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 Beta 2 Download
Image: Apple

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

Smart Stacks (L) for Widgets (R) work with the new App Library to help minimise clutter while maximising utility. Screenshot: Ian Ling

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

The new Sleep interface within the iOS 14 Health app. Screenshot: Ian Ling

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.

3. Translate

Rotating your iPhone into landscape puts Translate into conversation mode. Screen recording: Ian Ling

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

Back Tap lets you quickly access information without leaving an app. Here, I perform quick currency conversions and launch Chrome using Spotlight search. Screenshot: Ian Ling

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

Amongst other privacy improvements, you can view a privacy report from a website (L) and limit Photos access for apps to only specific ones (R). Screenshot: Ian Ling

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.

Ian Ling
http://uncommontragedy.com
Ian is the resident Tech Monkey and Head of Content at VR Zone. His training in Economics and Political Science is at the basis of his love for journalism and storytelling. A photographer by passion, and an audiophile by obsession, Ian is captivated by all forms of tech that makes enthusiasts tick.

3 thoughts on “iOS 14 Public Beta Review: 5 Hidden Features That Will Change The Way You Work, Play & Sleep

  1. Pman

    Yes if you are a phone addict.

    The only thing my phone change is my focus when someone are calling, but still not to a degree i pick up the phone when i am driving. ( or in public in any other way )
    And if my phone tried to mess in any way with my sleeping, it would go out the window.
    And i would of course never play on a phone, i mean come on, i have a hugely powerful devise with a huge screen for that at home, and i have a brain i like to use and not numb all the time with mindless distractions like playing a game, or watching pictures of cupcakes.

    The lowest people on earth are those making a loud conversation in public over a phone using a BT headset.
    Even lower than those with the phone in hand looking at it all the time ( zombies )

  2. Bed time and sleep mode are good improvements.

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