Apple has just released public updates for iOS 14, iPadOS 14, watchOS 7, and tvOS 14 on September 16. The public release of macOS Big Sur will be available sometime in October. Here's what's new in Apple's major software releases.
The biggest news about iOS 14 is widgets ... Home screen widgets. You can now customize your Home screen with widgets that will show you important information within an app. They are the same type of widgets that were previously relegated to the Lock screen. You can set your entire Home screen with nothing but widgets if you want. Home screen pages in iOS 14 are so customizable that you can design each Home screen page with what ever type of apps you want and hide them on-demand. If you don't want any apps on your Home screen at all, you can move everything to the App Library where they are organized into categories for you.
There are some additional personalization changes, including the ability to set a default mail app and browser. New UI designs make Siri, search, and notifications more compact. The Messages app gets some fantastic new updates, including the ability to mention someone in a group thread and being able to pin nine of your most important iMessage threads to the top of your screen.
There are lots of additional features that make iOS 14 better than it's ever been. This year, the iPhone update is all about personalization.
This year, iPadOS turns two years old. Last September was the first year the iPad had its own separate operating system. This year, it's all about refinement. Though there aren't really any major feature changes in iPadOS 14, a lot is being done to give it more of an independent operating system feel, including new UI designs when your iPad is in landscape mode that helps make the overall experience more useful.
The iPadOS 14 update gets the same compact design treatment as iOS 14 with Siri, search, and notifications. Apple also made some impressive strides with Apple Pencil compatibilty. A new feature called Scribble lets you handwrite into any field on the iPad, including in web browsers. Write a street name into an adress field and watch it turn into typed letters. Additional Apple Pencil changes relate to the Notes app. There are more tools, more color options, and more customizations for Apple Pencil tap.
The iPad receives many of the same updates as iOS 14, including Messages and changes to Widgets (though you can't add iPad widgets to the Home screen). There's lots more under the hood that helps make iPadOS more of its own operating system instead of just iOS for a bigger screen.
Apple Watch is following a path of health and wellbeing. What once was designed to be a device that lets you put down your iPhone became a fitness device. But over the past couple of years the Apple Watch has become a literal life saver and watchOS 7 adds even more health and wellbeing features.
There is a new Sleep app that tracks your heart rated and movement while you sleep. The app gathers data about your sleep habits, giving you more information about how well you do (or don't) sleep with recommendations on what you can do to improve.
The new handwashing tracker will automatically start timing your handwashing activities (it "listens" for the sound of water in combination with the movement of your hands) with a 20-second timer. You can even set up a reminder to wash your hands when you get home.
There are new watch faces, new fitness programs (and a redesigned Activities app now called Fitness), Siri updates, and a whole lot more. Combine these health and wellbeing features of watchOS 7 with the new health sensors of the Apple Watch Series 6 and you're looking at a life-saving device. Literally.
Like every year, the changes in tvOS 14 are incremental, and that's a good thing. We don't want too many big changes to our TV-watching experience. There are customizations for the type of Apple screensavers (you can select landscapes, Earth, cityscapes, or under water), additional HomeKit features (though still no Home app on Apple TV), and more. WIth picture-in-picture, you can watch a TV show or movie while doing something else, like playing Apple Arcade games on your Apple TV.
One of my personal favorite new features is that HomeKit Secure Video cameras can be viewed right on your TV screen. If you have a HomeKit compatible doorbell, you'll get a notification on your TV screen with the live video feed from that camera.
Apple has also made siginficant updates to multiple user accounts, the biggest being that you can actually have two different Apple Arcade accounts signed in at the same time. You'll also get a reminder notifcation when you first turn on your Apple TV, letting you know who is signed in (so you don't accidentally mess up your family's Netflix recommendations).
macOS Big Sur (macOS 11)
The biggest changes to any operating system this year comes with macOS Big Sur (releasing sometime in October). Apple redesigned the user interface entirely with similar design language to iPadOS. No, Apple is not turning the Mac into an iPad. Its just making all OS interfaces more cohesive. Things on the Mac look more rounded and flat. Control Center got a new design and Notification Center looks a lot like the new widget updates on iPad.
Safari has recieved a number of privacy updates, including the ability to see what cookies a website puts in your browser to track your activities. When you hover over a tab you're not actually in, you'll see a preview of it before you click over. Safari will now translate a web page for you. It detects the language and with the click of a button translates it into your preferred language.
There are dozens of new features in Big Sur that will make your Mac seem like a brand new computer, incuding screen effects that were previously only available on iPhone and iPad, new tools for Preview, and the same compact Siri, search, and notification design for iPhone and iPad.
macOS Big Sur does not have an official launch date at this time, but we expect to see it sometime in October.
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Updated September 2020 Added the latest information on Apple's software releases.