprised if some app icons get pushed to the next page.
Widgets come in three different sizes — Small (2×2), Medium (2×4), and Large (4×4 and above). For obvious reasons, the only widgets currently eligible to be used are Apple’s stock widgets for these apps:
There’s even a widget called “Smart Stack” which will display a series of widgets that can be swiped through. Then, throughout the day various widgets can automatically appear based on your usage tendencies.
It’s only a matter of time before third-party developers get in on the fun, so it’ll be exciting to see what’s to come when your favorite apps are updated.
It can be rather annoying if you have a boatload of apps and pages to scroll through to find a single app. App Library aims to solve this with pre-populated folders along with a search box at the top of the page. When tapped, this will display all of your apps in alphabetical order and you can either search for one by typing or use the letter shortcuts on the right to jump around.
Currently, there is no way for you to create your own custom folder, but Apple does a pretty good job at creating organized folders for you. There’s even an option at the top for “Recently Added” to show your latest downloaded apps.
Diving into the Settings for App Library, there’s not too much available. With the first developer beta, you can choose to have new apps appear on your home screen, or for them to be automatically sorted in the library.
While this next part was not shown off in the Keynote, we found that you can actually “delete” pages and use just a single screen and the App Library. Here’s how you can do it:
- Press and hold on the Home Screen to bring up “Wiggle Mode”.
- Tap the page dots at the bottom of the screen.
- Uncheck the pages you want to hide.
This does not actually delete the pages that you may have previously curated. Instead, it simply hides them from your view, giving you a one-page home screen without a bunch of apps cluttering everything up.
So this next part was not originally shown off in the iOS portion of the Keynote. It has been a yearly complaint and request for Apple to stop the Phone app from taking over your iPhone’s interface without instantly rejecting a phone call.
That’s all changed as now a pop-up bar will appear at the top of your phone when a call comes through. You’ll be able to see contact information, along with the Answer or End Call buttons. Regardless of whether you enjoy phone calls or not, this is a necessary and extremely welcome change to iOS and iPadOS.
Redesigned Siri Interface
As was the case with the Phone app for phone calls, it was annoying for Siri to take over your entire iPhone when in use. But the Siri interface has been completely redesigned, with just a simple Siri icon appearing at the bottom when invoked.
And in addition to Siri answering whatever question is being asked vocally, a small card will also appear giving you the information. But currently, you still cannot interact with the screen when Siri has been activated, as it will simply disappear just like the old interface.
Siri has also been updated to take advantage of the internet when it comes to searches. When asking a question, Siri will search the web to find the right answer for what you’re looking for.
And those who enjoy using audio messages instead of typing can do so with Siri. Just fire up Siri, tell it to send an audio message to your contact, record the message, and send it.
Picture in Picture
Another much-requested feature of iOS over the years has been for you to have your video still appear even if you left the app. If you subscribed to YouTube Red, then the audio would still play in the background, but the video was locked to the YouTube app.
iOS 14 introduces native Picture in Picture, allowing you to continue watching your videos or continue your FaceTime call. And if you need to move the video out of the way, just swipe it to the left or right and then pull it back out with the tab that appears.
Once you dive deeper into what iOS 14 brings, this is the part where you’ll find that the new “features” are much smaller in comparison. Messages kicked things off in this regard with a few new additions.
- Pinned Conversations – From group chats to individual conversations, you can now pin up to nine conversations at the top of the Messages app. If you have a missed message, a blue dot appears next to the name, and a recently sent message will show up in a small text box over the picture of the contact or group.
- Group Photos – Group conversations have been updated with the ability to customize the name and image of the group. This can either be a custom Memoji, your own photo or just with an emoji.
- Mentions – Sometimes you may have a group chat muted but someone is trying to get your attention. With Mentions, typing a contact’s name in the group will alert that person, and you can set Messages up so that you only receive notifications when you are mentioned.
- Inline Replies – Gone are the days of trying to figure out who’s responding to what in a group chat. Inline replies essentially let you and someone else have a separate conversation while in the group chat. You can view this in line with the entire chat, or as a thread in a more focused view.
- Memoji updates – Apple has added a few new customization options for your Memoji. These include the ability to add a mask, 20 different and new hair/headwear styles, and even more age options.
There are some new features of Apple’s Maps app that will apply to everyone, but it’s obvious that Apple opted to focus on those who are reducing their carbon footprint.
- Cycling directions – Maps in iOS 14 will now show you specific paths and directions if you are cycling. This includes bike lanes, dedicated bike roads, and more. Some other useful information included is the elevation levels of your path, whether you will encounter stairs or steep passages.
- Electric Vehicles – More and more users are getting electric cars, and while Apple didn’t show off its own car, Maps is getting some nifty features. You can track the current charge of your car, with Maps showing charging stops along your route with these stops being specific to the type of charger you will need.
- Guides – Guides is a new feature for everyone, giving users easy-to-access information for various places. These include museums, restaurants, or even national parks. Plus, you can save these to Maps so that you are always provided with the best recommendations based on your preferences.
The all-new Translate app
When traveling abroad, it can be a frustrating experience if multiple parties are not speaking the same language. iOS 14 brings iPhone users an all-new Translate app which does so much more than translate single words or phrases.
- Conversation Mode – There’s a new conversation mode that will display what you are saying in one of the 11 different available languages. With the help of machine learning and Apple’s Neural Engine, this will provide “natural-sounding” conversations.
- On-device Mode – Instead of worrying about needing to have a good network connection for the Translate app to work, Apple thought about that. There’s a fully offline mode available, where you can go through and download specific languages for offline usage.
- Favorites – When it comes to commonly-used phrases or questions, you don’t want to run through all of the same steps to get to the same place. Favorites in Translate allow you to save common translations that can be used and viewed at a later time.
- Attention Mode – If you need to try and get someone’s attention quickly, this mode makes it easy. Just say the phrase you need to be translated™, and translate will enlarge the text to make it easier to read.
Despite the fact that Apple did not unveil the rumored “HomePod Mini”, we are getting some new features for the Home app.
- Redesigned Home app – The Home app itself has been slightly redesigned, showing a new Home Status bar at the top of the app. This gives you a quick breakdown of what your various HomeKit accessories such as how many lights are on, and what doors are currently locked or unlocked.
- Suggested automations – Whenever a new accessory is added to the Home app or HomeKit, your iPhone will show some suggestions on automations. From turning lights on when you arrive home, to locking a door when you leave, these can quickly be toggled on when new accessories are added.
- Adaptive lighting – iOS 14 and the new Home app make it possible for your lights to automatically adjust throughout the day. This means providing warmer tones in the morning to ease into the day, and getting rid of blue lights in the evening so you can relax.
- Homekit Cameras – Smart Cameras added to the Home app can now take advantage of Activity Zones and Face Recognition. Activity Zones can be set right from the app so that your camera only focuses on what you want it to. Face Recognition allows you to tag people and notify you when specific people are at your door.
Rumors have come and gone about Apple working on its own Electric car to take on the likes of Tesla. Instead, Apple has opted to pivot in the meantime with some pretty interesting features, provided that you can actually use them.
If you have a compatible car (starting with the 2021 BMW 5 Series), you will be able to unlock and start your car right from your iPhone. The “key” is saved in your Wallet while using NFC to communicate with your car. And the best part is that you can even use your Apple Watch to unlock the car. Then, place your phone in the reader or wireless charger in the car to start it.
Keys can also be shared with your friends and family while creating specific profiles for different drivers. Then, you can share the Car Key via iMessage after the Car Key Access has been set.
There is good reason to be concerned about what to do if your iPhone battery runs out but you haven’t gotten to a charger yet. There’s a new “Power Reserve” feature that will allow your iPhone to continue working as your Car Key for up to five hours after your iPhone shuts itself off.
If you have ever run into a situation where you need to download an app pay for parking but don’t have the time, then App Clips will be here to save the day. This essentially creates a “mini” app on your phone. That can be used with the “Sign in with Apple” feature and Apple Pay to get access to those apps without downloading the full version.
The apps load extremely quickly, as they are not the full version of whatever app you need to download. After added by developers you can either scan a QR code or tap an NFC tag to have the App Clip show up. Then, once you’ve finished using it, it will be removed and then deleted automatically from your phone 30-days later.
Odds & Ends
We mentioned a slew of interesting and fun new things, but those don’t even tell half the story. Here’s a rundown of a few of our other favorite new additions that didn’t make it into the Keynote.
- App Store – App developers can now make it possible for users to share their subscriptions to members of a Family Sharing group.
- Health – Separate from the Apple Watch, you can use the updated Health app to track and record your sleep easier than ever.
- Notes – The “paper” design of Notes has been vanquished, and you can use the updated app to find your notes faster and take better document scans.
- Set default apps – Apple is making it possible for users in iOS 14 to set default third-party apps for email or browsing. But developers will have to enable it first.
- Weather – After purchasing Dark Sky, Apple has already started integrating these features into the new Weather app. You can be notified about severe weather events, along with an up-to-the-minute precipitation forecast.
- Reminders – Adding reminders and tasks is quicker than ever with the new Quick Entry and Smart Suggestions. And if you are sharing lists, you can assign reminders to each other.
- Camera – The Camera app has been updated to allow users to take photos up to “90% faster” than iOS 13 devices. There’s even a new setting to prioritize faster photo taking so that photos are “intelligently modified” to improve speed.
If you ask me, iOS 14 has an iOS 12 feel as Apple really focused on fine-tuning. It’s still early as iOS 14 is just now getting into the hands of developers, so there are sure to be more features discovered.
For the time being, we recommend not installing iOS 14 on your primary device, as there are bugs that could hinder performance. Apple states that the iOS 14 Public Beta will be unveiled in July, just a few weeks away.
In the meantime, let us know what your favorite new features are, and if you are excited about iOS. If not, tell us why you think this won’t do enough to improve the overall experience of your iPhone.
Andrew is a freelance writer based on the East Coast of the US.
He has written for a variety of sites over the years, including iMore, Android Central, Phandroid, and a few others. Now, he spends his days working for an HVAC company, while moonlighting as a freelance writer at night.