Apple releases iOS 14, iPadOS 14, watchOS 7, tvOS 14

Today Apple released their big annual upgrades across all of their mobile devices. This year’s upgrades bring exciting new features, and I’m happy to say that I’ve been running the beta software on my own devices for quite some time and I’m impressed with how stable and reliable this release is. Especially for an initial release. That’s not to say that it is perfect. All software has bugs. But this is easily the smoothest beta process I’ve ever experienced with Apple. So if you’re game (and if you are backed up which should be done no matter how stable a release is!) I recommend nearly everyone go ahead and install this update.

There are literally hundreds of new features and changes, so I just want to run through some of the major ones.

The updates are compatible with all iPhones, iPads, and Apple TVs that ran last year’s software. The only devices missing updates this year are Apple Watch Series 1 and 2.

iOS 14 and iPadOS 14

  • Widgets have been updated, so you can now place widgets on your home screen alongside your apps where they are easier to find. New widget formats are on both platforms, but only iPhone gets the ability to put them in your home screen.
  • App Library gives you a list of all of your apps, alphabetically or by category. You can also remove icons from your home screen, but the app remains in your App Library.
  • App Clips allow you to test the basic features of an app in the App Store without installing it.
  • iMessage gets lots of upgrades including mentions, inline replies, the ability to pin your favorite conversations to the top of the list, and custom icons for group chats.
  • AirPods automatically switch to the appropriate device when you play media or answer a call.
  • AirPods Pro get spatial audio, simulating surround sound and tracking the location of the sound so that it always appears to be coming from your iPad or iPhone. This motion data can also be used for third-party apps such as fitness and games.
  • Apple Pencil lets you scribble text into any text field (iPad only).
  • Incoming call notifications are now a banner instead of taking over your whole screen. This works whether it’s a regular phone call or a call through a third-party app such as WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger.
  • Translation app competes with Google Translate. Use it to translate or dictate into another language. Google Translate is far more functional, but this is great for people who have privacy concerns with Google.
  • Picture-in-Picture, long available on iPad, is now available on iPhone. Watching a Movie on Netflix but want to send a quick text? No problem! Just go to your home screen and your video will continue playing in a tiny floating window that can be resized and moved as needed.
  • Siri now has a compact UI, so it does not take over your whole screen.
  • FaceTime calls use picture-in-picture, so you can look up something on your iPhone without stopping your video. They also added sign language prominence, which detects when someone is using sign language and makes their image larger in a group call.
  • Privacy indicators let you know when your microphone or camera is in use with an orange or green dot by your battery meter.
  • Maps gets a lot of new features. Cycling routes with elevation and stair information, curated guides from places like Lonely Planet, EV routing with suggested stops for charging your car, and speed and red light camera warnings.
  • Home gets a lot of new features as well. Adaptive lighting allows your color-capable smart bulbs to change through the day, face recognition on video doorbells and cameras using data from your Photos app, and more.
  • Location privacy controls now allow you to grant your location to an app every time it’s requested, or to only provide an approximate location.
  • Photo privacy controls allow you to give apps access to only specific photos rather than your whole Photos library.
  • Apple Cash Family allows you to give electronic currency to someone under the age of 18 that can be used anywhere Apple Pay is accepted. iCloud Family Sharing required.
  • Sleep Scheduling creates a Wind Down schedule where you can set your bedtime routines and reminders. Sleep Mode dims your screen and hides notifications until your alarm goes off. No more waking up in the middle of the night to check the time and you see an email alert or news notification that turns your brain on.
  • Files app can now read encrypted APFS drives.
  • Emoji keyboard now has a search function.
  • Photos and Camera apps gets a lot of new features such as the ability to add captions to photos, smarter Memories features, better camera quality in certain conditions, and photos can be taken almost twice as fast.
  • Reminders app gets a lot of features like the ability to assign reminders to individuals on shared lists and better ways to organize items.
  • Default email and browser apps can be changed, once new versions of apps are released that take advantage of this new option.
  • Weather app gets a lot more data such as next-hour precipitation, following Apple’s purchase of Dark Sky.

If you want to see more, you can read through Apple’s official list of new features, though it doesn’t include every little change.

watchOS 7

  • Family Setup allows you to set up a Watch for another family member who does not have a phone. This is geared toward kids who you want to be connected but don’t want to give them a phone. You can restrict who they are allowed to communicate with. Schooltime mode lets you restrict when the watch can be used, and Apple Cash Family allows you to give them money they can use anywhere Apple Pay is accepted. Apple Watch Series 4 or later with cellular required and a compatible cellular plan.
  • Multiple complications per app.
  • Sleep Mode conserves battery while tracking your sleep movements. Notifications are hidden, the screen is dimmed, and you have to tap the screen to see the time.
  • Charge notifications notify your iPhone when your Watch has finished charging and will remind you to charge your Watch before bedtime if you have set up Sleep Mode.
  • Fitness app gains a lot of new workout types such as dance, core, and cooldown.
  • Handwashing detection counts down 20 seconds every time you wash your hands and can remind you to wash your hands when you arrive home.

tvOS 14

There aren’t a lot of new features on tvOS 14, but there are several welcome items:

  • AirPods sharing allow you to connect a second pair of AirPods at a time.
  • Picture In Picture for third-party apps.
  • 4K support for YouTube.
  • View HomeKit cameras from your Apple TV, and get a popup alert when it recognizes someone.

To update

  • iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch: Open the Settings app > General > Software Update.
  • Apple Watch: First update your iPhone, then on your iPhone tap the Watch app > General > Software Update.
  • AppleTV: Navigate to Settings > System > Software Update.

Images courtesy Apple, Inc.