iOS 14 logo
Apple

Apple will release iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 on September 16, 2020. Here are the big features Apple announced for the latest versions of the iPhone and iPad operating systems—along with new features for watchOS 7 and Apple’s AirPods.

Apple also announced macOS 11 Big Sur for later in 2020 and the transition to the company’s ARM-based silicon chips in upcoming MacBooks.

RELATED: What's New in macOS 11.0 Big Sur, Arriving Fall 2020

Widget Support

Widgets on iOS 14
Apple

Widgets have been available on the iPhone since iOS 12, but they’re now breaking out onto the smartphone’s home screens. Once updated, users will be able to not only drag widgets out of a Widget Gallery and place them anywhere on their home screen, they’ll also be able to resize the widget (if the developer offers multiple size options).

Apple also introduced the “Smart Stack” widget. With it, you can swipe between widgets from your iPhone’s home screen. If you’re not interested in randomly scrolling through options, the widget can automatically change throughout the day. For example, you can wake up and get the forecast, check your stocks at lunch, and have quick access to smart home controls at night.

RELATED: How iOS 14 Is About to Transform Your iPhone's Home Screen

App Library and Automatic Grouping

iOS 14 app library groups
Apple

iOS 14 also brings with it better app organization. Instead of a bunch of folders or pages that never get looked at, apps will be automatically sorted into an App Library. Similar to folders, apps will be dropped into a named category box that is easier to sort through.

With this setup, you can prioritize your essential apps on the iPhone’s primary home screen and have the rest of your apps sorted in the App Library. It’s very similar to Android’s App Drawer, except the App Library is found on the right side of the last home page while the App Drawer is found by swiping up on the home screen.

iOS 14 edit pages
Apple

Plus, to make it easier to clean up your home screens, you can check off pages that you want to hide.

RELATED: How the New App Library Works on iPhone

Siri Interface Gets a Major Redesign

New Siri iOS 14 on-screen interface
Apple

Since the launch of Siri on iPhone, the virtual assistant has loaded a full-screen interface that covers the entire smartphone. That’s no more with iOS 14. Instead, as you can be from the photo above, Siri’s animated logo will be displayed at the bottom of the screen, indicating that it’s listening.

Siri overlay result on iOS 14
Apple

The same goes for Siri results. Instead of taking you away from whatever app or screen you’re looking at, the built-in assistant will display the search results as a small, floating graphic at the top of the screen.

Pin Messages, Inline Replies, Mentions

iOS 14 Messages app with pinned conversations, new group features, and inline messages
Apple

Apple is making it easier for you to keep track of your favorite or most important conversations in Messages. Starting in iOS 14, you’ll be able to swipe over a conversation and pin it to the top of the app. Instead of a text preview, you’ll now be able to quickly jump into a chat by tapping on the contact’s photo.

Next, the Silicon Valley company is enhancing group messaging. Stepping away from the standard texting app look and feel and moving towards a chat app, you will soon be able to mention specific people by name and send inline messages. Both features should help in conversations that contain a lot of talkative people in which messages tend to get lost.

Group chats are also going to be able to set custom photos and emoji to help identify the conversation. When an image is set to anything but the default, the participant’s avatars will appear around the group photo. The avatar image sizes will change to signal who the latest was to send a message to the group.

Finally, if you’re a fan of Apple’s Memojis, you’re getting several new customization features. In addition to 20 new hair and headwear styles (such as a bicycle helmet), the company is adding several age options, facemasks, and three Memoji stickers.

Picture-in-Picture Support on iPhones

iOS 14 Picture-in-Picture mode
Apple

Picture-in-Picture (PiP) allows you to start a video and then continue watching it as a floating window while performing other tasks. PiP has been available on iPad, but with iOS 14, it’s coming to iPhone.

PiP on iPhone will also allow you to move the floating window off-screen in case you need the entire display. When you do this, the video’s audio will continue to play as usual.

RELATED: How to Use Picture-in-Picture on iPhone

Apple Maps Cycling Navigation

Cycling directions in Apple Maps
Apple

Since its inception, Apple Maps has offered turn-by-turn navigation, whether you wanted to travel by car, public transit, or on foot. With iOS 14, you can now get directions for cycling.

Similar to Google Maps, you can choose from multiple routes. On the map, you can check the elevation change, distance, and if there are dedicated bike lanes. Maps will also let you know if the route includes a steep incline or if you’ll need to carry your bike up a set of stairs.

A New Translation App

Apple Translation app conversation mode
Apple

Google has a Translate app, and now so does Apple. Just like the search giant’s version, Apple offers a conversation mode that allows two people to speak into the iPhone, have the handset detect the language that’s being spoken, and write out a translated version.

And as Apple continues to focus on privacy, all of the translating is done on-device and isn’t sent to the cloud.

Ability to Set Default Email and Browser Apps

Leading up to the WWDC keynote, there were rumors that Apple would allow iPhone owners to set third-party apps as default. Although it was never mentioned “on stage,” Joanna Stern of Wall Street Journal fame spotted the above mention of setting default email and browser apps.

RELATED: How the Mac Will Switch From Intel to Apple's Own ARM Chips

iPadOS 14

iPadOS 14 logo
Apple

A year since its split from iOS, iPadOS 14 is growing into its own operating system. The platform made several changes over the last several months with the addition of touchpad and mouse support, and now iPadOS 14 brings with it a significant number of user-facing changes that make the tablet a more versatile machine.

Almost all of the features announced for iOS 14 are coming to iPadOS 14 as well. Here are some that are exclusive for the iPad.

New Call Screen

New call screen in iPadOS 14
Apple

As with Siri, incoming calls will no longer take over your entire display. Instead, a small notification box will appear from the top of the screen. Here, you can easily accept or reject a call without leaving whatever you were working on.

Apple states that this feature will be available for FaceTime calls, voice calls (forwarded from an iPhone), and third-party apps such as Microsoft Skype.

Universal (Floating) Search

Floating search window in iPadOS 14
Apple

Spotlight search is also getting an overhaul. As with Siri and incoming calls, the search box will no longer popular the entire display. The new compact design can be called up from the home screen and within apps.

Additionally, universal search is being added to the feature. On top of quickly for apps and information online, you can find information from within Apple and third-party apps. For example, you can find a specific document written in Apple Notes by searching for it from the home screen.

Apple Pencil Support in Text Boxes (and More)

Use Apple Pencil to write in text boxes
Apple

Apple Pencil users rejoice! A new feature called Scribble allows you to write in text boxes. Instead of tapping on a box and having to type something in with your keyboard, you can now scribble out a word or two and let the iPad automatically convert it to text.

Additionally, Apple is making it easier to format handwritten notes. Beyond the ability to move selected handwritten text and add space in a document, you will be able to copy your handwriting and paste is a typed text.

And for those that draw shapes in their notes, iPadOS 14 can automatically detect the shape and convert it as an image while retaining the size and color that it was drawn in.

App Clips Offer Basic Functionality without a Full Download

App Clips for iPhone
Apple

There’s nothing worse than being out and about and running into a situation that requires you to download a large app. With iOS 14, developers can create smaller App Clips that offer basic functionality without maxing out your data cap.

One example Apple showed on stage was for a scooter company. Instead of downloading the vehicle’s app, users would be able to tap an NFC tag, open the App Clip, enter a small amount of information, pay, and then start riding.

watchOS 7

Multiple complications on watchOS 7 watch face
Apple

watchOS 7 doesn’t include nearly as many significant changes that come with iOS 14 or iPadOS 14, but some user-facing features have been requested for years. Plus, some of the iPhone’s upcoming features, including the new Cycling navigation option is coming to the wearable.

Sleep Tracking

Sleep tracking in watchOS 7
Apple

First and foremost, Apple is finally bringing sleep tracking to the Apple Watch. The company didn’t go into detail about how the tracking would work, but you will be able to see how much REM sleep you got and how many times you tossed and turned.

Watchface Sharing

Watch face sharing in watchOS 7
Apple

Apple still isn’t letting users or third-party developers create watch faces, but watchOS 7 does allow you to share watch faces with others. If you have complications (on-screen app widgets) set up in a way that you think others might like, you can share the setup with friends and family. If the recipient doesn’t have one of the applications installed on their iPhone or Apple Watch, they will be prompted to download it from the App Store.

The Activity App Gets a New Name

Activity app renamed to Fitness in iOS 14

As the Activity app on iPhone and Apple Watch has gained more functionality over the years, Apple is renaming it to Fitness. The rebrand should help communicate the app’s purpose to those users unfamiliar with it.

Hand Washing Detection

watchOS 7 hand washing dectection
Apple

One skill that everyone should have learned during the pandemic is how to wash their hands properly. If not, watchOS 7 is here to help. Once updated, the Apple Watch will use its various sensors to detect when you’re washing your hands automatically. In addition to a countdown timer, the wearable will tell you to keep washing if you stop too soon.

Spacial Audio and Automatic Switching for AirPods

Spacial audio in Apple AirPods
Apple

One of the benefits of listening to live music or wearing high-quality headphones is getting to experience a proper sound stage. With an upcoming update, when paired with an Apple device, AirPods will be able to track the music source as you turn your head artificially.

Apple did not specify which AirPods models will receive the spacial audio feature. It will work with audio designed for 5.1, 7.1, and Atmos surround systems.

Additionally, Apple is adding automatic device switching between iPhone, iPad, and Mac. For example, if your AirPods are paired to your iPhone and then you pull out your iPad and open a video, your headphones will make the jump between devices.

Transfer Your Login to “Sign in With Apple”

Transfer login to Sign In With Apple
Apple

Apple introduced a “Sign In With Apple” login feature last year that was supposed to be the privacy-focus option compared to signing in with Google or Facebook. The company stated today that the button had been used over 200 million times, and users are two times as likely to use the feature when signing up for an account on kayak.com.

Coming with iOS 14, if you’ve already created a login using an alternative option, you’ll be able to transfer it to Apple.

CarPlay Customization and Car Controls

CarPlay on iOS 14 with custom wallpaper
Apple

CarPlay is getting several smaller changes. First, you can now change the infotainment software’s wallpaper. Second, Apple is adding options to locate parking, order food, and find electric vehicle charging stations. After stating which EV you own, Apple Maps will keep track of how many miles you have left and direct you to charging stations that are compatible with your car.

Additionally, Apple is working with several car manufacturers (including BMW) to let your iPhone work as a wireless key/remote fob. In its current form, you will need to walk up to the car and then tap the top part of your phone, where the NFC chip is located, onto your vehicle to unlock and start the car.

Apple is working to allow the built-in U1 technology to perform these actions without the need to take the handset out of your pocket, purse, or bag.

RELATED: What Is Ultra Wideband, and Why Is It In the iPhone 11?

Justin Duino Justin Duino
Justin Duino is the Managing Editor at How-To Geek. He has spent the last decade writing about Android, smartphones, and other mobile technology. In addition to his written work, he has also been a regular guest commentator on CBS News and BBC World News and Radio to discuss current events in the technology industry.
Read Full Bio »

The above article may contain affiliate links, which help support How-To Geek.