iOS 14 Beta Review
Whether you’re team Android or iOS, your mobile device is as close to an extension of yourself as it can be. They’re such important tools in our lives that it’s no wonder everyone constantly debates which is better. But hands-on with the iOS 14 Public Beta, the differences between the two just got more complicated.
There are quirks in the iOS 14 beta that have yet to be ironed out, but with the confident, bold design and UX tweaks, it’s clear that Apple has had this in the pipeline for a long time.
Main updates and features in iOS 14
iOS 14’s updates can be slotted into 3 main categories: overhauled UX/UI, added functionality and tweaks.
The overhauled UX/UI is best reflected in the addition of widgets and the new App Library – features many casual observers have pointed out to be ways iOS is “just catching up” with Android. There are also UI changes for call notifications and the Siri splash display.
Added functionality in the form of a new Translate app, on-device dictation and smart directions for cyclists (slopes) and EV drivers (charging stations).
Tweaks take mostly the form of accessibility features like sound recognition, alerting those with hearing impairments of environmental sounds.
The best part: Apple doesn’t change anything when you’ve finally got round to updating your phone. It’s simple and roughly similar to how it was before, but now allows you to mess around with customisations if you want to.
1. Hide app pages
While most have jumped on Apple’s new widgets as the defining feature of iOS 14, I think it’s everything else that accompanies it that makes it that much more refined.
Three things here: the new App Library, which allows you to stash all your apps in one place for easy finding, the new Smart Stacks feature that allows you to toggle between widgets, and the new ability to hide app pages.
As a tech writer and a reviewer, the insane amount of apps I accumulate can quickly get out of hand. By helping me contain the madness in a directory (the App Library) and letting me select which pages to keep on hand, I can finally declutter my digital life effectively.
Couple this with a bunch of folders and smart stacks, and I essentially have my most-used apps at my fingertips. Anything else is just a search away.
2. Bedtime & Sleep Mode
While we wait for Sleep tracking via the Apple Watch, Apple’s Health app has added a nifty feature to help you fall asleep. This allows you to set sleep goals (duration, bedtime and wake targets), along with a Sleep mode that darkens the interface and launches apps to put you to sleep.
During this COVID-19 era, maybe not as much, but we’ve all used Google Translate on our travels. Apple’s new Translate app achieves most of Google’s functionality in a laudable first attempt.
Offline translations and offline dication are also supported – you’ll just have to download a language profile before you get started. Within Safari, you can also directly translate text on-device, no longer requiring a round trip to Apple’s servers to figure that stuff out.
4. Back Tap
Here’s a scenario. I’m on a trip and in the midst of comparing accommodation options, and need a quick and dirty currency conversion. Normally, I’d have to swipe from the bottom to get home, before swiping from the top to get to Spotlight search.
Not this time. A quick double-tap on the rear of the phone (even with a case) can activate everything from Reachability, launch the camera or even snap a screenshot. In addition to setting double-tap to Spotlight, triple-tapping the rear of the phone activates a Siri Shortcut that AirDrops a business card on the fly.
5. Privacy improvements: tracking reports, photos permissions
Let’s face it: privacy isn’t sexy. But after years of committing to basic user rights, Apple’s stance is pretty convincing. Amongst the slew of new privacy updates, you can now select photos to be shared with apps, in addition to viewing a Privacy Report from your favourite websites.