Apple has officially unveiled the next major software update to iOS in the form of iOS 14 at its virtual WWDC 2020. There’s a whole lot more in the new release which might seem a little too familiar, if you’ve used one of the other mobile phones.
iOS 14 comes with a new way to customize Home Screen, with redesigned widgets that fit anywhere on the screen. The new widgets are adjustable in size and can be pinned anywhere on the screen. Using a Smart Stack of widgets allows the right widget to appear based on time, location, and activity using on-device intelligence.
Home Screen has now a sorted way of managing apps with App Library that looks just like a huge folder of apps, but works like an app drawer or vault at the end of your Home Screen pages. It offers an easy navigation through the apps, according to Apple, intelligently surfacing apps that may be useful in the moment.
While the Home Screen gets a refresh in items it can house, incoming phone calls and Siri interactions are now more compact aesthetically. There is no more getting distracted by the full-screen phone ringer or the Siri interface at all. In fact, Siri now floats. iOS 14 also supports Picture-in-Picture mode for watching a video or continuing a FaceTime call while using another app. These features might sound familiar — because they are.
Apple also introduced App Clips, a new way to connect with product or business the moment it is needed. It works by scanning a new Apple-designed App Clip code, or NFC tags and QR codes, that allows you to reach a particular business’ service or product with their app. For instance, renting a scooter, purchasing a coffee, or filling a parking meter — all with the security and privacy expected from apps.
The addition of Apple Pay for payments and Sign in with Apple for authentication make it even more secure and easy to use. Apple says it’s a small part of an app experience, and loads quickly as it’s less than 10MB in size. It’s there when you need it.
iOS 14 brings some much-needed improvements to Messages. You can now reply to texts in groups with inline replies, add a group cover using an image or emoji, and mention other members in the group. Just how it should have been in today’s world.
There’s also an option to pin conversations to the top of the messages list, so you don’t miss out on your most important conversations. In addition, Apple has added more inclusive and diverse Memoji options in Messages, with additional hairstyles, headwear, face coverings, and more.
Apple Maps is getting new features as well. Navigating and exploring new cycling directions, electric vehicle routing, and curated Guides make Maps even better. All these new Maps features are influenced by various parameters before being displayed on the screen.
Apple mentions additional iOS 14 features:
- Translate is designed to be the best and easiest app for translating conversations, offering quick and natural translation of voice and text among 11 different languages. On-device mode allows users to experience the features of the app offline for private voice and text translation.
- Siri expands its knowledge, helps find answers from across the internet, and can now send audio messages. Keyboard dictation runs on device when dictating messages, notes, email, and more.
- The Home app makes smart home control even easier with new automation suggestions and expanded controls in Control Center for quicker access to accessories and scenes. Adaptive Lighting for compatible HomeKit-enabled lights automatically adjusts the color temperature throughout the day, and with on-device Face Recognition, compatible video doorbells and cameras can identify friends and family. The Home app and HomeKit are built to be private and secure, so all information about a user’s home accessories is end-to-end encrypted.
- AirPods gain the ability to seamlessly switch between Apple devices with automatic device switching. Spatial audio with dynamic head tracking brings a theater-like experience to AirPods Pro. By applying directional audio filters, and subtly adjusting the frequencies each ear receives, sounds can be placed virtually anywhere in a space to provide an immersive listening experience.
- Digital car keys give users a secure way to use iPhone or Apple Watch to unlock and start their car. Digital car keys can be easily shared using Messages, or disabled through iCloud if a device is lost, and are available starting this year through NFC. Apple also unveiled the next generation of digital car keys based on Ultra Wideband technology for spatial awareness delivered through the U1 chip, which will allow users to unlock future car models without removing their iPhone from their pocket or bag, and will become available next year.
- Find My will add support for finding third-party products and accessories with the new Find My network accessory program. This will allow customers to use the Find My app to locate other important items in their lives, in addition to their Apple devices. User privacy remains central to the Find My network with end-to-end encryption built in. A draft specification is available for accessory makers and product manufacturers starting today.
- Safari offers a Privacy Report so users can easily see which cross-site trackers have been blocked, secure password monitoring to help users detect saved passwords that may have been involved in a data breach, and built-in translation for entire webpages.
- Health has all-new experiences to manage sleep, better understand audio levels that may affect hearing health, and a new Health Checklist — a centralized place to manage health and safety features — includes Emergency SOS, Medical ID, ECG, Fall Detection, and more. Health also adds support for new data types for mobility, Health Records, symptoms, and ECG.
- The Weather app and widget keep users up to date on severe weather events and a new next-hour precipitation chart shows minute-by-minute precipitation when rain is in the forecast.
- Accessibility features include Headphone Accommodations, which amplifies soft sounds and tunes audio to help music, movies, phone calls, and podcasts sound crisper and clearer, and sign language detection in Group FaceTime, which makes the person signing more prominent in a video call. VoiceOver, the industry’s leading screen reader for the blind community, now automatically recognizes what is displayed visually onscreen so more apps and web experiences are accessible to more people.
Apple’s commitment to privacy gets ever stronger with iOS 14. Apps on the App Store will now require permission from the user before tracking. Starting later this year, App Store product pages will display “summaries of developers’ self-reported privacy practices” in an easy-to-understand format. This is supposed to be like the Nutritional Facts label on food — but for the apps here.
Furthermore, you can choose to share your approximate location with app developers rather than precise location for apps that require location services enabled.
iOS 14 is now available in beta to registered Apple developers at Apple Developer Program, with public beta following next month at Apple Beta Software Program. The free software update will be available this fall for iPhone 6s and later.