IOS 14 has a lot of new features, including widgets that will transform the way your home screen works, and a whole new way to sort through several pages of apps. It will support phones as old as 2016’s iPhone SE and 2015’s iPhone 6s Plus.
It launches in public beta in July before it’s available in the fall, but here’s a look at some of the biggest changes you’ll see.
Picture in picture
You can watch a movie while doing other things on your iPhone with new picture-in-picture support in iOS 14.
This feature will let you watch videos, including movies and TV shows, in a tiny window that floats over the rest of your screen. A similar feature has been available on iPads for the last few years.
Widgets are finally coming to the iOS 14 home screen. In iOS 14, you’ll be able to choose large widgets that show the weather, podcasts, photos, the clock, stocks, maps, music and more and pin them to your screen.
This arrangement allows you to see more information, such as the full weather forecast, or more entries on your calendar, or entire pictures, right on your home screen. One widget, called the smart stack, lets you switch through widgets such as news, health, TV and more, on the fly. Smart stack will change depending on the time of day, too. Third-party apps will also be able to take advantage of the new widgets.
App Library in iOS 14
Apple introduced a new feature called “App Library” that helps you automatically organize apps. It hopes this will cut down on users’ frustration with lots of apps spread out across home screens, especially for those who don’t normally sort them into folders. App Library automatically organizes apps for you. You can hide pages you don’t use and then, with App Library, find apps in different categories such as “Entertainment” or “Recently Added.” It should help reduce the clutter.
Messages gets threaded texts and more
Apple Messages is getting revamped in iOS 14 too. Now, you’ll be able to respond to specific text messages in a group chat through inline replies. It’s similar to the threading feature used for messages in Slack. So, if someone says, “Hey, what time are you coming to dinner?” You’ll be able to respond to that message directly, even if new messages have appeared in your chat. Messages will also include “mentions” so you can notify someone when you’re trying to reach them in a group chat, or set alerts so you only get tagged if you’re mentioned. Groups can have custom photos, too.
Siri is getting visual improvements. Now, Siri appears at the bottom of the screen instead of taking over your whole iPhone. And results to your questions will appear at the top of the screen. So, if you ask Siri the weather, you’ll see a small notification drop down from the top of your iPhone that shows the weather forecast and temperature for where you are. Siri will also support audio messages, so you can tell Siri you want to begin recording and then send that recording off to someone. Dictation will be rendered on the device, instead of sent to the cloud.
IOS 14 includes a new Apple Translate app that enables real-time translation between two languages. It’s similar to Google Translate, allowing you to either speak or type in text for a translation. Users will be able to switch between the language they want to translate from and the language they want to translate to at the top of the screen. Turning the phone into landscape mode (sideways) puts it in to conversation mode so two people can chat side by side. Apple said it will support entire conversations, not just small phrases, and it’ll work completely offline. It will support 11 languages when it launches.
Digital car key
iOS 14 will let you share your digital car key with others (on cars that will support it.)
IOS 14 and the current version, iOS 13, will soon enable digital car keys that let you unlock and start your car from your iPhone. There’s a catch: It’ll only work with one car to start, the 2021 BMW 5-Series, which will launch next month. But Apple says it is working on standards with industry groups to bring the feature to more cars, and it expects to see a new standard using Apple’s ultra-wideband chip next year. You’ll also be able to share car keys through Apple Messages or remove access through iCloud.
Privacy indicator and data tracking
Apple’s new data tracking visual tool for apps.
IOS 14 includes several new privacy updates. The biggest is called “App Privacy,” and it will show you what kind of personal information an app will ask for before you use it. So, you’ll know if an app is going to ask for your location, contact info and other personal identifiers. Apple will tell you if it will track your purchases, browsing history, contact info or financial info too. IOS 14 will also include a small circle at the top right of your iPhone if an app is using your microphone or camera.
Apple introduced a new lightweight form of software it calls App Clips that can be launched through the web or a text message. App Clips are less than 10 megabytes, so they’re not full apps. They’re just “clips” of an app that you might use in certain places when you need to get an app quickly. If you’re at Panera buying lunch, for example, you might tap your phone to an NFC tag or scan a bar code to open a mini Panera app to pay. They won’t be installed on your home screen and only pop up when you need them.
Apple Maps in iOS 14 will include cycling directions.
Apple Maps is getting a few updates too. It will soon show you electric vehicle charging stops along your route that support the kind of electric charging in your car. And it’ll show new congestion and green zones in maps so you can see how congested a city is before you enter it. Cycling directions will be coming to Apple Maps too and will tell you if you’re going to be riding on quiet or busy roads, if a steep passage is coming up or if there are stairs along your route. It will launch in New York City, Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area, Shanghai and Beijing to start.