iOS 14 is now available for iPhone – here are the best new features
iOS 14 is packed with solid updates.
On Wednesday, the latest version of Apple’s mobile operating system, iOS 14, started rolling out to iPhones everywhere. If you’ve got an iPhone 6S or newer, or an iPhone SE, the update will download if you have automatic updates turned on, or you can go manually check. Go to Settings > General > System Update and tap on the update.
That said, even with the beta period having fewer bugs than last year’s iOS 13, you might want to hold off if you have any critical apps installed. That’s not really an iOS 14 thing, more the fact that Apple didn’t give the development community a heads-up that they were going for the public build, so it’s possible that some of your must-have apps haven’t been updated fully to work with iOS 14.
It’s packed with great features that will improve every part of your iPhone experience. That’s not hyperbole, I’ve been running it since the developer previews and it really has made my day to day use more stress-free. I’m going to run through my favorites that I couldn’t live without now.
Widgets, widgets everywhere
Okay, so widgets aren’t exactly brand-new to iOS but how they work on your device are. Now you can stick them onto your Home Screen, just like any app. They also come in different sizes, so you can pick the format you want, for the amount of quick information you want. You can even stack them, so you can swipe through up to 10 widgets that only take up the space of one.
Smart Stack is a special widget that uses things like your usage patterns, location, and time of day to surface widgets that it thinks will be useful for you at that moment in time. Just woken up? It’ll probably show you the weather, or maybe the news. Getting close to quitting time? It’ll give you the Apple Maps widget, with your route home and commute time already entered.
I have to admit, I don’t really use this feature but I think it’s got a useful place for many users. I much prefer searching by app name, which is often quicker than swiping through all of my Home Screen pages to get to the App Library.
It is pretty cool though, with all of your apps automatically sorted into categories such as Social, Productivity, and more. As you install or remove apps from your device, this library will continue rearranging, so you don’t have to remember which home screen your app icon is on, just which category it falls in.
Hidden in the Accessibility menu, Back Tap lets you literally tap the back of your iPhone to trigger events. I’ve got it set to take screenshots with a double-tap, because I can never get the timing right for the Power+Volume combination. You can set almost anything that you can do on your iPhone though, once you’ve defined something in Siri Shortcuts.
Emoji search on the keyboard
Yes, this is exactly what it says, and it’s one of those “WTF, finally” moments. Seriously, how Apple got away without adding this for so many years is beyond me.
SMS spam filtering
We all hate spam, in all its forms (except maybe the tasty comes-in-a-can variety). iOS 14 now lets you filter messages from unknown senders to a separate folder, so you only see those from your contacts in your main inbox. It’ll also sort out things like promotional messages or purchase receipts. Nice. To turn it on, head to Settings > Messages > Filter Unknown Senders and flick the switch to on.
Compact UI with iOS 14
Incoming voice calls of all forms now show a floating banner instead of taking over the whole damn screen. Great for continuing your YouTube watching while spammers are trying to get a hold of you. You can swipe up to dismiss the call, or swipe down to get more phone features. Third-party apps like Skype should have support for this soon, as there is a developer API so not only Apple apps get the new trick.
FaceTime also comes as a banner, and you can do picture-in-picture while FaceTiming so you can use other apps such as email. Oh, and Siri no longer takes up the whole screen too, instead, you’ll just get a floating Siri icon, much like Microsoft’s beloved/hated Clippy.
This is probably my favorite feature from the huge list of improvements in iOS 14. Taking the whole screen up when a call is coming in was always intrusive, and used to destroy my flow whenever I was trying to get some work done.
You can check out all the rest of the new features on Apple’s website.
- Apple One will let users bundle a variety of Apple services together for a lower cost
- Apple is getting into the fitness game with its new $9.99 a month Fitness Plus service
- The Apple Watch SE brings a more affordable smartwatch to Apple’s lineup
- Apple Watch Series 6 introduces a bunch of features focused on your health