iOS 14 adds widgets to home screen, redesigned Siri

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The newest major version of iOS has been revealed at WWDC 2020, and the biggest change you’ll notice will be the fact that you can now add widgets to the home screen.

Widgets, in general, get a noticeable redesign that allows them to fit in better with the home screen whilst also showing relevant and timely information at a glance – and they come in a variety of sizes versus just one. However, if you are an Android user (or a former Windows Phone user, RIP) then this whole concept is nothing new.

As expected, the user experience has been refreshed – namely when receiving calls and interacting with Siri. Both formerly took up the entire screen. Now, they are much more compact and have been designed to sit on top of whatever you are doing.

Messages finally gets replies and mentions

One of the common complaints about Messages is that group chats be easily be a sea of text – especially when there is a lot of people (take, for example, my friend’s group chat whenever we watch an Apple conference). iOS 14 addresses this by introducing two features: inline replies and mentions (the latter meaning that you will only receive a notification when someone actually tags you in a message).

Other Messages changes include being able to pin conversations to the top, and new Memoji accessories and gestures.

Siri can translate your conversations

Other than the redesign, Siri gets some significant improvements. It can now send audio messages and is powering the keyboard dictation feature – allowing you to use your voice instead of typing out a message, notes, and email.

But the biggest is the new Translate feature, promising “quick and natural translation of voice and text”. Because of Siri being able to process it on the actual device, Apple says that it works offline. It only supports 11 languages at launch: English, Mandarin, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Arabic, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese and Russian.

Quickly use an app when needed using App Clips

Apple also announced App Clips, allowing users to quickly use something in an app (such as paying for a ticket, or purchasing a coffee) without having to download the full app. App Clips utilise Apple Pay and Sign In With Apple to reduce the friction of adding your credit card details or creating a new account to just use an app for just one time use.

In order to download an App Clip, you can scan a QR code, click on a link via Safari or Messages, or hover on an NFC tag. Apple have also created their own “App Clip Code” – which is basically an NFC tag and an image that you scan using your camera combined into one.

Third-party app developers can take advantage of this by adding it as part of their existing apps, but should note that Apple has imposed some strict rules to ensure they remain “fast” – including a 10MB size limit.

… and the other things

  • App management is easier with the App Library. Basically, this means you can now have apps installed but don’t have to put them on the home screen. Unlike Android’s own App Screen, all apps are automatically categorised.
  • Maps get some new features: it’ll include cycling directions and a “curated Guides” section that helps travellers find interesting places to visit. For electric vehicle drivers, Maps will now add charging stops along a planned route so that you’ll never need to worry about running out.
  • Find My adds support for third-party products and accessories, allowing you to keep track of other important items.
  • AirPods will now seamlessly switch between Apple devices – for example, you finish a podcast on your iPhone, it will then switch to your laptop that is playing a movie.
  • You can now use your iPhone and Apple Watch to unlock your CarPlay-powered car. This also means that you can share your digital car key to a family member or friend without having to go to the dealer and pay for an extra set. And if you lose your device, you can disable the key. This feature will be rolled out next year.