Handy with new changes and beta features in iOS iOS 14.4

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The initial beta of iOS 14.4 includes a new feature that was first demonstrated at Apple’s iPhone 12 event. The new feature is specifically for the HomePod mini and its U1 Ultra Wideband chip that enables spatial awareness. An iPhone equipped with the U1 chip can interact with Apple’s little smart speaker in new ways on iOS 14.4. Watch our hands-on tour as we explore the Handoff Experience Update and other changes and features in the iOS 14.4 beta.

What’s new in iOS 14.4 beta?

New transfer experience for HomePod mini

The biggest new change is, of course, the new Handoff experience that comes to the HomePod mini. Unlike the full-size HomePod that has been available for a few years, the new HomePod mini is equipped with new technology, such as Apple’s U1 Ultra Wideband chip. The U1 chip enables spatial awareness, so an iPhone equipped with this chip can enjoy richer nearby interactions with other products equipped with the U1 chip, such as the HomePod mini.

Apple has decided to elevate the Handoff experience, which previously relied on accurately positioning your iPhone near the HomePod. Compared to the more Boolean interaction of the old way, HomePod mini and iPhone 11/12 running the latest beta of iOS 14.4 are able to create intuitive spatial interactions with each other.

Video: iOS 14.4 Changes and Features


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With the previous Handoff interaction, users would simply hold their iPhone near the top of HomePod to transfer audio or phone calls to or from the device. A small notification banner would appear at the top of the iPhone screen indicating that Handoff was successful. Handoff is no longer relegated to a small notification banner at the top of the iPhone, but users can now enjoy a full map interface that pops up when the iPhone moves closer to the HomePod mini.

How the new Handoff experience works

If you bring a media playback iPhone closer to HomePod mini, you’ll feel the device’s Taptic Engine kick in. At first the force feedback is subtle, but as you move your iPhone closer to the HomePod mini, the feedback increases. To accompany the force feedback, visual flair is also used. When it detects a nearby iPhone, the HomePod mini LED will light up. As you get closer, the light increases in intensity.

A visual notification appears on the end of the iPhone in the form of a banner. The banner shows the name and location of the HomePod mini, along with a HomePod glyph, thumbnail album artwork, artist, and track title.

Users have the option of simply tapping the banner to manually invoke the full-size Handoff interface or moving the iPhone closer to HomePod mini, which will cause the Handoff interface to automatically open. The new Handoff experience works with the Music app and other types of media sources, such as YouTube. Phone calls are also eligible for transfer thanks to the new and improved experience.

The updated Handoff interface provides large album artwork, transport controls, volume controls, and an AirPlay button to redirect audio. Tap the album artwork to open the source audio app on your iPhone.

Music can be transferred in both directions: from HomePod mini to iPhone or from iPhone to HomePod mini. A Transfer to iPhone or Transfer from iPhone The button appears at the top of the Handoff interface, but the functionality has been missed for me so far.

The Handoff experience update enabled for U1 is still early, but it looks promising. More importantly, it’s one of the first features aimed at users that takes advantage of the U1 chip found in today’s iPhones. Although Apple said during its iPhone 12 keynote that the new Handoff experience will be delivered to customers by the end of the year, it is unlikely to be able to deliver on that promise given it This is only the first beta of iOS 14.4. Still, it will be fun to see this feature expand over the next 14.4 beta releases.

App shortcuts Update wallpaper actions

The return of Set the wallpaper Action in the Shortcuts app was one of my favorite new features in iOS 14.3, and Apple not only kept it in iOS 14.4, but it’s actively improving it. In iOS 14.4 beta, users can now switch Zoom in perspective for wallpaper using a convenient on / off switch. This option gives users the option to enable or disable the parallax effect that appears on the wallpaper set by shortcuts.

Applications VoiceOver Direct Touch

Finally, VoiceOver has received a new Direct Touch Apps feature, which will allow VoiceOver users to directly control an app without requiring further interaction. Similar functionality already exists for direct keyboard input in apps, but it seems to go further, giving VoiceOver users more flexibility in selected apps.

From my brief time of use with Direct Touch apps, it doesn’t seem like the feature is fully enabled, as selecting an app in Settings → Accessibility → VoiceOver → Rotor Actions → Direct Touch Apps, doesn’t stick not. We will follow up once additional beta versions are released with more details.

Taking 9to5Mac

The new Handoff Experience is the standout feature of the initial beta of iOS 14.4. We hope that more Apple devices start adopting the U1 Ultra Wideband chip, as this is what makes exciting new features like this possible. What do you think?

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