The iPhone’s software is getting a face-lift. The latest version of Apple’s mobile operating system, iOS 14, is now available for download, and you’ll notice several visual tweaks when you first install it. Notably, your home screen looks very different, with an app library, widgets everywhere, and a new look for Siri. We’ve collected all the top upgrades you’ll find in iOS 14, along with some small changes, to help you make sense of it all.
All of these features are also available in iPadOS 14, the iPad’s operating system, which you can also install now. If you’re interested in all the new hardware Apple recently announced, check out this roundup.
How to Download iOS 14 and iPadOS 14
But first, you might be wondering how you’ll be able to install them. Anyone with an iPhone 6S or newer (that includes the 2016 iPhone SE) can download iOS 14 right now. For the tablets, you’ll need an iPad Air 2 or newer, an iPad Mini 4 or newer, an iPad 5th generation or newer. All iPad Pro models can install iPadOS 14 now, too.
Now, before you install anything, make sure to back up your device. (We have a guide that can help!) Once you’ve done that, the rest is very simple. Open the Settings app, tap General, and then Software Update. Your device will search for an update and will then start downloading it. It will take a few minutes and will automatically restart, so make sure you initiate this when you aren’t doing anything important.
As a word of advice, the first version of new Apple updates can still have some bugs. The safest bet is to wait a day or two to see if there are reports about any major issues. If not, you can rest easy installing it. Now, onto what’s new.
For years, the iPhone home screen has been a grid of app icons that go on for pages and pages. That’s changed now. In iOS 14, you can hide pages of apps you don’t use often, and a scroll to the right will let you access your new App Library. It’s quite similar to the app drawer on Android phones, but instead of more icons in an endless vertical stream, apps are grouped into various categories like Social, Productivity, and Entertainment.
The top two categories (which look like big folders) are Suggested and Recent Apps. Suggested Apps uses machine learning to recommend apps you might want to use next, and Recent Apps shows apps you recently used or installed. There’s also a search bar at the top.
Until now, the iPhone’s widgets have been relegated to the Today View on the left of the main screen. Now, you can pull these widgets out and into your home screen (just like on Android) and get alternate sizes for them (you can’t pull widgets out of Today View on iPadOS). This allows you to customize how your phone looks and quickly access certain functions, like switching music tracks with your music app’s widget. To see all the widgets available with the apps you have installed, there’s a Widget Library. Just be aware that developers may not have widgets ready yet (or no plans to make one) for your apps.
One particular widget from Apple is Smart Stack, which bundles together a variety of widgets into one oblong-shaped box. You can swipe through this to see the others, or Smart Stack will automatically change the widget based on time of day and your usual activity. For example, in the morning, Smart Stack might show you a morning news briefing. In the afternoon, it might switch to your calendar widget, and in the evening, it might show your fitness activity summary.
If you’re watching a movie on your iPhone but need to switch to a messaging app to respond to someone, Apple’s new Picture-in-Picture mode means you don’t need to hit the pause button. Instead, you’ll see a floating screen over your home screen (or any other app). You can resize it, drag it around, and control video playback. You can even minimize it to the side of the screen but still have audio playing if you need your iPhone’s full screen for something else.
Siri Gets a Revamp
A new version of Siri won’t take up your whole screen when you just want to ask a question. Instead, Siri now looks like a small bubble at the bottom. Ask it for the weather and you’ll see a pop-up notification at the top of the screen with the answer. It’s a little smarter too. It can access information from across the web (to some degree) and can also now send audio messages for you in the Messages app.
A Translate App
Apple’s moving in on Google with its new Translate app. At the moment, it supports 11 languages, and an on-device mode keeps text and voice translations private. If you turn your iPhone into landscape view, the app will turn on Conversation mode, which offers a side-by-side view that makes it easy for both parties to see the translation.
Your Messages app is getting a slew of updates. First, you can pin important conversations to the very top of the app. These will appear as big circles, different from the other threads in the app, and you can pin up to nine threads. For group messages, you’ll see circular images of everyone in a group at the top of the screen, and people who have been more active than others will appear slightly bigger (you can also set a group photo).
In group chats, you can reply inline to specific messages and view this as a separate thread. You can also type someone’s name to “mention” someone, similar to using the @ function on other messaging apps like Facebook Messenger or Slack. With the latter feature, you can have conversations only send a notification if you have been mentioned.
There are new Memoji designs to choose from, including 20 new hair and headwear styles, more face coverings, and age options. There are three new Memoji stickers too: a hug, a fist bump, and a blush.
Maps and CarPlay Updates
The redesigned Apple Maps that Apple introduced last year is available in three new countries: the UK, Ireland, and Canada. Apple says it’s also working with trusted brands to integrate travel guides into Apple Maps, which include recommendations for places around you. Perhaps even more helpful, Maps can now tell you when you are approaching a speed sensor or red-light camera.
Cycling navigation is also available in Maps. It will take into account elevation, so you’ll know if you’ll be dealing with a lot of hills. Unfortunately, it’s only available in New York, Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area, Shanghai, and Beijing to start. More cities are on the way in the coming months. You can ask Siri for cycling directions.
If you have an electric car, you’ll be happy to learn that Apple has added EV routing into Maps. It takes into account temperature, weather, elevation, and other information to automatically add charging stations to your route if you’ll need to juice up soon. Apple says it’s working on deep integration with car manufacturers like BMW and Ford, so it will know exactly which stations will support your car.
You will soon be able to tap your phone to the door of a car to unlock it via NFC technology, just like paying with Apple Pay. If you lose your iPhone, you can turn off keys remotely via iCloud. You can even “share” your car key via iMessage and set restricted driver profiles, which can limit things like acceleration, top speed, and more. The first car to support this feature will be the 2021 BMW 5 Series, and it will likely take a number of years for a good portion of vehicles to support it.
Apple wants to make it easier for you to find and use new apps based on what you are doing and where you are. This comes in the form of App Clips, which are bite-sized versions (10-megabytes or less) of apps that you can use for one-off instances. For example, if you’re browsing Panera’s menu in Safari or looking up the closest restaurants near you in Maps, an App Clip might pop up from the bottom of your screen. It’s a lightweight version of the Panera app you can use to check the menu and place an order for pick up. It relies on Apple Pay and Apple’s sign-in instead of requiring you to make a Panera account if you don’t have one.
Another example is using an App Clip to pay for a parking meter or rent a scooter. These App Clips can be found by tappable NFC tags or QR codes around you. If you need to find an App Clip again, you can see it in the new App Library, so you can download the full app later if you want. It’s very similar to Android Instant Apps, which Google introduced a few years ago.
iPadOS Gets Scribble
If you have an Apple Pencil, you’re now able to write with it in any text field, like a search bar, and the iPad will convert your handwriting into text. It means you don’t need to rely on the virtual keyboard as much when you’re not using a physical keyboard.
What’s also nice is you can select your handwriting using a Smart Selection tool, and if you paste it into an app that doesn’t support handwriting, the iPad will automatically transcribe it into text. There’s also a Shape Recognition tool, which will perfect your sloppily-drawn shapes. It’s handy if you want to keep things neat or if you’re making diagrams.
Other Notable Small Changes
You can change the default email and web browser apps. So you can replace Apple’s Mail app with Gmail, for example.
Universal Search’s interface will no longer interrupt what you’re doing, and you can use it to search for anything—like installed apps or contacts—not to mention complete web searches. You can even search within apps. Similarly, when you get a call, the notification will be a banner at the top instead of hogging the whole screen.
You’ll be able to “Sign in With Apple” inside apps by tapping a button to port your existing accounts into your Apple account.
You can search for emojis with the keyboard and the keyboard’s dictation feature now uses the same engine as the one used for Siri, meaning your dictations will be more accurate. It’s also running on-device, so it works offline.
You’ll now see a pop-up notification when an app wants to track you across apps and websites owned by other companies. You can allow it or ask the app not to track you. This means it will reduce the amount of data collected by the app. Similarly, new cards in the App Store will show what kind of data an app might collect before you install it. It’s meant to act just like the nutrition label on food packaging. You can also share App Store subscriptions with your whole family.
For camera upgrades, the camera can now shoot photos up to 90 percent faster, at up to four frames per second. QuickTake video is now available on the iPhone XR and XS. And you can quickly toggle the video resolution and frame rate in video mode. If you have an iPhone 11 or 11 Pro, Night mode now offers up a guidance indicator to make sure you stay steady during capture, and you can also cancel a Night mode shot midway instead of waiting until the end. There is also a camera recording indicator in the status bar and you can add captions to photos and videos in the Photos app.
Select Apple apps in iPadOS now feature a sidebar for easier navigation, making better use of the larger screen.
The Health app now lets you add how much sleep you want to get every night. A Wind Down mode prepares your phone for bedtime and wake-up, so you can schedule things like playing soothing sounds. It automatically turns on Do Not Disturb and Sleep mode. The latter will dim your phone screen, show the date, time, and next alarm.
On the privacy front, you can share your approximate location with apps instead of your precise location. The Control Center also shows which apps recently accessed your microphone or camera. And if you connect to a Wi-Fi network that doesn’t use a private Wi-Fi address, you’ll get a warning.
You can assign reminders to people you share lists with, and they will get a reminder.
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