Apple has announced iOS 14 onstage at WWDC 2020, giving the first (official) look at the latest version of its software for the iPhone, and it’s bringing the biggest change to the iOS home screen in years: widgets.
Widgets come in a variety of sizes and can still be viewed in the Today view, but in iOS 14, Apple allows widgets to be added to the main Home screen to live right alongside your apps. To add them, there’s a new “widget gallery” where users can easily add and customize widgets. There’s also a new “Smart Stack” widget that automatically shows relevant apps based on the time of day.
Apple also announced a new “App Library” view that automatically organizes apps into groups and lists. Thanks to that new App Library view, Apple allows users to now hide apps on their “main” home screen. It looks pretty similar to Android’s app drawer, but with some additional smart grouping features — like automatically pulling out all your Apple Arcade games into one batch.
In another new feature, Apple is adding system-wide picture-in-picture to iOS videos. Much like on macOS, videos will hover over apps and can be adjusted in size or collapsed into the side of the display to continue playing in the background. It’ll also work with FaceTime calls, too.
Apple is also launching a new “App Clip” feature, which are speedy, card-based snippets of apps that let you access small parts of apps when you need them without requiring users to install a full app. Examples given included accessing a parking app through an NFC tag, or a coffee store’s reward program. App Clips support Sign In With Apple to avoid having to make new accounts, can be accessed again through the new App Library, and work with Apple Pay. To go with App Clips, Apple is launching a new QR-code format that uses both visual codes and NFC to access App Clips quickly.
Also coming in iOS 14: the long-requested option to users to set their own default email and browsers, although Apple hasn’t provided too many details on how that works just yet.
Siri also has a new view: instead of taking over your whole screen when you activate the digital assistant, there’s just a small overlay at the bottom of the display of the animated Siri icon. There are also new features: Siri can now send audio messages in addition to just dictated messages.
Similar, incoming phone calls and FaceTime calls will also appear with a less obtrusive new pop-up, instead of taking over the entire screen.
Apple also announced a new Translate app that will be built into iOS, which — much like Google Translate — will allow users to easily translate between languages. Users will be able to enter text in or dictate messages and have them translated into 11 languages. English, Mandarin Chinese, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Japanese,Korean, Arabic, Portuguese, and Russian will all be supported at launch.
Messages is also getting new features: in iOS 14, you’ll be able to pin important contacts and conversations to the top of the Messages app to easily talk to your favorite friends or group chats. There are also new Memoji accessories — including an apt face mask option. Apple is also adding new threaded conversations in group chats and mention notifications to ping specific people in the chat.
Apple Maps is getting new, curated guides from companies like Zagat or AllTrails to give better recommendations for new places. Maps is also getting support for cycling, with dedicated directions for bike-riding that takes into account elevation, bike paths, stairs, and roads. Cycling will launch in NYC, LA, San Fransisco’s Bay Area, Shanghai, and Beijing. There’s also a new EV Routing feature, which will track the current charge of your car, factor in elevation and weather, and route you to compatible stations. Apple’s working with BMW and Ford, although no specific cars were announced.
CarPlay is getting support for custom wallpapers and new app categories: parking apps, EV chargers, and fast food takeout apps. Apple is also adding support for NFC car keys with iOS 14, with the 2021 BMW 5 Series set to be the first to support the feature. NFC passes are stored in Apple’s Secure Enclave for security and can be shared to other iOS users, giving them temporary access to your vehicle. The new car key feature will also be coming to iOS 13, and to make sure you won’t get locked out of your car, it’ll use a special power reserve feature to allow access up to five hours after your phone has died.
The Home app is also getting new features, including support for “Adaptive Lighting,” which allows for compatible smart lights to adjust color temperature over the course of the day, and facial recognition for HomeKit security cameras.
There’s also a host of smaller features, too. Safari on iOS 14 will now inform you if one of your passwords has been leaked in a data breach, similar to Chrome. Developers now have an option to share subscriptions through Family Sharing. Game Center is getting a new design. And there’s a new “Sleep mode” that turns on do-not-disturb, dims your phone’s screen, and shows your upcoming alarm for morning.
The last few iOS updates have been very hit-or-miss, with last year’s notoriously problematic iOS 13 following the incredible solid (from a performance standpoint) iOS 12, which in turn brought much-needed stability to the buggy iOS 11.
iOS 14 will be out this fall, but a developer preview will be available to Apple Developer Program members starting today, with plans for a public beta for all iOS users in July. iOS 14 will work on the iPhone 6S and up — the same devices that supported iOS 13.