Apple Just Announced iOS 14. Here Are the Coolest New Features.
Apple unveiled the future of the iPhone at its WWDC conference.
Apple kicked off its annual Worldwide Developer Conference on Monday, with an online-only Special Event Keynote broadcasted from its Apple Park company headquarters. And while this WWDC looked decidedly different due to the coronavirus pandemic, the presentation provided familiar excitement in the way of new Apple product software updates; most notably, the unveiling of iOS 14. The mobile software update will bring literally dozens of shiny new features -- Widgets! App Clips! Car Keys! -- when it hits your iPhone.
In a press release posted following the event, Apple’s Senior Vice President of Software Engineering Craig Federighi said, "iOS 14 transforms the most iconic elements of the iPhone experience, starting with the biggest update we’ve ever made to the Home Screen." And, well, he's not kidding. The update will almost immediately change the way your iPhone looks.
Anyway, if you've ever tuned into an Apple Special Event Keynote, you know how long, cheesy, and tedious they can be. That's why we've rounded up the coolest iOS 14 additions and improvements Apple announced during the event. Sure, it'll be a few months before you can download the update on your iPhone, but here's what you have to look forward to.
When is iOS 14 coming out?
Before we get into the good stuff, you should know that you'll have to wait until this fall to get your hands on the final version of iOS 14. This is Apple's usual pattern -- announce the update at WWDC in the summer, release the update around the time new iPhone hardware launches in the fall. However, software developers can get a developer beta of iOS 14 starting on June 22 and everyone else can download a public beta of iOS 14 sometime in July.
Basically, this new feature lets you use an app for its core functions without actually having to download it from the App Store. The idea is that when you end up in a situation where you need an app to do something right away -- pay for parking, earn coffee shop rewards points, order food, etc. -- you can still do those things without being held up by having to search for the app in the store, authenticate, and download it. Instead, places like parking pay machines and coffee shop counters will have a sensor where you can tap your phone (or scan a QR code) that will automatically pull up a snippet of their respective app -- their App Clip -- that will allow you to do what you have to do there on the fly. Will it save you that much time? Maybe! You'll also find App Clips in Messages and Apple's Maps app.
Big upgrades to Messages
Between work-geared messaging apps like Slack and popular personal messaging apps like WhatsApp alone, Apple's built-in Messages app faces some serious competition. So it should come as no surprise that the company is adding a slew of new features to stay competitive, or in a lot of cases, catch up with the competition. In iOS 14, Messages will let you pin your favorite contacts to the top fo the app for quick access and even previews of what they're saying. Some of the biggest enhancements are for group messaging, such as the ability to mention a specific person in the chat (only they will be notified) and -- at long last -- in-line/threaded replies, among other updates. If you find yourself in unruly group chats or use Messages for work, you're going to love this update.
But here my personal favorite new feature in Messages: emoji search. [insert mind blown emoji]
Siri's new look
Siri can be pretty useful -- there's no denying that. Personally, there's something oddly pleasing about using my voice to set my wake up alarm before going to bed. The only problem is that Siri can get in the way of what you're doing by taking up your entire phone screen when you make a command. Apple is changing that in iOS 14 by making Siri more discreet. Instead of forcing a full-screen takeover whenever you use it, Siri will appear as an icon at the bottom of your screen. The information or actions you request will appear at the top, kind of like notifications. As you'll see with the next two new features, it looks like reducing the disruptions caused by full-screen actions across your phone with more compact designs is a big priority for Apple in this release.
And like with every iOS launch, Siri is getting smarter and more capable; notably, it can better utilize the web to help you find answers to an array of questions and send audio messages via the Messages app at your command.
Compact incoming calls & Picture-in-Picture
Right now, incoming calls on your iPhone and iPad take over your entire screen, hiding what you were looking at or working on in the moments before. This update minimizes the disruption with incoming calls appearing at the top of your screen much like other notifications do now. When the incoming call notification appears, you can accept the call by tapping the green button, decline it by tapping the red button, or ignore it by flicking the whole notification up.
And for FaceTime calls specifically, you can take video calls while using other apps with the video appearing in a smaller window on the screen. Same goes for other videos you're watching. The video will appear picture-in-picture.
The days of having endless pages of apps and a bunch of unruly folders that you eventually end up forgetting about (come on, admit it) are coming to an end. This feature lets you take whole pages of apps on your home screen and hide them. The apps are still there -- you can swipe left one more time to get to the new App Library. Apple describes the tool as "a new space that automatically organizes all of a user’s apps into one simple, easy-to-navigate view, and intelligently surfaces apps that may be helpful in the moment." Of course, you can also search for a specific app from this screen as well.
Apple has long kept widgets -- windows for info from certain apps at a glance -- a whole swipe's distance away from your iPhone's home screen, but that's finally about to change. Widgets are getting a total revamp with new options and customizations in iOS 14, and most importantly, the ability to live among your apps. Depending on the app and your preferences, these widgets can span multiple rows on your home screen; for example, you can add a Podcast app widget that takes up the same amount of home screen real estate as four app icons. Or maybe you want a set a world clocks -- that'll span two rows and all four columns. The potential customizations are numerous. Your home screen can be as busy with widgets (or totally widget-free) as you want it to be.
This all-new standalone app appears to be Apple's response to Google's popular Google Translate offering. The app is designed to help you have conversations in 11 languages with the option of using on-device mode (when you don't have an internet connection). Just type in what you want to say in the language you selected and your iPhone will say it in that language. When you turn your phone sideways to landscape, the app's conversation mode splits the screen and shows text from both languages. An attention mode displays the translated text in huge letters across your screen so it's easier to get someone's attention while you're doing your best to communicate with them.
Car Keys & CarPlay
Apple wants to kill the ugly and bulky key fobs that come with new cars these days. The new Car Key feature lets you effectively turn your iPhone into a car key, granting you access to your car with a tap (using NFC technology) and even allowing you to start the engine. And because these digital car keys will live in your iPhone's Wallet app, you can share them with your friends and family members. In other words, you can grant your friends and family members access to your car as if you were handing them the physical keys. You can also revoke said access as easily as you granted it. The big catch here, though, is that the Car Key feature only works with certain brand new cars, starting with the 2021 BMW 5 Series
As for CarPlay, Apple's in-car software experience is getting a fresh coat of paint in the form of new wallpapers. Customization is cool, but new CarPlay-optimized apps are cooler. Thankfully, Apple is adding new app categories with the goal of adding new apps for third-party parking, electric car charging, and ordering food on the go.
This improvement doesn't sound that exciting at first, but it could very well change the way you do basic, everyday things on your iPhone and iPad. The system search bar in iOS 14 builds on iOS 13's search capabilities by speeding up the results process. Results will appear as you type. Better yet, you'll be able to launch both apps and websites just by typing the first few characters of their names. In other words, if you want to go to say, thrillist.com, you can start typing "thrillist" in the search bar and it'll give you the option to launch the website in Safari in seconds. You're cutting out the added steps of having to open the Safari app and type in the URL there.