Apple iOS 14 review: A better iPhone experience (Or you can pretend it’s still iOS 13)

by birtanpublished on October 3, 2020

Apple's new version of ios arrives without new iphones and that's a little bit unusual it also means there is nothing to distract from ios 14. this is all about the software in the last two years of ios updates focused on improving stability as apple did away with the home button and well other things changed in some ways yes this is an evolution of ios 13 but it also shakes up a lot of the established norms when it comes to the iphone including major changes to the home screen if you

Want them ios 14 is particularly interesting because a lot of these additions and new changes are kind of optional not everything is going to resonate with you but a lot of it will there's plenty here worth trying the iphone home screen hasn't changed hugely since the original back in 2007. rows of icons set in a grid sure you could change the order but heaven for fend if you wanted an icon to float alone they stayed where they were left aligned

Uniform and boring folders gave you some agency but that was back in ios 4. now if you use everything here that's new with ios 14 your iphone home screen will never look the same again the new app library kind of like android's app drawer stashes all your apps in an alphabetical list just keep swiping right to access it great better still you can now nix apps from those traditional home screens sure the app still exists on your phone

It's just not cluttering up your phone's display if you long press on the app there's a new option of moving it to the app library instead of just deleting it or hiding it in a folder you can even banish app icons in bulk one long press and you can edit away unticking any home screens you don't need anymore it all feels pretty liberating that said you could do none of this and your phone will behave as if it's still running ios

13. ios 14 also adds new shortcuts for finding the app you're looking for creating its own categories in the app library to vaguely organize things however they are real vague and seemingly random but it is worth noting that some of the sorting has improved since the beta so what do you do with all these home screens now there's no app icons cluttering up the place fortunately apple has a few ideas over the years google's android has furnished smartphones with widgets of varying utility and ios mostly avoided

Them sure we got drop down menus for toggles and more recently a today view that offered a limited widget experience if you swipe to write beyond the main home screen that of course is still here now ios 14 has actual real deal widgets and they're pretty good it's early days but they come in a few sizes the smallest is a two by two square and the largest is a 4×4 square with some horizontal options thrown in too yes apple is sticking to its grid but at

Least there are some options there are a couple of ways to add them to your newly liberated home screen you can hold your finger on existing widgets in the today feed or hold down on any part of the home screen itself all the apps will start to jiggle and a plus symbol will take you to all the widgets your heart desires at the moment it's centered mostly on apple's core apps and services like calendar reminders music and the rest but third-party apps are creeping in

Like google xero and kayak and expect more developers to get on board soon widgets have their own folder function of sorts called smart stacks this means you can swipe through weather fitness metrics news headlines and more without having to open an app or have a ton of widgets on your home screen it's an elegant way to stop them taking over the phone and a smart stack toggle will automatically cycle through the widgets based on time of day and what siri has learned of your iphone usage

Now i'm really starting to like siri and its suggestions not only on the smart stacks but elsewhere on the phone siri suggestions which have been around since ios 12 have improved a lot in ios 14. in that i'm noticing them and they're actually helpful these pop up at times in your notifications as the os learns your routines you get suggestions from siri at the right time in the right place for just what you need for me that meant that my gym workout timing app would pop

Up when it was time for me to hit the weights or it would remind me in the late afternoon that i hadn't already wronged my mum that day sorry mum some of these reminders will also appear in the siri suggestions widget yes besides smart stacks there's also a dedicated siri suggestions widget that once you place it on your home screen looks like an unassuming group of apps however it's actually an automatically curated selection of apps based on your own usage you might see netflix and kindle apps bubble up during

Your commute in the mornings if you're still commuting somewhere while news and meditation apps unrelated might surface in the same widget later in the day you could even hypothetically nix all your apps and let the wisdom of siri decide which apps you need i ended up going for a 50 50 mix of manual apps i always wanted and siri's own recommendations siri as you know it well the voice assistant part has also been toned down from a full screen invasion

To a floating orb in the lower part of the screen likewise calls and connected apple devices like airpods hover around the top half of the screen it's a subtle change but a long overdue one now calls don't have to disrupt you in the middle of a game or just as you're wrapping up an email reply the ios messages app was also given plenty of attention this time and let's be honest it kind of needed it a lot of the features new here you might have already seen on android or telegram or whatsapp

Or whichever messaging app you've managed to convince your friends and family to use so if your life is centered around messages you'll love what ios 14 brings but if you're not a user of the blue bubble all of this is not going to mean much in ios 14 in-line replies have finally arrived this means you can create sub threads from any message whether in one-on-one conversations or in group chat where it's eminently more useful long press on any message and tap reply

And it'll spin itself out all in a very apple way these are the classiest threaded messages i've ever seen in another uh finally feature you can create customized group chat names beyond a list of all the people in the group now earth shattering features they are not but they add up to a better messaging experience that can keep pace with the competition on that note ios 14 finally brings picture-in-picture video playback a feature long coveted by iphone users and one

That's been on android phones for a while compatible apps so far include apple tv of course facetime netflix itunes and more though i had issues getting it to work with safari the last picture-in-picture for youtube is for premium subscribers only these now floating videos can then be resized between two presets made full screen again or swept aside to the edge allowing the audio to continue playing as you do something else it's been a long time coming but i'm glad to see the feature

Here it particularly shines on some of the bigger iphone models a quiet but important update is the ability to set your own default web browser and email apps you are no longer a prisoner to safari and the native email client firefox and chrome are both options while gmail outlook spark and more are now available as default mail apps more are being added as we speak they're each simple enough to set up inside

Settings find the app and you'll see a default browser app or default email app option if it's compatible now it's hard to understand exactly how liberating this is how much easier it's made my iphone life knowing that links will automatically open in chrome with all my passwords and bookmarks integrated that said there was a bug in the first version of ios 14 that would reset back to safari as your default browser if you rebooted the phone that's been subsequently fixed and let's focus on what's important here

Apple has offered an olive branch to power users you can now choose which email app and which browser to use hopefully they'll take that philosophy on to some of their other native apps i'd love to see maps get the same treatment another welcome addition is apple's very own translation app new for ios 14. translate works on device if you've downloaded the language files ahead of time and covers english usn uk mandarin chinese

Japanese korean spanish german french italian russian brazilian portuguese and arabic and that's just for now it works surprisingly well capturing my now middling japanese and my rudimentary french and german author what kind of music do you listen to these days there's the ability to bookmark your most useful phrases and the mere convenience of some kind of translation without data needed could make this a powerful travel assistant when we're traveling again

Privacy is a major part of ios 14 and while some of the features have been delayed new permission request settings might best exemplify apple's latest approach to privacy the most effective restriction could be the new approximate location setting when an app doesn't really need pinpoint accuracy say a restaurant reservation service it will get a fuzzier location using data wi-fi and bluetooth networks and whatever location setting you decide

The first time around it can be readjusted in each app's listing inside settings now there are always one or two features that are never a big part of apple's presentation press releases or even the company's own tips app this time around i think it's these pesky dots surprisingly they're also about privacy floating next to your signal strength bar you might occasionally spot an orange or green dot now the orange one indicates that you're currently using an app that has access

To your microphone you'll see it during any voice calls you make or when an app requires voice input a green dot then means something is using your camera you'll see it in facetime zoom and instagram for instance report cards is what's been delayed these were meant to track exactly which data and information your apps were taking from you when you used your iphone the feature is set to launch later this year so we'll take a closer look when it does for now you can still

Access a privacy report for safari it'll tell you which sites are tapping into most web trackers and exactly which trackers safari has blocked tap on the letters at the start of the address bar to open up your report but naturally if you decided to swap your default web browser you won't miss out on this now given the big presentation at wwdc earlier this year you might be surprised that i don't have much to say about app clips that's because i haven't used them any

Of them app clips are snippets of apps that have tiny file sizes and can be temporarily installed they can be initialized through nfc qr codes or even locations on apple maps or even links shared on imessages now in the us you can order a sandwich from panera bread but that's pretty much all you can do at this point expect to see plenty more app clips for major service apps where they make the most sense for now however it's not a big deal so ios 14 may not be groundbreaking but

If you embrace the new widgets and reassess how you use apps ios 14 is certainly refreshing then there's the ability to shed safari and your native email app if you want to hopefully apple expands on this and offers similar default app flexibility in the future apple's focus on privacy too is incredibly user-friendly and mostly easy to explain putting the focus back on app developers to reconsider what data they're collecting from us what's

Interesting is that you don't even have to actually embrace a lot of these changes they coexist with the old way of using ios and you'll probably be happy to hear the ios 14 is compatible with all iphones since the iphone 6s including both of the iphone ses yes five-year-old iphones are still getting extra functionality now it's pretty impressive there's a lot of changes to take in here but most of them are worth your time it's

Also time to get rid of that boring app grid read our full review at engadget.com and make sure to subscribe to our youtube channel for even more reviews you

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