iOS 14 offers iPhones a number of major and minor improvements, including the ability to pin widgets to your home screen and create picture-in-picture videos.

Patrick Holland / CNET

Apple launched on Monday iOS 14 at an online keynote for the annual global developer conference. The latest iPhone operating system includes new home screen customizations, picture-in-picture videos, better widgets, a new Siri interface, and an app library, a new way to organize your apps.

The final version of iOS 14 will be released next to the in the fall heavily rumored iPhone 12. But I got my hands on it IOS 14 developer beta and was able to try out many of the features, including the translation app, back tap, new group messaging options, and new Memoji adjustments, including the option to add a face mask.

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This is not a review of the developer beta software. Rather, it's a hands-on preview of some of the key features in iOS 14 and how they work.

The iOS 14 home screen is the same, but also different

At first glance, an iPhone 11 with iOS 14 doesn't seem to be any different. All of my apps are right where they were in iOS 13. Simply swiping right will bring up a page called App Library, where all of my apps are organized in one place.

It would be easy to compare the app library with the Android app drawer. But Apple changed its own ideas by grouping apps into categories. Twitter, Instagram and similar apps are grouped together in the "Social" category, for example.

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

Patrick Holland / CNET

The groups look like large app folders, but don't need to be opened to get to an app. You just tap the app and go. Groups with more than four apps have mini-app clusters. You can tap it to expand the cluster, and then tap the app you want.

When you open the app library search bar, you'll see an alphabetical list of all your apps. Between Siri, Search, your home page, and the options on the App Library page, there are now a number 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 types of apps: there are apps, widgets based on these apps, and app clips. I'll talk about this last one shortly. In iOS 13, widgets were displayed on the Today page to the left of the home screen. Now you can pin widgets right on your home screen. You simply long-press the screen, tap the plus button and the widget gallery is displayed.

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

Each widget is available in three sizes: small, medium, and large. Widgets have a fixed width that matches the app columns on the home screen. So you can't put one in the middle of your screen. By integrating widgets of different sizes into my apps, the iPhone start screen looks contemporary and convincing. And let's acknowledge that there is definitely a Windows Phone tile mood, which is not a bad thing.

Widget stacks and the smart stack

Possibly one of the coolest adjustments on the home screen is a stack of widgets. You create one by simply dragging a widget over another widget of the same size. To display the widgets in a stack, swipe up or down, which brings another one up.

Who would have thought that widgets could be so exciting in 2020? And before you comment, I know Android created widgets a long time ago. However, it is lazy to simply discard iOS 14 widgets as a copied function, especially since Apple widgets are further developed with a so-called smart stack in their own way.

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You will find the Smart Stack in the widget gallery and then pin it to your home screen like a widget.

Patrick Holland / CNET

iOS 14 creates a smart stack of widgets based on the apps you use most and the time of day you use them. If you use the Maps app regularly after work, this widget is at the top of your smart stack. If you always check the weather in the morning, this is your best bet when you wake up. Your iPhone will curate your smart stack for you. I'm curious to see how that will work after spending more time on iOS 14.

I am sure that many people will never touch a widget or smart stack in their life and will never be smarter, which is why Apple's implementation is smart. In a way, nothing has changed on your home screen. But in another it's so much different.

App clips are basically mini-apps for your iPhone

iOS 14 gives you a whole new way to interact with an app. It's called app clips and is aimed at apps that are not on your iPhone. Essentially, an app clip is a mini-app with limited functionality as determined by the app's developer. The idea is that you don't have to take any time or space on the phone to download an entire app. Instead, you can have a quick experience.

During the WWDC keynote, Apple showed a customer using an app clip to sign up for a rewards club in a coffee shop. QR codes and NFC can trigger an app clip. You can also send it through a friend to order food, or find one for a company on Maps.

If developers use app clips on a large scale, it can make your iPhone stop working and change your relationship with apps.


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Take first: iOS 14 and all of its new features

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With iOS 14, you can hide app 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 can still access the apps from Search, Siri, or the app library, but they are not visible.

In theory, you could hide all of your apps, fill your home screen with stacks of widgets, and still use your iPhone. I think I'll have to try that someday.

Picture-in-picture comes to your iPhone

After a few years on the iPad, the picture-in-picture video function is available via iOS 14 on the iPhone. To be honest, it's more of a picture-in-home video or a picture-in-other video app video. This works not only for videos, but also for FaceTime calls.

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You can summarize and view videos in a tiny player window while you can access everything on your iPhone.

Patrick Holland / CNET

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

Videos work similarly: when I watch a video in full screen from an app like Safari, I can swipe up to bring up the app toggle view and then tap the home screen to minimize it. You can change the size of the video window and move it accordingly. If you push it aside, the sound will continue to play without a picture.

Set a third-party browser or email app as the default

It wasn't mentioned in the keynote, but at the bottom of the iOS 14 preview page on the Apple website is a little announcement of a feature many of us have been craving: you can now get system-standard apps from Select third party providers.

With iOS 14, you can set a third-party app as the default web browser or email app. The catch is that developers have to label their app as a browser or email app for it to work. Theoretically, this means you can use Chrome or Firefox as your default mobile browser or Gmail as your default email app. I am happy to see this in action once developers have activated their apps.

iOS 14 adds the translator app to your iPhone

The new translator app has several modes. In the vertical position you can translate words and phrases and see the definition of these words. When you turn it to landscape mode, conversation mode is activated so that each speaker has half the screen with the translation displayed. You can even let the app show the translation in full screen mode or let it speak for you.

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The translation app works in 11 different languages.

Patrick Holland / CNET

Directions is given to Apple Maps

Google Maps has had directions for bike routes for some time. With iOS 14, Maps adds its own bike instructions. And there are some well-considered options: you get heights and warnings about roads or where you have to run your bike. You can also switch options to avoid stairs, hills, and busy streets. Bicycle routes in maps show places such as bicycle workshops and cafés along the way. At the start, bike instructions are only available in a few cities.

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Maps now supports cycling instructions.

Patrick Holland / CNET

Green light means your camera is on

A useful feature in iOS 14 is an indicator light that tells you whether an app is using your camera or microphone in the background. When your phone's microphone is turned on, an orange dot appears on the top right of the screen. The dot turns green when an app is using your camera, and leaves no doubt as to what's going on.

Trigger a shortcut by tapping the back of your iPhone

There are a lot of new accessibility features, but one that I notice is Back Tap. In the Touch area of ​​the accessibility settings, you can activate Back Tap, which you can use to trigger an action or link by tapping the back of your iPhone twice or three times. For example, I can tap twice to go to Control Panel. And if I type twice again, the control panel disappears.

You can choose from over two dozen actions and links to be triggered with Back Tap, e.g. B. Take screenshots or call the magnifying glass.

Sound detection can alert you to alarms and animals

Another compelling accessibility feature is called tone detection. It can notify you when your iPhone detects certain sounds, e.g. B. a fire or smoke alarm or an animal. You choose which sound you want to be notified about. If your iPhone detects any of these sounds, you will be notified with an on-screen alarm.

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Sound recognition helps people with hearing impairments to know what is going on around them.

Patrick Holland / CNET

Messages receive memoji face masks and new mentions from group threads

If you're interested in group threads, iOS 14 will manage them even better. You can mention a specific person in a thread and only notify that person. You can also pin conversations at the top of the app.

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In the sign of the times, you can now add a face mask to your Memoji.

Patrick Holland / CNET

There are a number of adjustments, including new hair and headgear styles for Memoji, and the ability to add a face mask.

Phone calls and Siri are getting small

Instead of an incoming call occupying your entire screen before you answer it, it is now displayed as a banner notification at the top. You tap to answer or swipe it away.

Siri, who had a similar bad habit of taking over your entire screen, is now shown as an animated ball below.

Another beta for iOS 14 is in preparation

A public beta version of iOS 14 will be released in July. iOS 14 runs on the same iPhones that are supported in iOS 13 – especially on the iPhone 6S and newer versions.

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