iOS 14 is here, and it will change the way you use your iPhone. Now that’s a bold statement to make. Well, at least that’s how I want to describe iOS 14, the latest version of the iPhone mobile operating system.
Although iOS 14 isn’t coming before September, I got a taste of the next version of Apple’s mobile operating system through the public beta, which is already rolling out to the general public. The public beta isn’t a final version of iOS 14, but it does give access to all the new features that will be part of the latest update. If you have a spare iPhone, I would encourage you to install the public beta; it seems stable enough for now. But keep in mind that iOS 14 is still in beta, and it comes with bugs. If you still want to proceed, here’s how to download iOS 14.
For the past day, I have been using iOS 14, and it’s no small update. For years, the iPhone’s user interface looks basically the same, and honestly, I started getting bored. This time, though, it’s a lot different. With iOS 14, the home screen is going to be very different alongside the all-new App Library, better widgets, a new Siri interface, app library, and much more. In many ways, iOS 14 feels like a breath of fresh air.
After spending a few hours with iOS 14, here are the first impressions of the pre-release software. Read on.
Welcome to the new home screen
The home screen hasn’t got a major facelift since it was introduced, but iOS 14 changes that. Let me explain.
At first glance, the home screen looks the same. All of your apps are exactly positioned as they were in iOS 13. Even the position of widgets hasn’t changed a bit; they can still be accessed by a simple swipe to the left. So where is the new home screen?
In iOS 14, widgets can now be pinned to your home screen. All you need to simply long-press on the screen, tap the + button on the left, and the Widget Gallery appears. Once you go to the Widget Gallery, you can choose which apps you want to add to your home screen. For now, though, the Widget Gallery suggests only those apps that are made by Apple, including Apple Music, Apple News, Weather, etc.
As I mentioned before, widgets are floating in nature and one can move them around. They can also be of different sizes, though widgets have a fixed width. You can put these widgets on any home screen in any location on the grid. Plus, you can also create stacks of widgets that you can flip through. Simply put, you create a smart stack of widgets based on the most used apps. In my case, I created a Smart Stack of widgets based on the apps I use frequently and then pin it on top of my home screen like a widget.
The Smart Stack brings all my most used apps like Apple Music, Apple Music, Photos, Weather, or Calendar in one place. Instead of opening these apps individually, I can view the widgets in a stack by swipe up or down. This serves the purpose of Smart Stack, which updates you with a news brief, your calendar items, or the weather.
Another big change coming to iOS 14 is in the form of app folders or the App Library, as Apple likes to call it. Yes, for the first time, Apple is going to auto organise all of your apps into a single, streamlined view. By swiping to the right reveals the all-new App Library, which basically organises all your apps in one place. For someone who likes to test every new app that hits the App Store, the App Library is really useful. The new feature automatically segregates your apps and then groups them into categories. YouTube, Spotify, Amazon Prime Video, and similar apps are grouped together under the Entertainment category, for example. Unfortunately, there is no way to categorise these categories or rename them. There’s even a search bar at the top so you can quickly type in the app you want to open, and a Recently Added category lets you explore all the apps you last downloaded.
While the way you can personalise your iPhone’s home screen is a big deal, I also liked a few features that Apple is introducing as part of an all-new compact design. Two of the prominent features that fall under Apple’s Compact UI are less intrusive notifications for phone calls and a new “compact” Siri interface.
Instead of incoming calls taking over the entire screen, phone calls will now appear as a banner at the top of the screen. Just swipe up on the banner to dismiss it or swipe down to access more phone features and tap to answer the call. This also applies to FaceTime calls and even third-party apps like Skype.
I am glad that Siri is also a part of Apple’s new Compact UI. So now when you activate Siri, it longer takes up the entire screen. Instead, it appears at the bottom of the screen and doesn’t block you from reading a news article or chatting with a friend on Facebook Messenger.
The Translate app comes to the iPhone
While it might not be comparable to Google Translate, it’s good to see there’s a Translate app for the iPhone. With Translate, it’s easier for two people who speak different languages to communicate with each other, in real-time. I am yet to fully test the app, but I must say Apple did a good job by bringing a Translate app preloaded on the iPhone.
Small features but big in usefulness
While everyone is talking about the big changes coming to iOS 14, there are many lesser-known features that could drastically impact your experience of using the iPhone.
One such feature is Picture-in-Picture, which is finally coming to the iPhone. I have always liked the iPad’s Picture-in-Picture feature since it was launched, and there is a reason why this mode is so useful on the iPad. I don’t know how many people would want to watch a video while checking emails or sending text messages. But I am sure I would be using the picture-in-picture mode while attending a FaceTime call and editing a copy on Google Doc.
If there is one feature that I am currently enjoying the most is iOS 14’s new back tap gesture. It gives me the ability to tap the back of my iPhone twice or three times to trigger a shortcut. For example, I can double-tap the back of the iPhone to open the Notification Center, take a screenshot, and bring up the Control Center. I have wanted this feature for a while.
With iOS 14, Apple has also put an extra effort in prioritising privacy features. One such feature in iOS 14 is an indicator that lights up when the app is using the phone’s camera or mic in the background. A green light turns on the top right side of the screen, indicating you are using the phone’s camera. Similarly, an orange dot appears on the top right side of the screen when the phone’s microphone is in use.
There are hundreds of new features in iOS 14, but I have only managed to test a few. I am yet to test out the new features that Apple is bringing to the Messages app and Health app. I am also yet to discover what’s new in Apple Maps. I will have more deep insight into the App Clips feature and how Apple is improving the iPhone keyboard in another write-up.
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