iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 can be downloaded and used now by developers enrolled in Apple’s developer program, with the usual caveats of beta software. Typically Apple will release several betas before it makes the final, general release version available to everybody. iOS 14 will be available as a free upgrade for all iPhones from the iPhone 6S and above. iPadOS 14 will be available as a free upgrade for iPad Air 2 and later, all iPad Pro models, iPad 5th generation and later, and iPad mini 4 and later.
Here are the big new features:
iOS 14 contains the biggest update ever to Home Screen pages, Apple says, bringing widgets to the iPhone home screen for the first time. These present timely information at a glance and can be pinned in different sizes on any Home Screen page. Users can create a Smart Stack of widgets which intelligently surface the right widget based on time, location and activity. The widgets can be customised for work, travel, sports, entertainment and other areas of interest.
iOS 14 also brings a new App Library to the end of the Home Screen pages. Here iPhone users will find a new space which automatically organises all of a user’s app into a single view, which also uses intelligence to surface apps that may be helpful at the moment. Home Screen pages can also be hidden to provide faster access to the App Library.
Phone calls no longer take the whole screen
In a move that will make many people happy incoming phone calls, including FaceTime calls and Siri interactions, now come in a compact form so people can stay in the context of what they were doing and take (or reject) the call.
iOS 14 also provides Picture-in-Picture support allowing iPhone users to make FaceTime calls or watch videos while using another app.
An intriguing new iOS 14 feature is App Clips. Apple states an App Clip is a small part of an app experience designed to be discovered the moment it is needed, associated with a particular product or business and load within seconds to complete a specific task such as purchasing a coffee or paying for a parking metre.
App Clips can be discovered and used by scanning NFC tags, QR codes or a new Apple-designed App Clip code. They can also be shared in Messages or from Safari.
“iOS 14 transforms the most iconic elements of the iPhone experience, starting with the biggest update we’ve ever made to the Home Screen,” said Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of Software Engineering. “With beautifully redesigned widgets on the Home Screen, the App Library that automatically organises all of your apps, and App Clips that are fast and easy to discover, iPhone becomes even more powerful and easier to use.”
Messages is undoubtedly one of the iPhone’s most frequently used apps and is essential for friends and families keeping in touch. iOS 14 now allows important messages to be pinned to the top of the messages list and to customise conversations by setting a group photo using an image or emoji. New Memoji options provide greater diversity of hairstyles, headwear, face coverings and other items.
Additionally, with a familiar experience from popular collaboration tools, Messages now helps people keep up with fast-moving group threads with mentions and inline replies.
Apple Maps now includes cycling directions, electric vehicle routing and curated guides of interesting points within a city.
Cycling directions consider elevation, how busy a street is and whether there are stairs on the route. Electric vehicle routing adds charging stops based on the vehicle’s current charge and the charger type.
Building on Apple's commitment to privacy, all apps are now required to obtain user permission before tracking.
Later this year Apple will also display summaries of developer’s self-reported privacy practices within their App Store product pages.
iOS 14 users will also be able to choose to share their approximate location with app developers instead of their actual location and will get more transparency into an app’s usage of the microphone and camera. Users can also upgrade existing accounts to Sign in with Apple.
Additional iOS 14 features
- Translate offers quick and natural translation of voice and text among 11 different languages with an on-device mode for private voice and text translation.
- Siri expands its knowledge and will find answers from across the internet and can now send audio messages.
- The Home app includes new automation suggestions and expanded controls. Adaptive lighting for compatible lights will adjust the colour temperature through the day, and on-device face recognition with compatible doorbells and cameras can identify friends and family.
- AirPods gain the ability to seamlessly switch between Apple devices with automatic device switching.
- Digital car keys give users a secure way to use iPhone or Apple Watch to unlock and start their car and can be shared using Messages and disabled through iCloud.
- Find My will add support for finding third-party products and accessories with the new Find My network accessory program so iOS 14 users can locate other important items in their lives. A draft specification is available for accessory makers and product manufacturers starting today.
- Safari offers a Privacy Report so users can easily see which cross-site trackers have been blocked, secure password monitoring to help users detect saved passwords that may have been involved in a data breach, and built-in translation for entire webpages.
- Health has all-new experiences to manage sleep, better understand audio levels that may affect hearing health and a new Health Checklist.
- The Weather app and widget keep users up to date on severe weather events and a new next-hour precipitation chart shows minute-by-minute precipitation when rain is in the forecast.
- Accessibility features include Headphone Accommodations, which amplifies or dampens certain frequencies to help music, movies, phone calls, and podcasts sound crisper and clearer, and sign language detection in Group FaceTime, which makes the person signing more prominent in a video call. VoiceOver, the industry’s leading screen reader for the blind community, now automatically recognises what is displayed visually onscreen so more apps and web experiences are accessible to more people.
iPadOS 14 brings the same good features of iOS 14 but also takes advantage of the unique capabilities of the iPad and its large multi-touch display.
Apps have new sidebars and toolbars that consolidate controls in one place, making them more streamlined and powerful than ever. New Apple Pencil features, including Scribble for iPad, deliver a whole new way to work with handwritten notes, and ARKit 4 delivers a brand new Depth API that allows developers to create even more powerful features in their apps.
Search on iPad has been rebuilt from the ground up with iPadOS 14 and is now the one place to quickly find practically anything, from locating and launching apps to accessing contacts, files, and quick information, to getting answers to common questions about people or places. With a new compact design, users can start a search from anywhere, without having to leave the app they’re in. Web searches are even more powerful and refined, delivering more relevant suggestions as users type and the ability to get to search results with just a tap.
“With iPadOS 14, we’re excited to build on the distinct experience of iPad and deliver new capabilities that help customers boost productivity, be more creative, and have more fun,” said Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of Software Engineering. “With new compact designs for system interactions and new app designs specifically tailored to iPad, even better note-taking capabilities with Apple Pencil, and more powerful AR experiences, iPadOS 14 delivers an amazing experience that keeps it in a class of its own.”
iPadOS 14 brings Scribble to iPad with Apple Pencil, allowing users to write in any text field — where it will automatically be converted to typed text — making actions like replying to an iMessage or searching in Safari fast and easy. All handwriting and conversion to text happen on-device, keeping it private and secure. When taking notes, Smart Selection uses on-device machine learning to distinguish handwriting from drawings, so handwritten text can easily be selected, cut, and pasted into another document as typed text. Shape recognition allows users to draw shapes that are made geometrically perfect and snap right into place when adding useful diagrams and illustrations in Notes.
Data detectors now work with the handwritten text to recognise phone numbers, dates, and addresses, and offer users the ability to take actions like tapping a written number to make a call, adding an event directly to Calendar, or showing a location in Maps.
Scribble will initially offer support for English, Traditional and Simplified Chinese, and mixed Chinese and English, so users can write English and Chinese words together without needing to switch languages.
iOS 14 will be available as a free upgrade for all iPhones from the iPhone 6S and above. iPadOS 14 will be available as a free upgrade for iPad Air 2 and later, all iPad Pro models, iPad 5th generation and later, and iPad mini 4 and later.