Say hello to iOS 14, which is rolling out as a free over-the-air software upgrade for iPhones right now (if you have an iPhone 6s or newer, then you’ll see it today). The latest version of iOS brings with it a whole host of new features and improvements, and we’ve rounded up 17 of our favourite changes that you should try after downloading the update.
1. Try out App Clips
App Clips are a new way of interacting with apps in iOS 14, if developers have made them available. You launch them using NFC, QR codes, or web links, and they run as a bite-sized version of an app on your phone without having to actually install the full thing. Think about renting a scooter or buying a coffee, for example — situations where you just need access to a snippet of functionality but don’t want to download an app, create an account, and go through a bunch of hassle just to do a simple task.
2. Add widgets to the home screen
Android has had home screen widgets for so long that most of its users seem to have grown bored of them, but they’ve now arrived in iOS 14, and they’re pretty slick, too. To get started, press and hold on a blank area of the screen to get to edit mode, then tap the plus icon (top left). You’ll then see a gallery of widgets that you can drag and drop into place, adjust the size, or create a stack that dynamically changes depending on the time of day.
3. Send apps to the App Library
iOS 14 adds an App Library, which is like a smarter version of the app drawer that Android has had since forever. It’s to the right of your home screens, and automatically organizes all of your apps into folders. Go to Home Screen from Settings to set whether newly installed apps get added to one of your home screens or the App Library by default. You can’t customise the App Library’s folders — it organizes your apps according to its own categories — but it’s an easy way to declutter your home screen without work too hard.
4. Hide some of your home screens
With the App Library available as a repository for all of your apps, you don’t necessarily need to have all of those home screens around anymore. Press and hold on a blank area of any home screen, then tap the dots that appear at the bottom of the grid. You can show and hide individual home screens by checking or unchecking the relevant boxes.
5. Watch videos with picture-in-picture mode
The iPhone joins the iPad in supporting picture-in-picture for videos with the arrival of iOS 14. You don’t have to do anything to enable this, just start watching a video on the web, YouTube, Netflix, or any other app, and then exit the app. The video will remain in place. You can tap and hold on the video to move it around, or pinch it to resize it. Note that app developers will have to add support for the new mode in their video apps, too.
6. Pin conversations in Messages
If there are conversations in Messages that you want to dive into easily, you can now pin them to the top of the app in iOS 14. The easiest way to this is by long pressing on a conversation and choosing Pin — it will then show up at the top of your list. Inside group chats, you can set the name and picture: tap the top icon, then info, then Change Name and Photo.
7. Mention your contacts in Messages
Another new feature in Messages in iOS 14 is the introduction of mentions in group chats (see also Twitter, Slack, and just about every other messaging or social media app). Just type out the name of the person, and if it matches someone in the conversation, you can tap it to turn it into a tag. If the name turns blue, then you’ve set up the tag correctly.
8. Add more variety to your memojis
Apple is still encouraging people to create Memoji icons (the animated avatars that look vaguely like you), and in iOS 14, there are a few new style options: more hair, more headwear, more face coverings, and a broader range of ages, all so your Memoji can look more like you. Three new stickers are available too: a hug, a fist bump, and a blush.
9. Get suggested smart home automations
The Home app and the HomeKit framework are getting some upgrades with iOS 14, too. When you add a new accessory to the Home app, you’ll also see a list of suggested automations that you might want to set up right away — the app might suggest you turn on your porch lights each evening, or open your garage door when you get home.
10. Get to bed on time
iOS 14 works with watchOS 7 (or on its own) to help you get to sleep at the right time each night, with reminders and Do Not Disturb options. It’s like an enhanced version of the old Bedtime tool in the Clock app, only now it’s in the Health app. Open up the Health app, and tap on the Set Up Sleep button to get started with the feature.
11. Translate websites in Safari
Safari hasn’t been left out of the iOS 14 upgrades, and you can now translate webpages inside the mobile browser — though Apple is still labelling this as a “beta” feature for now. When you’re on a site that Safari can work with, you should see a translate icon up in the address field. Tap on this icon to translate the text into another language of your choice.
12. Search inside apps
iOS 14 lets you search inside apps from the main search bar (to the left of your home screens). Start your search as normal, and you’ll see some “search in app” suggestions appear, which you can tap to select; scroll right down to see other apps you can search inside. Most of the native iOS apps are supported, including Mail, Maps, and Messages.
13. Get more detailed weather forecasts
The Dark Sky influence is finding its way into Apple’s software already: iOS 14 brings minute-by-minute forecasts for the U.S. inside the Weather app, and the associated widget will also let you know when it’s going to be significantly warmer, colder or wetter the next day. In addition, precipitation predictions are now included on the multiday forecast.
14. Use your iPhone as a translator
iOS 14 brings a new app with it, called Translate. As you might expect, it’ll act as a translator for you: You can enter text by typing it or speak out the words you want translating (via the microphone icon), and translations can be played out loud, too, if you need help with translation. Tap the star button to save a translation in the Favourites tab.
15. Get more facts from Siri
Apple says Siri knows more facts than ever before, though it hasn’t offered up any specific examples of something it knows in iOS 14 that it didn’t know in iOS 13 — you’ll have to try and test it out yourself. According to Apple, Siri now knows 20 times the number of facts that it did three years ago, and we haven’t been able to catch it out with anything so far.
16. Get cycling directions in Apple Maps
Cycling directions have arrived in Apple Maps with iOS 14, so you can plot your course from A to B using pedal power — though you’ll only see them in a select number of U.S. cities to begin with. A bicycle icon will appear when you search for a route, with a number of alternatives showing journey time, road types and the elevation of the terrain on screen.
17. Plan a journey in an electric vehicle
Another new feature appearing in Apple Maps as iOS 14 rolls out is electric vehicle routing, which is going to make driving life much easier if you’re in an electric car. Charging stops can be added automatically along your route, taking distance, vehicle charge and elevation into consideration, though support may vary depending on your car make.