Technology

iOS 14: Everything there is new

Hey, what’s up, guys? The iOS14 is here. So, this is the first look at hands on at the features and what to expect for this OS that will eventually hit all your iPhones in fall and September around then when it comes out.

So right off the top, I just want to say the Memes were pretty strong about Apple taking a lot of old features from Android in this release. We all made the jokes. But aside from all of that, I think we should ask ourselves, why now? Like, why are we just getting widgets instead of like eight years ago when they could have added widgets to iOS. And after actually using it, I’m feeling like the answer is they wanted to get a couple extra things right to put on top of it. And it’s not like it’s better than the Android version. But there’s some stuff that they do their own way. You’ll see what I mean.

Home Screen

So first up is the new home screen. We’ve all heard about it. We’ve all seen the widgets by now. But let’s just go over everything. First of all, there’s the new app library, which is a space all the way at the end to the right of all the home screens that’s literally just a big list of all your apps, but automatically organized. And this is basically the first time iOS has had like an app drawer where everything’s in one place. It took a decade, but it’s finally here.

And inside of that, there’s just a straight up, alphabetical, searchable list if you’re into that too. Now, you can still pull down to search from anywhere on the home screens if you want to find apps that way. It actually adds more results from the Web and from Siri. But hopefully you’ll need to use this a lot less.

Widgets

And then, of course, widgets. Now, it’s still not quite Android level where you can put them like anywhere you want and change them to whatever size you want. It’s not the same thing. Like you can’t put a widget in the middle of a home screen. It has to be either on the left side or the right side, which is kind of a bummer. And you can’t put it alone on the right without anything to the left of it.

So it’s still restricted in a very iPhone way, as you can tell. But at least you can long-press, hit that plus button, and break out into all these new widgets and add them to any home screen with some degree of freedom. You see, there are different sizes. Of the widgets here in iOS 14 off the bat are all first-party Apple apps. And there’s a nice variety with different sizes and functionalities. But we are expecting third party apps to become as well.

And that to me is exciting to finally be coming to the iPhone. And I’m looking forward to having my Tesla widget where I can unlock the trunk of my car just from the button. Or open a charge port or even just have a widget of my Google calendar instead of an Apple calendar. OK. Now, Apple’s added, the fundamentals of widgets are on the home screen. So now on top of that, they’ve added a couple interesting little dynamic nuances and extra things you can do with that.

Something from Android

First of all, there’s a widget you can add called Smart Stack, where once you add it, it’s basically a carousel of several common widgets and you can scroll through them manually or have them change automatically based on predictions it’s made for you. And while that’s neat, I didn’t really think I would use this until I found out. You can edit smart stacks and remove unwanted or useless widgets from this carousel. But I think even cooler is the method of adding or creating your own smart stacks.

You can do this anytime you want. So if you want to create a stack, you can add two widgets on top of each other that are the same size. So hold and drag that second widget on top of the first widget, drop it on top and it becomes a scrollable stack. And then you can continue to add more and then you can edit to make it a smart stack or just keep it this way. That is pretty nice. And then another thing long overdue from iOS that you can now do because you have an App drawer is hiding home screens.

So, let’s say you have a couple of apps that you don’t use that much as classic iOS. Bunch apps you don’t use, but you don’t want to delete them just in case you want to use them once in a while. Ok, so instead of putting them all in like a random folder that just sits at the end of one of our home screens, now that there is an app drawer iOS, you can just hold down to edit, click the dots at the bottom and then just uncheck to hide an entire page. Boom. You won’t have to see those apps again.

Compact UI

Then we have a bunch of changes in this category that we’ll call compact UI. So in previous versions of iOS, there are plenty of things, plenty of actions that just unnecessarily take up the entire screen.

Now they’re all fixed. So now when you get a phone call or face time call, for example, it won’t just dominate the whole screen anymore. It’ll just give you another dropdown notification from which you can easily hide it and keep doing what you’re doing. It’ll keep ringing. Or you can accept or reject right away. That’s good compact UI. And then once you’re actually on a face time, you can actually swipe up, go home and do other things.

And the face time continues, doesn’t pause your video. It keeps the camera up and working. You can look something up; grab a phone number, whatever you’re going to do. It doesn’t have to pause. And you can move around that picture in picture as long as you’re doing all that. And speaking of picture in picture, it’s just generally more widely supported throughout the entire OS now. So whether you’re watching a movie in an Apple TV and that app or just any video in Safari really.

And it’s pretty straightforward. Once a video is a full screen, just swipe up to go home. And that video will shrink down and keep playing in this little picture in the picture window. And they can play with the size of that window. Move it around to any corner and just keep doing whatever you’re doing behind that picture. You can even swipe it over to the side to get rid of the visual for a minute. But the audio keeps playing in the background and then you can bring it back anytime.

Siri

It really does feel more like true multitasking. And then lastly, for compact UI Siri, which in all previous versions of iOS used to always be this full screen takeover. Now, in iOS 14, it is just a little animation here at the bottom. Again, they’ve sort of adjusted it, but it’s not perfect. So you can call up Siri the same way, long press the power button. And it’s this smaller animation at the bottom of the screen.

You ask it a question. It pops up an answer at the top of the screen where it can. But, it doesn’t let you interact with anything underneath directly without exiting Siri. So while, yes, the animation is smaller and it doesn’t take up the whole screen anymore, it still doesn’t quite feel as much like the true multitasking, where if they let me scroll an article underneath my Siri answer.  Nevertheless, you can still see what’s underneath there. If you need to reference it while you’re talking to Siri.

Straight from Android

Then there are a lot of little things, useful things, but little things. I think to categorize them will put them into two buckets. Straight from Android and genuinely new stuff that Google should copy.

So straight from Android, that stock keyboard now finally has added emoji search. So instead of typing a word and hoping the right suggested emoji pops up, now you can just search for any emoji you want anytime. This has revived the age-old question.

Is this emoji prayer hands or a high five? Apples keyboard does not service it when you search for high five.

But Google’s does. Apple is team prayer hands. Google is team high five. Which team are you on?

Then there is a new stock translate app, which is nice to see. It only supports a smaller number of languages. Looks like about a dozen right now, but I expect to see that list grow over time. And it works great for quickly translating conversations between two people. And then finally, default email and browser apps will be able to be changed in iOS 14.

Finally. Now it is, just email and browser apps. But, you know, those are the two that most people most often want to set as a different default. So I’m excited to get Chrome as my default browser, and I am very excited to have something other than the useless to me email app as my default mail app. Then we also saw app clips, which is like little snips of apps that you can quickly, temporarily use when you don’t have the whole app installed, but need to use some of its functionality.

Unique Features

A lot of good stuff there. But then we’ll move on to the super unique features that I haven’t seen. Some of the stuff wasn’t even talked about on stage. But, you know, as people dig through the betas, we found some of it, and it’s good. I want to start with some accessibility settings. So in iOS14, if you go into settings, accessibility touch and then back tap, you can now map a double tap or triple tap of the back of the phone to a shortcut.

So I’ve mapped double-tapping the back of my phone to open up Siri. Literally, all I do is double tap the back and after about half a second, Siri pops up and then I think I did triple tap to take a screenshot. And there is a slight delay, but it does work and it’s kind of neat to have an extra thing map to the back of the phone.

You can actually set a Siri shortcut to run on that double-tap of the back of the phone. And then you can set that shortcut to point to any number of things. You literally can have the short cut set to open Google assistant on a double-tap, which is pretty hilarious. You could also have it open the camera or whatever else you really wanted to. OK.

Some automatic Features

And then while we’re at it, here’s another really interesting accessibility. Feature settings, accessibility, sound recognition. This will let you turn on notifications if the phone’s Mic’s recognize a sound that might be important. So it’s meant for people hard of hearing, but could still be useful to anyone if it picks up a doorbell or a fire alarm or a faucet running that you forgot to turn off. That’s pretty sweet. There’s more memojie customizations. They still don’t quite look exactly like a person but at least you can add face coverings like masks.

Another sign of the times along with that hand washing detection from the apple watch. And then a privacy feature. Anytime, literally any time an app starts using the camera iOS shows a little green light to let you know that something is accessing the camera. And anytime the microphone is accessed a little orange light comes up. And then in the improved faster camera app when taking a night mode photo it gives you a gyroscopic guide to help you keep the phone still to take a better handheld picture.

Another one is if you’re face timing, and the AI detects that someone in that group face time call is using sign language, it will move them up to the most prominent biggest spot so that everyone on the face time can see the sign language. And there’s also a ton of other things on apple’s site from the pinned conversations and messaging to cycling directions and EV navigation in maps. But clearly, most of the good stuff is in the details.

Here’s a list of all the iPhones getting iOS 14 in the fall.

  • iPhone 11.
  • iPhone 11 Pro.
  • iPhone 11 Pro Max.
  • iPhone XS.
  • iPhone XS-Pro.
  • iPhone XR.
  • iPhone X.
  • iPhone 8.
  • iPhone 8 Plus.
  • iPhone 7.
  • iPhone 7 Plus.
  • iPhone 6S.
  • iPhone 6S Plus.
  • iPhone SE (1st Generation).
  • iPhone SE (2nd Generation).
  • iPod Touch (7th Generation).

Again, they’ll do it likely around September like they do every year. And so that’s every iPhone since iPhone 6s. But overall I think it’s looking pretty good. I mean it’s still not like a drastic UI overhaul. It’s very clearly still an iPhone. Half the people who get this update will probably never use most of these features. But there are a lot of good ones baked in there for the nerds like who want to dig in and actually use that stuff. Let me know which one is your favorite in the comments. And, if you use android, let me know which one you would like Google to copy. See you in the next one.

Full credit goes to Marques Brownlee

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