Apple just gave the world its very first glimpse at iOS 14 for iPhone. Available this fall, the massive update brings a plethora of new features, including long-awaited Home screen widgets, picture-in-picture support, a new App Library, and more.
iOS has seen some major changes and improvements since version 1.0 debuted on the original iPhone way back in 2007. Almost nothing is the same as it was back then … except for the Home screen, which has remained largely unchanged on iPhone over the past 13 years.
When iOS 14 drops this fall, however, iPhone will feel completely new. Home screen widgets will make useful information and common features easier to access than ever before. Your Home screen will no longer be little more than a messy stack of static icons.
And that’s not the only thing that’s new in iOS 14.
iOS 14 makes iPhone better than ever
Inspired by Apple Watch complications, iOS 14’s new Home screen widgets make useful information available as soon as you unlock iPhone. Widgets still live in the Today view by default, but now they can be dragged out and placed anywhere.
Widgets can show you things like the weather forecast, your latest Activity stats, your favorite albums and playlists in Apple Music, and more. Developers will be able to create new widgets for your favorite third-party apps that do more, but Apple’s default options look great.
The new App Library automatically organizes every app on your iPhone. It sorts them all into categories to negate manual folder sorting. All your Apple Arcade games appear in one section, utilities in another, social media in another. You no longer have to scroll through multiple Home screen pages just to find the app you’re looking for.
Right at the top of the App Library, you’ll find your most frequently used apps in their very own section, where they’re always just a couple of taps away.
Picture-in-picture, Smarter Siri
iPhone users have been calling for Picture-in-Picture since it first debuted on iPad in 2015. It finally arrives in iOS 14, allowing you to watch videos while you use other apps. The picture-in-picture window stays on top of everything else so it’s always visible, but can be moved, resized, and quickly collapsed when you need to get it out of the way.
Siri gets a big upgrade in iOS 14, too. It can launch apps, send audio messages, and more — and it no longer takes over your entire iPhone display when it’s in use. This prevents the assistant from breaking up your workflow when you ask it for help while you’re being productive.
Translate, more powerful Messages
Translate, a brand-new app for iOS 14, makes language translation easier on the go. Processing happens locally so you don’t need a data connection, and it can be used to translate text and voice. Translate will launch with support for 11 languages initially — including Mandarin Chinese, French, German, and Spanish — but Apple says more will be added later on.
Messages gets even better in iOS 14 with support for mentions, inline replies, group chat photos, and a new interface that lets you pin important contacts and conversations to the top of the app so that they’re easier to get to. To go with these improvements, there are new Memoji options and accessories, including timely face coverings.
CarKey, handy App Clips
CarPlay gets a huge upgrade in iOS 14 thanks to a new CarKey feature that lets you unlock and start your car using iPhone. You can even share digital keys with friends, but this functionality won’t work with existing vehicles; you’ll need to wait for new models to hit the market.
App Clips is another new feature that lets you load a lightweight version of an app by scanning a QR code, opening a link, and more. There are lots of situations in which this might be useful. You might use it to load a menu or pay for your order in a restaurant, or to rent a bicycle in a new city. App Clips are less than 10MB in size, and only load features you really need.
An environmentally-friendly Apple Maps
iOS 14’s improved Maps app helps you be more environmentally-friendly by adding cycling directions and support for electric vehicle routing. It will track your charge and help you locate charging spots, with help from BMW and Ford at launch, and offer weather information. You will also be able to see congestion and green zones, plus alternate routing options.
iOS 14 will be available to all as a free download this fall. Developers should be able to get their hands on the first beta later today.