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Apple previews iOS 14 at WWDC

23 Jun 2020

Apple’s worldwide sneak preview of the new iOS 14 app may not have a fancy name like its macOS ‘Big Sur’ counterpart, but there is still plenty on offer for iOS lovers.

Apple says iOS 14 includes the ‘biggest ever’ update to home screen pages – it can display customised widgets that can be pinned in different sizes, and even ‘smart stack’ widgets that display the right information based on the time, user location, and user activity.

One of the quirkier features in iOS 14 is the addition of digital car keys. These give users a secure way to use iPhone or Apple Watch to unlock and start their car. Digital car keys can be easily shared using Messages, or disabled through iCloud if a device is lost, and are available starting this year through NFC.

Apple also unveiled the next generation of digital car keys based on Ultra Wideband technology for spatial awareness delivered through the U1 chip, which will allow users to unlock future car models without removing their iPhone from their pocket or bag, and will become available next year.

The App Library is a space that organises apps into one simple view. It can also display apps that ‘may be helpful in the moment’.

A new feature called App Clips is, as Apple describes it, “a small part of an app experience designed to be discovered the moment it is needed. App Clips are 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 meter. They can be easily discovered and accessed by scanning a new Apple-designed App Clip code, or through NFC tags and QR codes, or shared in Messages or from Safari, all with the security and privacy expected from apps.”
iOS 14 also features new updates to messages app including conversation pinning and more memojo options, more Maps features, better privacy features, translation features, and a smarter Siri, amongst many others.

Incoming FaceTime and phone calls and Siri interactions take on an all-new compact design that enables users to stay in the context of what they are doing. Picture-in-Picture support enables iPhone users to watch a video or take a FaceTime call while using another app.

“iOS 14 transforms the most iconic elements of the iPhone experience, starting with the biggest update we’ve ever made to the Home Screen,” says Apple’s vice president of software engineering, Craig Federighi. 

“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.” 

  • Translate offers quick and natural translation of voice and text among 11 different languages. On-device mode allows users to experience the features of the app offline for private voice and text translation.
     
  • Siri expands its knowledge, helps find answers from across the internet, and can now send audio messages. Keyboard dictation runs on device when dictating messages, notes, email, and more.
     
  • The Home app includes new automation suggestions and expanded controls in Control Center for quicker access to accessories and scenes. Adaptive Lighting for compatible HomeKit-enabled lights automatically adjusts the colour temperature throughout the day, and with on-device Face Recognition, compatible video doorbells and cameras can identify friends and family. The Home app and HomeKit are built to be private and secure, so all information about a user’s home accessories is end-to-end encrypted.
     
  • AirPods gain the ability to switch between Apple devices with automatic device switching. Spatial audio with dynamic head tracking brings a theatre-like experience to AirPods Pro. By applying directional audio filters, and subtly adjusting the frequencies each ear receives, sounds can be placed virtually anywhere in a space to provide an immersive listening experience.
     
  • Find My will add support for finding third-party products and accessories with the new Find My network accessory program. This will allow customers to use the Find My app to locate other important items in their lives, in addition to their Apple devices. User privacy remains central to the Find My network with end-to-end encryption built in. A draft specification is available for accessory makers and product manufacturers starting today.
     
  • Safari offers a Privacy Report so users can 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 — a centralised place to manage health and safety features — includes Emergency SOS, Medical ID, ECG, Fall Detection, and more.10 Health also adds support for new data types for mobility, Health Records, symptoms, and ECG.
     
  • 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, a 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.

The developer preview of iOS 14 is available to Apple Developer Program members today, and a public beta will be available to iOS users next month. 

New software features will be available later this year as a free software update for iPhone 6s and later.

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