Apple iOS 14 Preview: Hands-on with all the new features
Update: Apple has officially released the first public beta of iOS 14. Aside from minor bug fixes, it doesn't introduce many new features.
We quickly installed iOS 14 on Betty, our trusty iPhone that's dedicated to beta builds, and delved into the new piece of software that Apple has released. Of course, it has its fair share of bugs (changing the wallpaper with a small widget stack makes it unnaturally thick) but that's normal behavior for an early developer beta. Still, iOS 14 is perfectly usable in its current form, though we wouldn't recommend installing it on your daily driver.
iOS 14: Fresh, fresh, fresh!
Widgets: finally great!The leitmotif with iOS 14 is the visual overhaul of the ubiquitous home screen, which has seen a pretty severe paradigm shift. It wouldn't be too outlandish to say that iOS hasn't seen such major changes ever since the skeuomorphic design was superseded by iOS 7's modern flat design that we've grown to love and cherish. The new homescreen widgets and the App Library might not be on the same page as far as impact goes, but it will forever change the way you interact with your phone.
You will learn to love App LibraryThe App Library is another intriguing novelty that graces the iOS home screen which wages a predetermined war on icon clutter. Gone are the days where you'd have a multitude of unsorted homescreens with scattered apps and folders; you will also no longer have to rely on muscle memory to open that one app. Thanks to App Library, you are just a few taps away from cleaning up your iPhone's homescreens and neatly organizing all of the apps in a slew of non-ambiguous categories. How does it differ from the folders that you can create yourself? Simple, App Library does the sorting for you, which could be a very big time saver if you have hundreds of apps installed. App Library has yet another time-saver for those particular individuals - tapping on the search widget at the top not only lets you search for a specific app, but also sorts all of your apps in an alphabetical list, making it very easy to find the one you're looking for.
Incoming calls now cause less anxietyApple finally caved in and introduced a compact incoming call screen with iOS 14. Hallelujah! You will no longer be abruptly interrupted when you receive an incoming call, as calls can now be displayed as banners at the top of your homescreen. Those banners are flickable, and this wouldn't hang up the call. If you still prefer the old-school fullscreen incoming call window, you can opt for that one.
Picture-in-picture is here
Messages & MemojiMessages now feel like a complete app that's got in covered on all fronts. You can now mention specific contacts in group chat, which will alert them even if they have muted the specific group chat. Yes, you can do that now as well. Inline replies are another life-saving feature that will greatly improve the experience in more populous conversations. Group chats can now be adorned with a custom thumbnail, which would give it a sense of individuality.
iOS 14 other minor features
- Double- or triple-tapping the back of an iPhone can launch a pre-defined shortcut. For example, you can launch the camera by double-tapping your iPhone or even assign a custom automation shortcut. However, this new feature has some hardware requirements as it only works on iPhones that have Tap to Wake (iPhone X, XS and XS Max, XR, 11, 11 Pro, 11 Pro Max). Older iPhones (6s, 6s Plus, SE 1st Gen, 7, 7 Plus, 8, 8 Plus, and SE 2nd Gen) won’t support it.
- You can now mirror the front camera so that selfies are taken as previewed.
- There are tons of emoji available in the stock iOS keyboard. It's hard to keep track of all the new ones that arrive on the regular, but Apple has got you back. There is a new emoji search feature that lets you find out just the one that will help you express yourself, just like on Gboard. On-device dictation is also part of the feature list.
- You can now set separate alarms for each day of the week.
- Sound recognizer will now alert you if it detects fire/smoke alarms or sirens, cats meowing, dogs barking, appliance alerts, door bells, water running, crying babies, shouting, car horns or door knocks. A great new accessibility feature for people that are hard of hearing, It also works with the Shortcuts app for advanced automation.
- There's a new NFC Tag Reader tile available for the Control Center.
- Come autumn and you update your iPhone to iOS 14, your AirPods will be able to seamlessly switch between any paired Apple devices with the new and improved automatic device switching. This would make device-hopping even quicker and intuitive.