Apple dropped iOS 14 on September 16, 2020. There are a ton of improvements and new features in this shiny new version of iOS for your iPhone, such as Home screen customization with widgets, picture-in-picture video (finally!), App Clips, and more. Here's the lowdown on all of these exciting new features.
The App Library is a new feature that lets you organize your Home Screen pages. The App Library appears at the end of the Home Screen swipe. It's automatically organized by category and enables you to hide entire app pages. There is also an App Library Search, so you can easily find what you're looking for. It also adds a suggested app search folder, as well as a Recently Added folder. You can also find a full list of all installed apps (just pull down on the screen while in App Library), sorted alphabetically, and apply criteria to find what you need quickly.
Widgets have a new look on iOS 14. Your widgets can now be different sizes and are full of rich data. The Widgets can even go on your Home Screen, instead of the Today View, just by drag-and-drop. You can also put widgets of the same size on top of each other to create a "Smart Stack." With the Smart Stack, your iPhone will display certain widgets in the stack front-and-center as a suggestion, depending on the time of day, or you can swipe through them manually.
The Widget Gallery lets you see all of your available widgets, from native Apple apps to third-party apps that support iOS 14 widgets. Some widgets, like Weather, will refresh throughout the day to display the most up-to-date information at-a-glance.
The iPhone finally supports Picture-in-Picture (PiP) thanks to iOS 14. This means that whenever you're watching a video in an app (it will need to support this feature), you can swipe back to the Home screen, and the video continues to play in PiP mode. You're able to move it around the screen and reposition it where you want it, as well as resize it if necessary.
But remember, this feature only works if the app developer has allowed it. From reports, it appears that the YouTube app does not support PiP unless you are a Premium subscriber.
Change default app for email and browser
With iOS 14, you're finally able to choose what app to use for the default web browser and email client. You'll have to enable this in the third-party app's settings, and it only works if the developer has supported the feature. As of right now, you can make Google Chrome your default browser instead of Safari, and Spark the default email client instead of Mail. More apps will be available to choose from once the developers update their apps.
iOS 14 makes everything more compact. With this new compact UI, instead of phone calls and Siri taking up the entire screen when in use, everything is displayed in a simple, compact notification banner. This includes incoming phone calls, VoIP calls, FaceTime calls, and Siri.
Yes, no more periods of uselessness when you get an incoming call and don't want to take it, but you also don't want to decline the call right away!
There are new automation suggestions and expanded controls in Control Center, allowing even quicker access to accessories and scenes. HomeKit now has Adaptive Lighting for HomeKit-enabled lights and accessories, which automatically adjusts color temperature throughout the day. Additionally, there is on-device Face Recognition, so compatible video doorbells and cameras can identify your friends and family.
And to reiterate, the Home app and HomeKit are built to be private and secure, so all information is end-to-end encrypted.
Siri has a much more compact UI in iOS 14. Instead of taking up the entire screen, Siri appears as a small overlay on top of whatever app you're already using. Information requests appear like a notification.
With iOS 14, Siri is the backbone of the new Translate app. Translate lets you translate on-device and let you have a conversation with someone else, and the conversation mode allows two people know which side to pay attention to. Siri supports over 65 language pairs for translation.
Siri can also send audio messages, get cycling directions, and send ETA to others. There is also support for broader questions so that Siri can surface answers from the web.
Translate is an entirely new app introduced in iOS 14.
Conversation mode in Translate lets you turn the phone into landscape orientation and split it in half. This allows you to see both sides of the conversation. To use it, just tap the microphone button and speak — automatic language detection transcribes the original and translated text on the correct side of the screen, followed by the translated audio. The voice translation is all done on-device, and if you have downloaded other languages, everything can be translated without a data connection.
Text Translation is available, where all languages have their keyboard included for translating text; no need to manually switch between them. A built-in dictionary lets you check on the definition of a word. The Favorites feature lets you view recent history and save phrases you've translated as favorites for fast reference.
Translate supports 11 languages right now: English, Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Russian, German, French, Italian, Brazilian Portuguese, and Arabic. More will be added in the future.
With iOS 14, AirPods can switch between devices even faster than ever with automatic device switching. AirPods also gets spatial audio with dynamic head tracking, so AirPods Pro provide a more theater-like experience.
Memojis have more customization options. There are more hair and headwear options to choose from now as well as the new face mask covering options. Along with those are new age options, more facial expressions, and three new Memoji stickers.
Group messaging is even better with iOS 14. Now you can reply to specific messages in group chats with in-line replies, and there are mentions! What Mentions does is let you type someone's name to direct a message to that person specifically. Notifications can also be customized so that you only get a notification when your name is mentioned. And those who have been recently active in a group message have their contact photo appear larger around the group photo or emoji.
iOS 14 supports pinned messages, letting you pin important messages so that they can stay at the top of the Messages app. This makes it easier than ever to access them easily, instead of having to scroll through all of your messages. iOS 14 supports up to nine pinned messages.
New features have been added for improved Accessibility on iOS 14. Headphone Accommodations amplify soft sounds and tunes to help music, movies, audio calls, and podcasts sound crisper and clearer than ever before. Sign language detection intelligently works in Group Facetime to make that person more prominent in a FaceTime video call. VoiceOver automatically recognizes what is visually displayed on the screen, so more apps and web experiences are accessible to more people.
Three new improvements have been made in iOS 14 in regard to how iOS deals with augmented reality. First, there are Location Anchors. This lets you place AR experiences at specific coordinates, so you can view them in your favorite places around the world. The second is extending face tracking support with the front camera on all devices with A12 Bionic chip and later. Lastly, RealityKit now supports video textures. This lets you add video textures to any part of a scene or virtual object in RealityKit.
iOS 14 adds a new customized Sleep Schedule — set a goal for how long you want to sleep and create a daily schedule for bedtime and when to wake up. A new Wind Down feature helps you create a personalized routine to get ready for bed and meet your sleep goal. Wind Down enables Sleep Mode and Do Not Disturb, and you can choose from different activities to help you get ready for sleep, such as turning on a Home scene, listening to soundscapes, or your favorite meditation app. The new Sleep Mode enables Do Not Disturb, dims your iPhone's screen, and displays the date, time, and your alarm for the next day.
On top of all that, Apple has added some new features in iOS 14 to help you better understand audio levels that may affect hearing health. The new Health Checklist is a centralized place for managing all of your health and safety features, including Emergency SOS, Medical ID, ECG, Fall Detection, and more. Health adds support for new data types for mobility, Health Records, symptoms, and ECG.
Maps has been dramatically improved in iOS 14. There are now more overlays, more FlyOver, and more supported countries. A new Guides feature allows you to get recommendations for the best places to check out in a locale. And whenever there are new additions to a Guide, it automatically updates.
Cycling is a new option for getting directions, and Maps can point you in the right direction along with bike lanes, paths, and bike-friendly roads. You can even customize it by selecting quiet or busy roads, elevation levels, whether or not there are stairs, and more. There is even a custom cycling voice. Cycling is currently available in New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Shanghai, and Beijing.
Maps in iOS 14 now has EV Routing, so Maps can tell you where the charging stations are along your route and account for things like charging time in your ETA. You can tell Maps what EV you drive to give you the necessary information on compatible charging stations and charging time.
You'll also get Congestion Zones and Green Zones iOS 14 Maps, which let you see dense traffic areas in the city and plan for alternative routes to avoid them. Maps lets you know about speed cameras along your drive now as well.
New maps have been added for three more countries: Canada, Ireland, and the UK. These improved maps offer more detailed roads, buildings, parks, marinas, beaches, airports, and more.
CarPlay got some new features in iOS 14, including the digital car key feature with iPhone. This works via U1 chip, and you can securely turn it off via iCloud if you lose your phone. You can also give someone else access to your car via iMessage if needed. Access levels include full access, or restricted mode, where you can put limits on acceleration, top speed, traction control, and even stereo volume. CarKeys access can be revoked at any time, and there is a Power Reserve feature. This means that if your iPhone battery is low, you can still access and start your vehicle for up to five hours.
Digital car keys is also available in the latest version of iOS 13. Since it works with the U1 chip, it will become a standard in most cars next year. To start, CarKeys is available in the BMW 5 Series.
CarPlay received new wallpapers and app categories with iOS 14. The categories include third-party parking, EV charging, and quick-food ordering apps. For cars with portrait screens, the status bar can now be displayed on the bottom of the CarPlay screen. Siri can also share ETA and send audio messages.
Apple is adding third-party product and accessory support in the Find My app through the Find My network accessory program. With this program, users will be able to use the Find My app to locate other essential items, such as keys, in addition to their Apple devices. User privacy is respected with end-to-end encryption built-in.
For the Find My network accessory program to work, third-party accessory manufacturers need to enroll in the program.
With App Store Clips, you'll get notifications that suggest an app. You don't have to download the full app if you don't want to, and if that's the case, then you can just use an App Clip. These App Clips support Sign-in with Apple and Apple Pay, so you don't even need to input credit card information.
To activate an App Clip, all you need to do is tap on an NFC tag or scan a QR code. Then you can just use the App Clip to do things like unlock parking, pay for coffee or food, get access to rent a bike or scooter, and more. App Clips can be used with Yelp for specific businesses for convenience.
App Clips are always going to be less than 10MB in size, so they do not take much space at all. App Clips also integrate directly with the App Library.
Apple has refined some parts of the App Store in iOS 14. You can now view better App Details in a scrollable view, including information like customer ratings, age rating, category, game controller support, and much more. App subscriptions can now be shared through Family Sharing with a single purchase.
Safari has a new Privacy Report feature. This allows users to more easily see which cross-site trackers have been blocked, and provides secure password monitoring that helps users detect reused passwords that may be involved in data breaches. There is also support for translating web pages directly.
Apple has always taken user privacy and data seriously. iOS 14 reiterates on that by enhancing privacy for more transparency and control on the user.
There is a new Privacy Information section for each app on the App Store. This lets you check the privacy practices of an app before downloading it. A new Approximate Location option is available when granting location permission to an app, so you don't need to give it precise location information, though that remains an option. There is a recording indicator in the app as well as Control Center when an app uses the device mic, camera, or both. Developers are also required to get your consent before they can track you. For apps that request permission to access your Photo Library, you can now select specific photos, or you can continue to share your entire Photo Library.
The last significant change to privacy in iOS 14 is the option for developers to offer an upgrade to Sign-in with Apple for users with existing accounts. But this depends on whether the developer wants to offer it or not, so it may not be available for all of your favorite apps.
What devices does iOS 14 run on?
iOS 14 runs on all devices that could have iOS 13. These are all of the compatible devices:
- iPhone SE (2nd generation)
- iPhone 11
- iPhone 11 Pro
- iPhone 11 Pro Max
- iPhone XS
- iPhone XS Max
- iPhone XR
- iPhone X
- iPhone 8
- iPhone 8 Plus
- iPhone 7
- iPhone 7 Plus
- iPhone 6s
- iPhone 6s Plus
- iPhone SE (1st generation)
- iPod touch (7th generation)
It's probably safe to assume that the iPhone 12 will come with iOS 14 pre-installed once it launches later this year.
When will iOS 14 be available?
iOS 14 was released to the public on September 16, 2020. It should appear as an over-the-air update on your iPhone, but you can also download and install iOS 14 manually.
How do I install iOS 14?
If you're on an iPhone with iOS 13, you should see iOS 14 available as an over-the-air update on your device. However, you can manually download and install iOS 14 as well. Before updating, make sure you have a backup of your device, just in case something goes awry and you need to restore.
Have any questions about iOS 14? Drop them in the comments below.
Updated September 2020: Updated for public release of iOS 14.
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Christine Romero-Chan was formerly a Senior Editor for iMore. She has been writing about technology, specifically Apple, for over a decade at a variety of websites. She is currently part of the Digital Trends team, and has been using Apple’s smartphone since the original iPhone back in 2007. While her main speciality is the iPhone, she also covers Apple Watch, iPad, and Mac when needed.
When she isn’t writing about Apple, Christine can often be found at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, as she is a passholder and obsessed with all things Disney, especially Star Wars. Christine also enjoys coffee, food, photography, mechanical keyboards, and spending as much time with her new daughter as possible.