At Apple’s WWDC 2020 event, the tech giant lifted the lid on iOS 14, which is expected to be fully launched in September alongside the iPhone 12 range. But you don’t have to wait until then to get your hands on it, as there’s already a beta version available.
The update makes some big changes to some of the mobile platform’s hallmark features, which is likely to get plenty of people excited. Between new widgets, translation tools, and a new, streamlined look for Siri, there’s plenty to get stuck into.
We’ve been spending some time with the first public beta, and have put together this handy list of tricks to get you started - be sure to let us know if we’ve missed any.
1. Add a widget or two
Widgets technically aren’t new for iOS, but iOS 14 sees them make the jump from the ‘Today’ view on your leftmost home screen to your phone’s main home screens where they can live alongside your apps.
All of the widgets are set to provide clear information with a quick glance, so whether it’s checking in on your Activity rings, checking the battery left in your AirPods, or accessing commonly-used files, this feature is long overdue.
That said, third-party apps are likely to form much of the excitement around the system, so we look forward to potential widgets from the likes of Spotify, for example.
To add a widget, just long press on your home screen, and tap the ‘+’ icon in the top left corner to be able to select a widget, and then select which shape you’d like it to be, before dropping it on your home screen.
2. Add or remove home screens
Speaking of home screens, there’s nothing quite like condensing your app collection into a single pane. That’s not always possible though, and so Apple is now allowing users to essentially hide pages of their home screen.
This also hides the apps on those pages, but don’t worry, it doesn’t uninstall them - it just adds them to the App Library (which we’ll get onto shortly).
Long press your home screen to enter ‘jiggle mode’, and then tap the dots above the dock that show how many screens there are. From there, you can simply toggle them on or off.
3. Check out the new App Library
If you’re looking for a specific app that was on one of your hidden home screens, you don’t need to unhide and re-hide once you’ve opened it.
Swiping across to the right opens up the App Library, a new way of curating your apps into categories. From there, you can launch any of the apps that have a large icon with a single tap, or open a category by tapping on the square of four smaller icons, and from there you’ll have one-tap access to all the apps within.
4. Try the new translate app
Apple’s new Translate app is a handy new addition that offers on-device translation - meaning it doesn’t need to be connected to the internet to be able to work (ideal if you’ve put your device on airplane mode or disabled data to avoid roaming charges).
Simply input your chosen phrase, specify your desired language, and voila, your translated phrase will appear.
5. Translate a web page in Safari
While this isn’t currently available in beta, you’ll soon be able to translate entire web pages in Safari with just two taps.
Find the website you want to translate, then tap the ‘AA’ button to the left of the search bar. If the site is supported, it will offer the opportunity to translate.
6. Avoid full-screen calls
Despite all of the things they can do, iPhones are, at the end of the day, phones. Unfortunately, if someone calls you in iOS 13 or earlier, your entire phone becomes unusable until either you answer, or they stop ringing.
Thankfully, iOS 14 offers a much-requested redesign for phone calls that are received while using your phone. Rather than a full-screen call, you’ll get a drop-down box with options to accept or reject a call, which is much more useful.
7. Use picture in picture mode
It’s not just voice calls that are getting a change either, with FaceTime calls now much less intrusive, too. You can simply return to your home screen while on a call to have your phone continue your video chat in a small ‘picture in picture’ frame.
This also works with apps like Netflix, so you can catch season two of Umbrella Academy while firing off texts. Unfortunately, YouTube doesn’t support the feature yet. While that could change, it would take away a big reason to own YouTube Premium - so it’s unlikely.
8. Pin conversations
The Messages app has seen big changes in recent years, but this one is most welcome. If you want to ensure messages from your significant other, family member, or boss are always accessible, you can now pin conversations to the top of the screen.
Doing so is easy - just press and hold on a conversation, then select ‘pin’. This will separate the conversation from your inbox entirely, allowing you to keep tabs on the most important people in your life.
9. Reply to a single person in a group conversation
Messages are also finally getting inline replies, meaning you can respond to a specific message in a thread.
Just press and hold the message in question, and then tap to reply. You’ll be able to respond directly, before returning to the text chain.
10. Give your Memoji a fresh look
Memoji are becoming more and more ubiquitous, and they’re about to get even more customizable, too.
Now your digital avatar can wear face coverings, and they can also be aged. That’s handy because group messages now add Memoji to the chat icon.
11. Plan a cycle trip
Cycling instructions have come to Apple Maps, but only in supported locations. Still, once your destination is selected and you’ve chosen pedals over petrol, you’ll be able to opt out of staircases, check elevation, and even see how much of your route is shared with pedestrians.
12. Enjoy a selection of recommended places to visit
Apple Maps’ other new big trick this year is the new Guides, which offer curated ideas for things to do in your location of choice. It could show you the best pizza places in NYC, or take you to the best bars in London.
They’ll be updated over time, too, and you can save guides to return to them later.
13. Check out Siri's facelift
It feels strange to say about a digital assistant, but we love Siri’s new look. Rather than taking up the whole screen, it now appears as a little ‘orb’ at the bottom of your display when triggered.
Once you’ve submitted your request, Siri’s response will appear at the top of the screen. The digital assistant is also smarter than before, and now able to find answers using the internet and resources like Wikipedia.
14. Order food With CarPlay
Okay, this one is a little niche, but CarPlay has been expanded to allow more types of app. If you’ve got an electric vehicle, for example, you’ll be able to access an app for charging, as well as parking apps.
Of course, the real power play is to order food directly from your car so you can pick it up on the way through. What a time to be alive, eh?
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