Apple is finally, finally bringing widgets to the home screen.
This is just one revelation from Apple’s 2020 Worldwide Developers Conference, colloquially known as WWDC, which went entirely virtual on Monday due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
iOS 14 software updates were the stars of the show. A truckload of improvements bring Apple up-to-date with Android’s own functionality, while doing it even better—because Apple. It’s Apple’s most ambitious play at getting Android users to finally make the switch.
Beginning today, developers can access a preview of iOS 14 at developer.apple.com. Anyone with an iOS-compatible device can join the public beta program next month at beta.apple.com.
As for everyone else? You’ll have to wait for the launch until this fall but here’s what lies in store for your new-and-improved Apple gadgets.
If you’re not familiar with widgets, think of them as small, interactive apps that show you a little bit of information right from the home page. They take up a few blocks of space on that grid that you place app icons on, so you can personalize the screen with a combination of both. This has long been a feature on Android phones but Apple’s finally importing the idea to your iPhone.
On your iPhone, you can also create a “Smart Stack” of widgets, which can use on-device machine learning to display the widget that you’ll most likely find useful at that moment in time, at a particular location, or based on your activity. So if you’re heading to the gym, the Smart Stack would bring up your Fitness widget or Apple Music widget.
When you add loads and loads of apps to your iPhone home page, even the best-curated folders will leave your screen a cluttered mess. Ever-focused on minimalism, Apple has introduced “App Library,” a new space for widgets that divide up your apps by topic.
When you swipe to the side, where another home screen would typically appear, you see App Library. Inside, there are widgets that divvy up your apps by topic, like fitness or entertainment, plus a few more intelligent features, like a Suggestions box and a Recently Added box. It’s basically Apple’s answer to the app drawer on Android devices.
It’s up to you to decide how many of these themed boxes you’d like to display on your home pages. You can just keep your default home page that opens when you launch the iPhone, and always swipe over for the App Library, or you could select a few of the curated boxes so that you can quickly swipe to them from the home page. It’s all about customization.
Regular calls, Skype calls, FaceTime calls—they all show up as a compact drawer at the top of the screen, so that a phone call doesn’t completely disrupt your mobile productivity flow.
This extends to Siri as well, which means you can ask for a recipe and it’ll show up in a small box, rather than take up the whole screen. It’s the same deal with video calls, because iOS 14 finally brings picture-in-picture support (again, already an Android staple).
To cut through the app noise, Apple just introduced something called an App Clip, which you can think of like a lite version of the full app, with limited functionality. These are primarily associated with businesses or products and can load within seconds to help you complete a task. They’re great for things like paying the parking meter, Apple says.
If the business has an Apple-designed App Clip code, you can just scan that. Otherwise, you can access App Clips through NFC tags or QR codes. All you data is saved through your Apple ID and will work across various App Clips.
You can probably count on one hand the number of people you really want to text, but that’s not going to stop those automated messages from your favorite retail store, clogging up your messages dashboard with limited time offers. No worries, iOS 14 will let you pin conversations to the top of your messages list.
But the best feature addition in messages is threads. So just like on Twitter or Facebook posts, you can respond to only certain parts of the conversation without cluttering up the whole group chat.
Apple also added a bunch of crazy new Memoji options, including a surgical mask “accessory.” Just a small emoji reminder that we’re still in the midst of a global pandemic.
Public transportation is no longer en vogue at the moment, considering the global pandemic. With more people cycling to work, your usual route may have changed if you’re still heading into the physical office.
Apple has made that process easier with new cycling specific directions that take into account elevation, how busy a street is, and whether there are stairs along your ride. Plus, you’ll get a curated list of Apple Guides along the way to help you find popular attractions or recommendations from trusted brands like AllTrails or Time Out.
Here is some welcome news: all apps are required to get your active permission before tracking any of your activity.
At an unspecified date later this year, App Store product pages will show summaries of developers’ own self-reported privacy practices. That way, it’s like a one-stop shop for cybersecurity: you don’t need to navigate away from the App Store to learn about the company who built the app. Better yet, it will all be in plain, easy to understand language.
Another cool option is that you can sign in with Apple ID but switch your settings so that app developers only get an approximate location for where you are, not a precise one. So you can rest assured the next time you fork over location access.
Other new iOS 14 Features:
-The Translate app can now quickly process 11 different languages. On-device mode lets you use the translation feature even while offline, which is perfect for travel.
– AirPods can now seamlessly switch between your Apple devices, from iPad to iMac, and back. Plus, new spatial audio algorithms give you a surround sound-like experience, despite the fact that you only have two buds in your ears.
-With Near Field Communication (NFC) tech, you can now use your iPhone as a digital car key. Once enabled, you can lock, unlock, start, and even locate your car if it’s lost or stolen. There’s even a secure way to make digital copies that you can send to your kids or spouse.
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