At its annual WWDC keynote, Apple showed off new features for the iPhone in iOS 14 including Home Screen Widgets and Picture in Picture for video and FaceTime calls.
The twist? Due to the pandemic, this year’s show was entirely virtual. Apple CEO Tim Cook took the stage in an empty Steve Jobs Theater.
“While it can’t possibly feel the same in here without you, I can assure you that we have a great show ahead of us,” started Cook in a livestream that was viewable online to anyone.
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The presentation moved fast, with new iPhone features introduced one after another. Apple showed off a revamped home screen, which will get widgets. These are helpful bits of information like the weather, activity and calendar events alongside your app icons.
Yes, it’s something Android has had since the beginning, but Apple’s implementation looks super slick.
Another new home screen feature might come a welcome relief if you don’t like to organize your apps. There is now an App Library, which automatically puts all of your apps into categories for you.
Additionally, you can see an alphabetical list of all of your installed apps. And if that’s not enough, you can now hide additional home screens littered with apps.
Next, Apple showed off a redesigned Siri. When you summon the virtual assistant, it no longer takes over the entire screen. It appears as a floating orb at the bottom of the screen.
Additionally, incoming calls will no longer take over the entire screen when you’re working – you’ll see them presentation as a notification at the top of the screen. You can answer the call or swipe it away.
Messages is getting a few key features, including the ability to Pin important threads to the top of the list. This way you can easily jump back into conversations. Also, with threaded replies, you’ll now be able to reply to a specific message someone sent, even if it wasn’t the most recent one.
In a sign of the times, Memojis can now be customized with a face mask.
Another improvement in workflow: videos and FaceTime calls get a new picture-in-picture mode. This means you can continue to chat or watch a video while you do something else on screen.
“I think iOS 14 brings things that we’ve seen on other phones for years that Apple hasn’t had,” said Brian Tong, a content creator who covers all things Apple.
“Apple absolutely brought it,” said Tong.
In a surprise, Apple didn’t show off any new hardware at this year’s WWDC. Instead, it concentrated on software features that improve the functionality of devices users already have.
Apple Watch will get a new sleep tracking feature, although at this point it doesn’t look very robust. Perhaps it will be expanded in the future.
Apple Watches are also getting the ability to sense when you start washing your hands. When they do, they’ll trigger an automatic countdown timer to help you wash for a full 20 seconds, the recommended time to help limit the spread of coronavirus and other germs.
Apple Maps is getting a few new features including bicycling directions for major cities including Los Angeles. It will also be able to route driving directions based on the availability of electric vehicle charging stations along the way.
As usual, Apple pressed for more privacy and awareness of personal data collection.
Inspired by “Nutrition Facts” labels, apps will now come with a Privacy Dashboard. It will reveal the data developers are collecting about you when you use their app and, more importantly, how they share it with others.
“I loved what we saw about what we’re going to see in the future and what we can do right now with the devices we already have, I think it was a big win,” concluded Tong.
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