Apple Redesigns Widgets, App Library, For iOS 14

Apple previewed its latest iPhone software, iOS 14, offering new ways for owners to customize the home screen, discover and use apps with App Clips, and stay connected in Messages.

The new widgets present timely information at a glance and can be pinned in different sizes on any Home Screen page. You can create a Smart Stack of widgets, which uses on-device intelligence to surface the right widget based on time, location, and activity. 

Home Screen pages can display widgets that are customized for work, travel, sports, entertainment, and other areas of interest. At the end of the Home Screen pages is the App Library, a new space that automatically organizes all of your apps into one simple, easy-to-navigate view, and intelligently surfaces apps that may be helpful in the moment. You can choose how many Home Screen pages to display and easily hide pages for quicker access to the App Library. 

Incoming FaceTime and phone calls and Siri interactions take on a new compact design that enables you to stay in the context of what you are doing. With Picture-in-Picture support, you can now watch a video or take a FaceTime call while using another app.

An App Clip is 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 renting a scooter, purchasing a coffee, or filling 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.

In Messages, you can now pin conversations to the top of your messages list, easily keep up with lively group threads through mentions and inline replies, and further customize conversations by setting a group photo using an image or emoji. New Memoji options in Messages are more inclusive and diverse with additional hairstyles, headwear, face coverings, and more.

In Maps, cycling directions take into account elevation, how busy a street is, and whether there are stairs along the route. Electric vehicle routing adds charging stops along a planned route based on current vehicle charge and charger types. Guides provide a curated list of interesting places to visit in a city created by a selection of trusted resources. Guides are a great way to discover hot new restaurants, find popular attractions, and explore new recommendations from respected brands, including AllTrails, Complex, The Infatuation, Time Out Group, and The Washington Post, among others.

All apps will now be required to obtain user permission before tracking. Later this year, App Store product pages will feature summaries of developers’ self-reported privacy practices, displayed in a simple, easy-to-understand format. In addition, you can upgrade existing accounts to Sign in with Apple, choose to share your approximate location with app developers rather than precise location when granting an app location access, and get even more transparency into an app’s use of the microphone and camera.

iOS 14 also includes translation features using an on-device mode that works offline for private voice and text translation; expanded Siri knowledge and thr ability to send audio messages; new automation suggestions and expanded controls in Control Center for quicker access to accessories and scenes. 

AirPods now gain the ability to seamlessly switch between Apple devices with automatic device switching. Spatial audio with dynamic head tracking brings a theatre-like experience to AirPods Pro, says Apple. 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.

Digital car keys give you a secure way to use iPhone or Apple Watch to unlock and start your 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.

Find My will add support for finding third-party products and accessories with the new Find My network accessory program. With end-to-end encryption built in, a draft specification is available for accessory makers and product manufacturers starting today.

New in Safari is a Privacy Report so you can easily see which cross-site trackers have been blocked, secure password monitoring to help you detect saved passwords that may have been involved in a data breach, and built-in translation for entire webpages. 

Health has new experiences to manage sleep, better understand audio levels that may affect hearing health, and a new Health Checklist — a centralized place to manage health and safety features — including Emergency SOS, Medical ID, ECG, Fall Detection, and more. Health also adds support for new data types for mobility, Health Records, symptoms, and ECG.

The Weather app and widget adds a new next-hour precipitation chart that 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 screen reader for the blind community, now automatically recognizes 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 at starting today, and a public beta will be available to iOS users next month at New software features will be available this fall as a free software update for iPhone 6s and later.