Preview of iOS 14: We’ve had a handy preview of the changes to your iPhone this fall

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iOS 14 brings a number of improvements, large and small, to iPhones, including the ability to pin widgets to your home screen and have picture-in-picture video. Patrick Holland / CNET

Monday, Apple launched iOS 14 to an online conference for its annual global developer conference. Latest iPhone operating system includes new customizations for home screen, picture-in-picture video, better widgets, new Siri interface and app library, new way to organize your apps .

The final version of iOS 14 will be released in the fall alongside the widespread iPhone 12. But I got my hands on the iOS 14 beta developer and got to try out many features, including the translation app, Back Tap, new group messaging options, and new Memoji customizations, which include the ability to add a face mask.

This is not a review of the developer’s beta software. Rather, this is a hands-on overview of some of the important features of iOS 14 and how they work.


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IOS 14 home screen is the same, but also different

At first glance, an iPhone 11 running iOS 14 doesn’t seem to be any different. All of my apps are exactly where they were in iOS 13. But a swipe to the right reveals a page called the app library, which organizes all of my apps in one place.

It would be easy to compare the application library to the Android application drawer. But Apple has brought its own twist to things by grouping apps into categories. Twitter, Instagram and similar apps are grouped under the Social category, for example.

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The app library organizes all of your iPhone apps in one place.

Patrick Holland / CNET

Groups look like large application folders, but you don’t have to open one to access an application. You just hit the app and go. Groups with more than four applications have mini application clusters. You can touch them to expand the cluster, then tap the desired app.

When you open the application library search bar, an alphabetical list of all your applications appears. So between Siri, search, your home page, and the options on the Application Library page, there are now a bunch of ways to find and open your apps in iOS 14.

Widgets can be pinned to your home screen

With the announcement of iOS 14, Apple now offers three forms of apps: there are apps, widgets based on those apps, and app clips. The latter of which I will speak momentarily. In iOS 13, the widgets appeared on the Today View page on the left side of the home screen. But now you can pin widgets right to your home screen. You just long press the screen, tap the plus button and the widget gallery will appear.

The widget gallery is a mix of suggested widgets and a list of apps that have a widget that you can install. Obviously, since this is the developer version, the only widgets are currently for Apple apps.

Each widget is available in three sizes: small, medium and large. Widgets have a fixed width that aligns with the application columns on the home screen. So you can’t put one in the middle of your screen. Integrating widgets of different sizes into my apps makes the iPhone home screen look contemporary and attractive. And recognize that there is definitely a Windows Phone tile vibe, which is not a bad thing.

Widget stacks and Smart Stack

Perhaps one of the most interesting customizations of the home screen is a stack of widgets. You create one simply by dragging a widget over another of the same size. To display the widgets in a stack, you swipe up or down, which brings another one up.

Who would have thought that widgets could be so exciting in 2020? And before commenting, I know that Android created widgets a long time ago. But it’s lazy to dismiss iOS 14 widgets just as a copied function, especially since Apple has put its own spin on widgets with what’s called a Smart Stack.

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You can find the smart battery in the widget gallery and then pin it to your home screen as a widget.

Patrick Holland / CNET

iOS 14 creates a smart stack of widgets based on which apps you use the most and when you use them. So if you regularly use the Maps app after work, this is when this widget will be at the top of your Smart Stack. If you always check the weather in the morning, it’s one of the best when you wake up. Your iPhone organizes your Smart Stack for you. I am delighted to see how it will work after spending more time with iOS 14.

I’m sure many people will never touch a widget or smart battery in their life and will never be wiser, which is why Apple’s implementation is wise. In a way, nothing has changed on your home screen. But in another, so many things are different.

Application clips are essentially mini-applications for your iPhone

iOS 14 gives you a whole new way to interact with an app. It’s called App Clips and is for apps that aren’t on your iPhone. Essentially, an app clip is a mini app with limited functionality determined by the app developer. The idea is that you don’t need to take time or phone space to download an entire app and that you can have a fast experience instead.

During WWDC’s opening speech, Apple showed a customer signing up for an awards club in a cafe via an app clip. QR and NFC codes can trigger an application clip. But you can also send them via a friend to order food, or find one for a business in Maps.

If developers widely embrace app clips, it could help keep your iPhone cluttered and change your relationship with apps.

iOS 14 lets you hide application pages

If you have apps that you rarely use but don’t want to delete, you can put them all on one page and hide them. You still have access to apps through search, Siri, or the app library, but they’re not visible.

In theory, you can hide all of your apps, fill your home screen with stacks of widgets, and continue using your iPhone. I think I’ll have to try this at some point.

Picture in picture arrives on your iPhone

After being on the iPad for a number of years, the picture-in-picture video functionality arrived on the iPhone via iOS 14. To be honest, it looks more like picture video on the home screen or picture. on different image – video apps. It works not only for videos but also for FaceTime calls.

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You can minimize videos in a small player window and watch them while having access to everything on your iPhone.

Patrick Holland / CNET

I love being able to turn my FaceTime chat into a little window so I can access something else on my iPhone. This allows me to continue the conversation without showing this blank screen to other people on the other end of the call. And you can pretty much move the FaceTime mini window wherever you want.

Videos work the same way: if I watch a video in full screen via an application like Safari, I can swipe up to access the application switching view, then press on the home screen to reduce. You can resize the video window and move it accordingly. If you push it sideways, the audio will continue to play without the image.

Set a default third-party browser or messaging application

That was not mentioned in the speech, but at the bottom of the iOS 14 overview page on the Apple website is an ad for a feature that many of us have been waiting for: you can now choose apps system default to third parties.

iOS 14 will allow you to set a third-party application as your default Internet browser or messaging application. The problem here is that developers have to mark their app as a browser or messaging app for it to work. In theory, this means that you can use Chrome or Firefox as your default mobile browser, or Gmail as your default email application. I’m excited to see this in action once the developers activate their apps.

iOS 14 adds Translate app to your iPhone

The new Translate app has two modes. In vertical position, you can have it translate words and sentences as well as show the definition of these words. When you rotate it in landscape mode, it goes into conversation mode, allowing each speaker to have half the screen with its translation displayed. You can even ask the app to display the translation in full screen or speak it for you.

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The translation app works between 11 different languages.

Patrick Holland / CNET

Apple Maps obtains bicycle routes

Google Maps has been offering routes for cycling routes for some time. But with iOS 14, Maps adds its own bike routes. And there are thoughtful options: you get elevations and warnings on the streets or where you have to walk with your bike. You can also toggle the options to avoid such as stairs, hills and busy roads. Cycle routes in Maps show locations such as bicycle repair shops and cafes along the way. At launch, cycle routes will only be available in a few cities.

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Maps now supports cycling routes.

Patrick Holland / CNET

Green light means your camera is on

A useful feature in iOS 14 is a light that lets you know if an app is using your camera or microphone in the background. When your phone’s microphone is on, an orange dot appears at the top right of the screen. The dot appears in green when an application is using your camera, leaving no doubt about what is going on.

Trigger a shortcut by tapping the back of your iPhone

There are a ton of new accessibility features, but the one that stands out is Back Tap. In the accessibility settings touch section, you can activate Back Tap, which allows you to trigger an action or shortcut by tapping the back of your iPhone twice or three times. For example, I can double tap to display the Control Panel. And if I press it twice again, the control panel disappears.

You can select from more than two dozen actions and shortcuts to trigger with Back Tap, such as taking screenshots or displaying the magnifying glass.

Sound recognition can alert you to alarms and animals

Another compelling accessibility feature is called sound recognition. It can alert you if your iPhone detects specific sounds, such as a fire or smoke alarm, or an animal. You select the sound you want to be notified of and when your iPhone detects one of these sounds, it alerts you with an on-screen alert.

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Sound recognition helps people who are hard of hearing to know what is going on around them.

Patrick Holland / CNET

Messages Receive Memoji Face Masks and New Group Feed Mentions

If you’re big on group threads, iOS 14 makes them even easier to manage. You can mention a specific person in a discussion thread and only alert that person. You can also pin conversations at the top of the app.

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Sign of the times, you can now add a facial mask to your Memoji.

Patrick Holland / CNET

There’s a bunch of customizations, including new hair styles and hairstyles for Memoji, as well as the ability to add a face mask.

Phone calls and Siri get small

Instead of an incoming call occupying your entire screen before answering it, it will now display as a banner notification at the top. You tap to answer or drag it.

Siri, who used to have the same bad habit of taking over your entire screen, now appears like an animated orb at the bottom.

Another beta version of iOS 14 is on the way

A public beta version of iOS 14 will launch in July. iOS 14 will work on the same iPhones that are supported in iOS 13 – in particular, iPhone 6S and newer.

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