Apple’s newly unveiled iOS 14 will bring widgets to the iPhone home screen for the first time ever, alongside a host of other updates…
Apple’s iOS 14 is official, following Apple’s first-ever online-only WWDC address. Apple covered a lot of ground on iOS 14, confirming a range of new features, including new iMessage features, new layout options, new ways to preview apps, and the inclusion of widgets for the first time on iPhone, as well as Apple’s GRAND transition from Intel chips to ARM chips for its MacBooks and future Mac releases.
I know, I know – Android has had widgets for years. Apple is playing catch-up in this regard, but the inclusion of widgets inside iOS 14 is a significant moment for iPhone (and iPad) users anyway – even if it took 10 years too long. Stylistically, iOS 14’s widgets can be placed anywhere on your iPhone’s home screen. You will have a bunch of different options to choose from as well – from large widgets to smaller, thumbnail-sized options.
Natively, widgets will be available for most of Apple’s core apps when iOS 14 starts rolling out to iPhones (this fall) – from apps like Apple Music to Health and, of course, the Calendar app. Where things get uncertain is third-party apps; I don’t recall Apple mentioning this in its keynote, so we’ll have to wait on an update about this closer to the release of iOS 14. I’d assume the ability to create widgets will be extended to Apple’s app developers, though with Apple, you just never know.
Apple needed to add a twist of uniqueness to how iPhone does widgets, and it has done this via something called Smart Stack. Smart Stack is essentially a pile of widgets that you set up in one area – you could have one for your news in the morning, your calendar during the day, and your activity in the evening, for instance.
The idea here is to add easily accessible information about specific, useful metrics that you can view throughout the day via a quick glance. All of this is powered by on-device intelligence and can be calibrated based on time, location, and activity.
Another big change to iOS 14 is App Library, whereby similar apps are organized into folders. You can change and augment these folders too. App Library is accessed via the home screen and will automatically group all of your iPhone’s apps into folders, complete with names. Using machine learning, the App Library will also be able to make suggestions on what type of app you might need at any given time.
The traditional home screen layout will remain the same, however; you access App Library at the bottom of the home page. Inside App Library, you will be able to make and manage your own folders too. This new feature is designed to help to manage clutter and keep all your apps grouped together for easy access. Ideal if you are the type of user that has hundreds of apps installed on your iPhone.
Using QR Codes or NFC tags, businesses will now be able to offer iPhone users App Clips – small previews of apps that load instantly to give a user a look at what they can download and install on their iPhone. An example of this could be your local coffee shop.
Imagine you are sat drinking a flat white, admiring the views of the environment around you. You notice a poster or a flyer on the coffee shop’s window has a QR code. This is an App Clip; now all you have to do is point your iPhone’s camera at the QR code and you will get a preview of the coffee shop’s app on your home screen, with the option to download it.
Apple FINALLY Fixed Phone Calls in iOS 14
One of the most annoying things about receiving calls on iPhone is that incoming calls take up the entire display, ruining your workflow or distracting you from something you’re doing. In iOS 14, this will no longer be a problem; Apple’s redesigned the phone app to ONLY take up a small slither of your display, as you can see below in the image.
With the new call notification, the incoming call now occupies about an eighth of the display. This means you can quickly dismiss or take the call without it interrupting what you’re doing. It’s a small update, for sure, but it will likely end up being one of iOS 14’s most loved new features. I know I’ve been wishing for this feature since the first time I used an iPhone…
Other New Features Inside iOS 14
Here’s a quick breakdown of iOS 14’s additional new features (via Apple):
- Translate: is designed to be the best and easiest app for translating conversations, offering quick and natural translation of voice and text among 11 different languages.4 On-device mode allows users to experience the features of the app offline for private voice and text translation.
- Siri expands its knowledge, helps find answers from across the internet, and can now send audio messages. Keyboard dictation runs on device when dictating messages, notes, email, and more.
- The Home app makes smart home control even easier with new automation suggestions and expanded controls in Control Center for quicker access to accessories and scenes.
- Adaptive Lighting for compatible HomeKit-enabled lights automatically adjusts the color temperature throughout the day, and with on-device Face Recognition, compatible video doorbells and cameras can identify friends and family. The Home app and HomeKit are built to be private and secure, so all information about a user’s home accessories is end-to-end encrypted.
- AirPods gain the ability to seamlessly switch between Apple devices with automatic device switching. Spatial audio with dynamic head tracking brings a theater-like experience to AirPods Pro. By applying directional audio filters, and subtly adjusting the frequencies each ear receives, sounds can be placed virtually anywhere in a space to provide an immersive listening experience.
- Digital car keys give users a secure way to use iPhone or Apple Watch to unlock and start their car. Digital car keys can be easily shared using Messages, or disabled through iCloud if a device is lost, and are available starting this year through NFC.8 Apple also unveiled the next generation of digital car keys based on Ultra Wideband technology for spatial awareness delivered through the U1 chip, which will allow users to unlock future car models without removing their iPhone from their pocket or bag, and will become available next year.
- Find My will add support for finding third-party products and accessories with the new Find My network accessory program. This will allow customers to use the Find My app to locate other important items in their lives, in addition to their Apple devices. User privacy remains central to the Find My network with end-to-end encryption built in. A draft specification is available for accessory makers and product manufacturers starting today.
- Safari offers a Privacy Report so users can easily see which cross-site trackers have been blocked, secure password monitoring to help users detect saved passwords that may have been involved in a data breach, and built-in translation for entire webpages.
- Health has all-new experiences to manage sleep, better understand audio levels that may affect hearing health, and a new Health Checklist — a centralized place to manage health and safety features — includes Emergency SOS, Medical ID, ECG, Fall Detection, and more. Health also adds support for new data types for mobility, Health Records, symptoms, and ECG.
- The Weather app and widget keep users up to date on severe weather events and a new next-hour precipitation chart shows minute-by-minute precipitation when rain is in the forecast.
- Accessibility features include Headphone Accommodations, which amplifies soft sounds and tunes audio to help music, movies, phone calls, and podcasts sound crisper and clearer, and sign language detection in Group FaceTime, which makes the person signing more prominent in a video call. VoiceOver, the industry’s leading screen reader for the blind community, now automatically recognizes what is displayed visually onscreen so more apps and web experiences are accessible to more people.
iOS 14 will be available for iPhone and iPad this fall…
Richard Goodwin has been working as a tech journalist for over 10 years. He is the editor and owner of KnowYourMobile.