iOS 14 for iPhone — Explained (WWDC 2020)

iOS 14 basically runs on every iPhone from the 2015 iPhone 6s and 2016 original iPhone SE on up. Also, the current generation iPod touch 7.

Basically, if you’re running iOS 13 today, you’ll be able to run iOS 14 when it ships.

Of course, that doesn’t mean every single new feature will be there, but all the base stuff and security updates at the very least.

iOS 14 Default Apps

Our long international nightmare is over. Kinda. Almost.

With iOS 14, you can now choose default apps. But only for email and web browsing, because those are the ones people were asking for most.

And probably only when iOS 14 ships this fall, because developers have to add a flag to their apps to identify them as available for default status.

But, when it all goes live, you’ll be able to set Gmail and Chrome, or Outlook and Edge, or whatever you want, to handle your email and web.

And Apple’s Mail and Safari will have to fight to keep you or win you over. Which is better for everyone.

iOS 14 Compact UI

Our long international nightmare is over. Wait, I said that already. Well, for real though. No more full screen takeovers.

Not the Phone app, not FaceTime, not Voice over IP apps like Skype, not search, not even Siri. No longer will we lose everything else about our iPhones just because someone wants to talk to us or we want type or talk to our phones.

Instead call apps just get a banner, much like every other app has gotten for years. Swipe down to answer, swipe up to flick it away.

For Siri, instead of the full screen transcript, the glowing Siri ball of power just fires up on top of the Dock and then does whatever you tell it to do. No transcript, an app just launches, a notification just appears.

I’d still love some form of persistent Siri, like on macOS, where I could tear off answers I need for a while and pin them like widgets until I’m done needing them. Let me if I’m alone in that in the comments.

And, of course, none of this addresses Siri just getting plain old better, so we’ll have to see how that works out over the course of the beta.

iOS 14 Picture in Picture

Ripped straight from the iPad circa, I don’t know, 2015? Picture in picture is coming to the iPhone.

It works pretty much exactly like it’s been working on iPad all that time as well. Leave a video app or tap the button and the PiP just pops up. Drag it around, pinch to zoom it, hide it off to the side, all that jazz.

Now, Apple will support it for all video using default controls, like in Safari. But, apps will have to implement it, and here’s where I painfully point out that, even 5 years later, YouTube has chosen not to support it in the YouTube app. Which is kinda shameful.

So yell at them on Twitter until they get their app act together or use YouTube in Safari for PiP until they do.

Though… it does seem like we’re getting 4K YouTube thanks to the AV1 codec, which is supposed to replace H.265 and VP9, though it’s unclear if that’ll only be on 4K devices like Apple TV or all devices, or AirPlay. We’ll have to see.

Also, though unrelated, you can throw videos up as textures in RealityKit scenes now, which is just crazy cool.

iOS 14 Camera

Camera is getting faster. Up to 90% on shots, hitting up to 4 frames per second. Portrait mode is 15% faster shot-to-shot as well. You can also choose to prioritize speed over processing if that’s what you want.

QuickTake video is now supported on iPhone XR, iPhone XS, and iPhone XS Max, so everyone can get in on the instant TikTok action. And all iPhone models now get quick toggles for video resolution and frame rate, huzzah.

Also, QuickTake can now be set to volume down so you get back burst mode on volume up. Double huzzah.

Night mode on iPhone 11 will help you stay steadier or let you cancel out faster. And you can choose to capture mirrored selfies, if the difference between preview and photo always threw you.

iOS 14 App Library

With the Home screen, Apple is going equal parts Maria Kondo and Thomas Frank.

See, App Library takes all the junk in your Home screen trunks and throws it into what are essentially smart folders. You get suggested, which uses on-device machine learning to guess the apps it thinks you’ll use next based on previous behavior, time, location, and other signals like that. Also recently downloaded apps and recently used App Clips — more on those in a minute — and apps sorted by category.

Even there, on-device machine learning will surface the apps it thinks you’ll want next so you can just tap to launch, or dive in and spelunk your way through everything. It’ll also order the smart folders based on how you use them over time.

Spatially, the App Library lives to the right of your Home screens, but because it’s so much better than the graveyard of apps most of your Home screens has become, you can now hide those extra homers and keep the App Library just a swipe or two away.

But what if you don’t even need a full app?

iOS 14 Widgets

Widget all the thinks. That’s what.

Apple’s taken the rich, information dense, highly glanceable complications from watchOS and used them to reforge iOS widgets.

You can still get to them on the Today screen, if you prefer keeping them always just a swipe away, but there’s a new widget gallery as well. From either, pick a widget you want, and you can drag it right onto the Home screen if that’s where you want it.

Quasi related, if you’re in the U.S., you’ll get Dark Sky-like hyper local weather.

Apple and developer widgets can be a variety of sizes, including small, medium, and large and can contain focused information like details about a single stock or general information, like an overview of your 4 favorite stocks.

You can stack up to 10 widgets on top of each other to save space, and swipe through them to just drink from the widget firehose.

There’s even a smart stack widget which, like the Siri watch face, tries to predict the widget you’ll most want to check out next. And an actual Siri suggestion widget to serve you up one-tap coffee orders or podcast playback, whatever it thinks you’ll want at any given moment.

My biggest question is — will you use them? Android stats show only nerds ever change them from the default or interact with them much. So let me know in the comments not only if you’ll experiment the hell out of them at first, but whether you think you’ll keep using them in the future and whether your more mainstream family members will even enable them?

iOS 14 Memoji

You know the feature every nerd eye rolls so hard but every mainstream customer just races to find the perfect eye-roll expression for — Memoji.

There are over 20 new hair and headwear styles. Including man-bun. I poo-emoji you not.

And, of course, masks, because literally everyone who actually knows anything, like, you know, medicine and science, says you should be wearing them right now.

Also, age options, because none of us are getting any younger.

There’s also a new, more Mac-like emoji picker in general so you can more easily find just exactly the eye-roll expression you’re looking for.

iOS 14 Messages

Messages is doing more to help the people who use it the most.

You can pin up to 9 important conversations so you don’t have to swipe though, looking for them, like an animal. The pins are profile pics, so they’re easy to identify, sort of like static chat heads, and sync across your devices like messages do.

They’ll also animate messages, tap backs, and typing indicators so you know what’s up at a glance.

If you’re in a group convo, you can type a specific person’s name to make sure they see your message, either in line or as a notification. They thread too.

iOS 14 Maps

Ninth, Maps has a collection of environmentally and, frankly, human friendly new features including cycling directions, electronic vehicle routing, and congestion zone routing. Plus, they’ll call out speed and traffic cameras for you. Before, you know, the ticket does.

Also, Canada, Ireland, and the UK will be getting new Maps this year.

iOS 14 CarKeys

CarKeys means you can now use your iPhone to unlock and start your car, all by NFC tapping.

Well, if your car is a brand-new beamer, but these kinds of features take time because the automotive industry makes Mac mini updates look positively speedy. What, still too soon?

You can share keys with people you trust over Messages, and give them just as much or as little access as you want, including limits on acceleration, speed, traction, even audio volume. Perfect to make every teen hate your breathing guts.

There’s even a power reserve feature so CarKeys keep working for up to 5 hours after your phone runs out of juice, just so you don’t get stuck after a long day playing Pokemon Go… or, you know, using Facebook or Snapchat.

iOS 14 App Clips

Google’s had App Fragments for a while but I’ve never really seen too many people talking about them, much less raving. So, I legit don’t know how App Clips will be received.

Apple often has a way of popularizing technology in a way that goes well beyond being all-caps FIRST exclamation mark one one.

The idea is, for example, you park your rental car and find out you need am app to pay the meter. Instead of having to find out what app, download it, create an account, and jump through a ton of other hoops while you’re desperate to just get going, all you do is tap an NFC tag, scan a QR code, or hit a link, and the part of the app you need just appears, Login with Apple just handles who you are, and Apple Pay just takes care of the transaction.

Then the App Clip just goes away, and all your data with it, or, if you need it again, you can go to the App Library and use it or install it.

Same if you want to rent a bike or do any number of unexpected things.

Once we can travel again, I expect this is going to be super handy.

iOS 14 Accessibility

Apple kinda buried this one here just to make sure you were still paying attention. Go into Settings > accessibility > Touch and you can now set it so that double or triple tapping the back of an iPhone X or later will do things like launch control center or Notification Center. No camera there yet, alas.

If FaceTime detects sign language, it’ll make the person using it more prominent so everyone can more easily see it. Very nice.

There’s also VoiceOver recognition, where machine learning recognizes elements on the screen even if apps or web sites haven’t done their jobs and labeled them appropriately.

It’ll also do similar for images, explaining every element in a photo it can identify, as well as reading any text it can make out.

iOS 14 and You

iOS 14 is currently in developer beta. It'll go into public beta in July and be released for everyone this fall.