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This Week in Apps: Apple’s big event, lidar comes to iPhone, Android gets a new IDE

Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the TechCrunch series that recaps the latest OS news, the applications they support and the money that flows through it all.

The app industry is as hot as ever, with a record 204 billion downloads and $120 billion in consumer spending in 2019. People are now spending three hours and 40 minutes per day using apps, rivaling TV. Apps aren’t just a way to pass idle hours — they’re a big business. In 2019, mobile-first companies had a combined $544 billion valuation, 6.5x higher than those without a mobile focus.

In this series, we help you keep up with the latest news from the world of apps, delivered on a weekly basis.

Apple introduces four new iPhones (and more)

Apple hosted its iPhone event this week, where it introduced the new iPhone 12… and the iPhone 12 mini, the iPhone 12 Pro and the iPhone 12 Pro Max — effectively plugging all the holes in the market. With the release of the four new iPhones, app developers will have a range of devices to build for, from small to very large — the 12 Pro Max, for example, introduces the iPhone’s biggest-ever screen and the highest resolution, at nearly 3.5M pixels.

It also, of course, includes serious camera improvements, from a redesign of the three-lens system to including a new deeper telephoto camera, now a 65 mm-equivalent instead of 52 mm, as on previous models. There’s also an improved wide-angle lens, larger sensor, the addition of sensor-level image stabilization and a revamped Night Mode. Photographers will appreciate the new Apple ProRAW format, as well. (More on that here).

The iPhone 12 mini, meanwhile, aims to serve the customer base that prefers a smaller phone, like the iPhone SE, but without sacrificing functionality.

All the devices share some key features, including 5G connectivity, the new MagSafe connector for wireless charging and snap-on magnetic accessories, OLED displays and the A14 chip. They also have a more classic look, with straight edges that allow for additional antennas, providing next-gen wireless connectivity.

One of the bigger differences, however, between the Pro models and the regular iPhone 12 is the addition of the LiDAR Scanner, which is also found in the latest iPad Pro. The scanner measures how long it takes for light to reach an object and reflect back. The new depth-sensing technology has big implications for AR, as it allows augmented reality objects to interact with objects in the real world. AR apps will be more user-friendly, too, as they won’t need to first scan the room to place the AR object in the real world. It can be placed instantly.

Apple is leveraging the sensor for the iPhone 12 Pro camera to offer up to 6x faster focus in low-light conditions. Developers, meanwhile, can leverage lidar for use cases like AR-enabled games that work in the real world, social media (like Snapchat’s new lidar-powered Lens), home design and improvement apps involving room scans, spatial layout planning (like JigSpace), better AR shopping experiences and more.

The company also announced an affordable version of its HomePod smart speaker, the $99 HomePod Mini. The item works best for those fully locked inside the Apple universe, as it will stream a handful of music services, but not one of the most popular — Spotify. However, Apple also introduced a nifty feature for the HomePod devices, Intercom, which lets you send announcements across the speakers. While Apple and Google have offered a similar feature for their smart speakers, Intercom also works across other Apple devices, including iPhone, iPod, AirPods and even CarPlay. (What, no Mac?)

If Apple isn’t too late to capture smart speaker market share, the new speaker could see more users adopting smart home devices they can voice control through the HomePod Mini.

During the event, Apple also subtly snubbed its nose at Epic’s Fortnite with the announcement that
League of Legends: Wild Rift would be coming to iPhone 12 to take advantage of its new 5G capabilities and A14 Bionic chip.

Platforms

  • Lidar comes to iPhone 12 Pro. Developers can now build AR experiences that interact with real-world objects, and AR apps can now instantly place AR objects in the real world without scanning the room. The update will mean a huge increase in the usability of AR apps but is limited to the Pro model of iPhone for now. Snapchat is already using it.
  • Apple developers can now make their apps available for pre-order even earlier — up to 180 days before release on the App Store.
  • Android Studio 4.1 launches. The new, stable version of the IDE for building Android apps introduces better TensorFlow Lite support and a new database inspector. The team also fixed a whopping 2,370 bugs during this release cycle and closed 275 public issues.
  • Google introduces the Android for Cars library. The library, now in open beta, gives developers tools to design, develop and test new navigation, parking or charging apps for Android Auto. The Google Play Store will be enabled for publishing beta apps in the “coming months.”
  • Google stops selling music. The company no longer sells tracks and albums on its Play Store, shifting all its focus to YouTube Music. The latter also just launched on Apple Watch this week.

Trends

  • Shopping apps forecast. U.S. consumers were expected to spend 60M hours in Android shopping apps during Prime Day week, (which just wrapped) according to one forecast from App Annie.
  • Prime Day downloads grow. Sensor Tower estimates global installs of the Amazon app grew 23% year-over-year, to 684K, as Prime Day neared. Installs on Wednesday were up 33% to 750K. However, U.S. installs were down by 22% 10/13-10/14. Apptopia noted that app sessions, however, were up 27% year-over-year.
  • Shopping, Food & Drink app launches up more than 50% year-over-year. Shopping apps grew 52% while Food & Drink apps grew 60%, due to COVID-19 impacts, according to Sensor Tower.
  • Subscriptions. U.S. consumers spend $20.78 per month on app subscriptions, Adjust study says.
  • TikTok sale impact on ad industry. 73% of marketers said a TikTok sale in the U.S. would impact their 2021 advertising plans. 41% also believed the deal could allow Walmart to overtake Amazon in e-commerce.
  • Amazon expands AR experimentation to its boxes. The retailer launched a new AR application that works with QR codes on the company’s shipping boxes to create “interactive, shareable” AR experiences, like a pumpkin that comes to life.

Security

  • Robinhood said a “limited number” of its users’ accounts were hacked. The service itself was not hacked, but around 2,000 customers had accounts compromised by cybercriminals who first compromised users’ personal emails outside the trading app.

Other News

  • Zoom’s new events platform brings apps to video conferencing calls.
  • Messenger update brings new features, including cross-app communication with Instagram. The app gets fun features like chat themes, custom reactions and, soon, selfie stickers and vanish mode. But the bigger news is the (potentially anti-competitive) merging of Facebook’s chat platforms.
  • Life360 leverages TikTok teens’ complaints to start a dialogue and invent a new feature, “Bubbles,” which allows teens (or anyone) to share a generalized location instead of an exact one. The feature gives teens a bit more freedom to roam and make choices without so much parental oversight. Parents, meanwhile, can still be sure their teen is OK, as features like emergency SOS and crash alerts remain functional.
  • Must-read: The MacStories iOS and iPadOS 14 Review. Federico Viticci offers a 23-page deep dive into the latest version of Apple’s mobile operating system.
    • Future raises $24M Series B for its $150/mo workout coaching app amid at-home fitness boom. The app pairs users with real-life fitness coaching for personal training at home. The round was led by Trustbridge Partners with Caffeinated Capital and Series A investors Kleiner Perkins participating.
    • River raises $10.4M for its app offering news, events and other happenings from around the web, ranging from news stories from top publishers to sports to even notable tweets. The app presents the information in a real-time stream, browsed vertically. There’s also a “For You” page, similar to TikTok.
    • Roblox confidentially filed with the SEC to go public. This cross-platform gaming platform has boomed during coronavirus lockdowns. According to reports, the listing could double Robox’s $4B valuation.
    • Robo Adviser Wealthsimple raises $87M. The funding for the investing app with comparisons to Robinhood was led by Menlo Park-based Technology Crossover Ventures (TCV), valuing the business at $1B.
    • Fitness platform Playbook raises $9.3M. The company offers tools for personal trainers who want to make their own videos, which consumers then browse in Playbook’s mobile app. Backers include E.ventures, Michael Ovitz, Abstract, Algae Ventures, Porsche Ventures and FJ Labs.
    • Live streaming app Moment House raises $1.5M seed. The startup aims to recreate live events in a digital format. LA area investors invested, including Scooter Braun, Troy Carter, Kygo’s Palm Tree Crew and Jared Leto. Patreon chief executive Jack Conte and Sequoia Capital partner Jess Lee also participated.
    • Twilio acquires Segment for $3.2B to help developers build data-fueled apps.
    • E-learning platform Kahoot raises $215M from SoftBank. The Norwegian startup claims to have hosted 1.3 billion “participating players” in the last 12 months. The company’s gamified e-learning platform is used both in schools and in enterprise environments.

Mycons

Mycons is a new app that makes it easier for users, including non-designers, to create and buy custom icons for their iOS home screen makeovers. In the app’s “Icon Studio,” users can create icons by swapping out the background, choosing a symbol and placing it on the icon accordingly. You can also create a whole set of icons in a batch export. If you don’t feel like designing your own, you can opt to purchase premade packs instead.

The app is a free download with a one-time, in-app purchase to unlock the fully functionality of the icon designer. The icon packs, which include different variations and matching wallpaper, range from $7.99-$9.99.

Spotify’s new iOS 14 widget

Image Credits: TechCrunch screenshot of Spotify widget

It’s here! The widget a number of people have waited for since the launch of the new version of iOS has arrived. 

The widget, which arrives in the latest version of the Spotify iOS app, comes in two sizes. The smaller widget will display just your most recently listened to item, while the medium-sized widget will instead show the five most recent items — four in a horizontal row and the most recent at the top. In that case, you can actually tap on the small thumbnail for which of the five you want to now stream to be taken directly to that page in the Spotify app. The widget also automatically updates its background color to match the thumbnail photo.

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Top 20 iOS homescreen customization apps reach 5.7M installs after iOS 14 release

The iOS 14 homescreen customization trend is driving a new set of apps to the top of the App Store charts, and delivering record downloads for sources of inspiration, like Pinterest. According to new data from app store market intelligence firm Sensor Tower, installs of the top 20 homescreen customization apps reached 5.7 million total downloads worldwide in the first four days following the release of iOS 14 on September 16.

Remarkably, the three most-downloaded apps — Widgetsmith, Color Widgets, and Photo Widget — account for 95% of these 5.7 million downloads. That indicates that the rest of the app customization market today is much smaller. But this could still change over time if more apps embrace the trend and expand to include innovative and unique features.

Sensor Tower’s study on the homescreen customization market only focused on those apps that were used to create homescreen widgets or existed primarily to service them, like calendars, clocks, memos, and others.

To determine if the app offered homescreen customization tools, Sensor Tower analyzed the app metadata of all the apps that ranked at any point on the App Store after September 16, then manually reviewed those apps to confirm their functionality was homescreen customization related.

The report’s focus was also more on widget apps, rather than apps than helped users make custom icons or existing apps that added widget functionality, as Sensor Tower decided it wouldn’t be able to determine how many had done so based on their metadata. It’s also difficult to determine, in some cases, if an app with a larger purpose beyond widgets is moving up the charts simply because it has now added widgets.

The top 20 list, in order, includes the following:

Widgetsmith, Color Widgets, Photo Widget, Photobox Widget, MemoWidget, Home Photo Widget, Motivation Widget, Ermine, Date Today, Hey Weather, TimeDeck, Widgeridoo, Glimpse 2, Widget Wizard, Widget Web, Locket, ItemMemo, OMDZ, Clock Widget for Home Screen, and Photo Widgets.

Image Credits: Sensor Tower

Combined, the group has generated a collective $400,000 in consumer spending in four days — from September 17 through September 20. Widgetsmith dominated the group, accounting for $370,000 of that total, followed by an app called Date Today with close to $20,000, per Sensor Tower estimates. (We should note Widgetsmith’s figure comes in a bit lower than some of the other estimates that were floating around.)

Though Sensor Tower’s study had a narrower focus, there are signals that plenty of apps have benefitted from the customization craze beyond the widget makers themselves.

Design inspiration resource Pinterest, as noted above, saw record daily downloads. TuneTrack, now the No. 18 free (non-game) app on the U.S. App Store appears to be gathering steam in the absence of an official Spotify widget. Its app offers both Apple Music and Spotify widgets for showing off favorite music on your homescreen.

Sensor Tower says TuneTrack saw 552,000 installs between Sept. 17 and 20, for example — a figure up 1,840% from the prior week (9/10-9/13). The Motivation widget saw 431,000 installs, up 798%.

Meanwhile, design tool Procreate Pocket is now the No. 2 paid (non-game) app in the U.S., and PicsArt is No. 31 free app. An app that simplifies icon changing, Icon Changer+, is No. 40 on the Top Free Apps charts in the U.S., followed by an app called Shortcuts, which is not the same Shortcuts app from Apple. (And surprisingly being allowed to use the same name!)

Image Credits: Sensor Tower

Because there’s not a specific category for homescreen customization tools, some of the new apps can be found in the Productivity category, while others categorized themselves as Utility apps or something else entirely. This makes it more difficult for a consumer who wants to compare the rankings of all top apps offering homescreen customization functionality in one place.

Given that iOS 14 has effectively created an entire new category of apps, it’s possible that Apple would consider adding a customization category to the App Store in the future, if the trend continues long-term.

For now, however, Apple is addressing the discoverability issues with new App Store editorial content. A featured story on the App Store’s “Today” page, for example, is titled “How to Set Up Widgets,” and recommends a number of apps that have added widgets — like Todoist, Carrot Weather, Timepage, Apollo, Spark Mail, and others, in addition to Widgetsmith.

There are new widgets still arriving, as well, as developers roll out their iOS 14 updates. Fantastical, for example, just launched 12 homescreen widgets today.

What’s unfortunate is that Apple didn’t give its developer community enough time to prepare for launch day. The company announced iOS 14’s release with less than 24 hours’ notice and without the final version of Xcode available to developers. As a result, when users began to customize their homescreens, they may not have found all the widgets they would have wanted.

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Apple won’t force developers to let users opt out of tracking until next year

At its global developer conference in June, Apple said its forthcoming iOS 14 update would allow users to opt out of in-app ad tracking, a privacy feature that quickly drew ire from advertising giants over fears that it would make it harder to deliver targeted ads to users.

But now Apple is delaying enforcing the feature until “early next year”, the company confirmed.

iOS 14, expected out later this year, will contain a new prompt that asks users whether they would like to opt into this kind of targeted ad tracking. Developers will be able to integrate this prompt into their apps as soon as iOS 14 is released, but they will not be required to, as Apple indicated they would earlier.

In a statement, Apple said:

We believe technology should protect users’ fundamental right to privacy, and that means giving users tools to understand which apps and websites may be sharing their data with other companies for advertising or advertising measurement purposes, as well as the tools to revoke permission for this tracking. When enabled, a system prompt will give users the ability to allow or reject that tracking on an app-by-app basis. We want to give developers the time they need to make the necessary changes, and as a result, the requirement to use this tracking permission will go into effect early next year.

Although Apple cites the necessity of giving developers time, major advertising companies like Facebook have warned that the change could severely impact their operations. “Apple’s updates may render Audience Network so ineffective on iOS 14 that it may not make sense to offer it on iOS 14,” the company said in a statement last week.

Putting these lucrative partnerships in jeopardy could hit Apple’s bottom line as well and may even affect whether some apps or services are available at all.

The exact date when the policy would be enforced, and other details of this compromise, will be announced later.

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iOS 14 gets rid of the app grid to help you find the app you’re looking for

Apple unveiled the next major version iOS a few weeks ago. I’ve been playing around with beta versions of iOS 14 and here’s what you should expect when you update your iPhone to the final release of iOS 14 this fall.

The most interesting change is something you’re not going to notice at first. The home screen has been rethought. In some ways, the iPhone now works more like Android devices. You can add widgets to the home screen and there’s a new app launcher called the App Library.

If you’ve been using a smartphone for many years, chances are your device is cluttered with a dozen apps you frequently use, some of apps you only need a few times a year and a ton of apps that are no longer useful.

Maybe your home screen is perfectly organized and you’re thinking that this doesn’t apply to you. Arguably, you’re part of the minority. Many people tell me they don’t even know where app icons are located anymore and they just pull down to use the search feature.

With iOS 14, changes are not immediately visible. If you want to keep using your phone just like before, nobody is stopping you. But the home screen is now more customizable.

When you tap and hold on a home screen icon, there’s a new menu that lists all the widgets you can install on your home screen. Many default apps already support widgets, such as Reminders, Calendar, Stock, Weather, Music etc. And each widget comes in multiple sizes if you want to see more or less info.

The most interesting thing about widgets is that you can stack them and flip through them. Otherwise, they’d quickly take over your entire home screen. Apple also tries to surface the widget that is more relevant to the time of the day and what you’re doing.

The second big change with the home screen is that there’s a new page at the right of your last page. The App Library groups all your apps on your phone by category. Some icons are bigger than others as Apple tries once again to surface the most important apps to you.

In my experience, categories don’t work that well as they’re based on the broad categories of the App Store. But you can always tap on the search bar at the top to display an alphabetical list of your apps. It could be useful if you can’t remember the name of an app for instance.

Image Credits: Apple

Fighting app fatigue

Those changes for the home screen might seem minor, but they are important to change the current app paradigm. People simply don’t want to download new apps. They don’t want to create a new account and they don’t want to have another icon.

Now that you can hide pages of apps and that there’s the App Library, downloading new apps has become less intimidating. If you combine that with Sign in with Apple, you can go from no app to interacting with content in no time.

In addition to that, Apple is introducing App Clips. They are sort of mini apps that you can launch without installing an app. It’s a small part of an app that you can easily share. I haven’t had the chance to try it out yet as third-party developers have yet to take advantage of App Clips.

There are many ways to share App Clips. You can launch those apps from the web, from Messages, from Maps, from NFC tags or from QR codes. Get ready to see stickers at cafés, on scooters or in museums. Scan a code or tap your phone on it and you get an app-like experience. If you want to dive deeper, you can download the full app from the App Library.

But it’s also going to have some major impacts on utility apps, apps that you don’t use that often or travel apps for instance. Sure, you may keep your favorite social app on your home screen. But you’re going to forget about apps that only live in the App Library.

Developers will be happy that downloading apps is easier. And yet, it is going to be harder to make people come back to your app after the first launch.

Image Credits: Apple

Some app refinements

Let me list some quality-of-life improvements that are going to make your phone works better. In Messages, you can now pin conversations to the top. Group conversations are also receiving a major update with the ability to @-mention people, reply to specific messages and set a group of photos. Once again, Apple is bringing Messages closer to WhatsApp and Telegram. But it’s not a bad thing.

In Maps, there are many new features that I already detailed in a separate post. I encourage you to read it if you want to learn more about guides, electric vehicle routing, cycling directions and more.

The Home app has been improved with a new row of icons that describe the status of your home. For instance, you can see the temperature, see if a door is open, see if lights are on, etc.

Like every year, Notes and Reminders are getting some small improvements. For instance, document scanning has been improved, search has been improved, you can assign reminders to others and more. Those apps have become really powerful with these small incremental updates.

Image Credits: Apple

All the rest

There are many things that I haven’t mentioned yet or that I haven’t tried because I can’t use those features yet. Similarly, it’ll take some time before developers start adopting those features. Here’s a quick rundown:

  • Incoming calls don’t take over the entire screen anymore. You get a notification at the top of the screen, which is so much better if you don’t want to answer a call.
  • Similarly, Siri doesn’t overtake the screen. Your display fades out. I think more people are going to use Siri because of this as it doesn’t feel as invasive.
  • Your AirPods will automatically switch between your iPhone, iPad, Mac, etc.
  • When you’re on a FaceTime call or watching a video, you can switch to another app and keep the video in a corner. There’s not much else to say other than it’s nice.
  • Cycling directions in Apple Maps: I’m a bike lover but the feature isn’t available in Paris. It’s hard to know whether directions make sense in San Francisco or New York as I don’t know cycling infrastructure that well in those cities.
  • When you pull down to search for something, iOS now automatically highlights the first result. You can tap Go on the keyboard to hit the first result. It’s so much better.
  • HomeKit-compatible security cameras can now recognize faces based on tags in Photos.
  • You can unlock cars with your phone using NFC if you have a compatible car.
  • Following the acquisition of Dark Sky, you’ll be able to see next-hour precipitation in Apple’s Weather app.
  • You’ll be able to choose a different web browser and email client as default apps with iOS 14.

What about stability?

The big issue of iOS 13 was that it was quite buggy when it launched in September 2019. It’s hard to know whether iOS 13 is going to perform better on this front as it’s still a beta.

But, as you can see, Apple didn’t try to reinvent the wheel with default apps. There are a ton of improvements across the board, but no big redesign of Photos or Messages for instance. And I think it’s a good thing.

Changes on the home screen as well as App Clips could have wider implications for developers. It could change the way you discover and install apps today. So it’s going to be interesting to see if the developer community embraces App Clips.

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Apple just released the first iOS 14 beta to everyone

This is your opportunity to get a glimpse of the future of iOS — and iPadOS. Apple just released the first public beta of iOS 14 and iPadOS 14, the next major version of the operating systems for the iPhone and iPad. Unlike developer betas, everyone can download those betas without a $99 developer account. But don’t forget, it’s a beta.

The company still plans to release the final version of iOS and iPadOS 14.0 this fall. But Apple is going to release betas every few weeks over the summer. It’s a good way to fix as many bugs as possible and gather data from a large group of users.

As always, Apple’s public betas closely follow the release cycle of developer betas. And Apple released the second developer beta of iOS and iPadOS 14 earlier this week. So it sounds like the first public beta is more or less the same build as the second developer build.

But remember, you shouldn’t install an iOS beta on your primary iPhone or iPad. The issue is not just bugs — some apps and features won’t work at all. In some rare cases, beta software can also brick your device and make it unusable. You may even lose data on iCloud. Proceed with extreme caution.

But if you have an iPad or iPhone you don’t need, here’s how to download it. Head over to Apple’s beta website and download the configuration profile. It’s a tiny file that tells your iPhone or iPad to update to public betas like it’s a normal software update.

You can either download the configuration profile from Safari on your iOS device directly, or transfer it to your device using AirDrop, for instance. Reboot your device, then head over to the Settings app. In September, your device should automatically update to the final version of iOS and iPadOS 13 and you’ll be able to delete the configuration profile.

The biggest change of iOS 14 is the introduction of widgets on the home screen, a new App Library to browse all your apps and the ability to run App Clips — those are mini apps that feature a small part of an app and that you can run without installing anything.

There are also many refinements across the board, such as new features for Messages with a big focus on groups with @-mentions and replies, a new Translate app that works on your device, cycling directions in Apple Maps in some cities and various improvements in Notes, Reminders, Weather, Home and more.

If you want to learn more about iOS 14, I looked at some of the features in the new version:

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Decrypted: Police leaks, iOS 14 kills ad-tracking, anti-encryption bill

What would the world look like if encryption were outlawed? If three Republican senators get their way, it might just happen.

Under the guise of national security, the Senate Judiciary Committee pushed through a draft bill that would end “warrant-proof” encryption — that is strong, near-impossible to break encryption that lets only the device owner unlock their data and nobody else. Silicon Valley quickly embraced this approach, not least because it cuts even the tech giants out of the loop so that the feds can’t demand they hand over their users’ data.

Except that didn’t happen. The opposite happened. The FBI cried foul, as did the Justice Department, claiming it makes it harder to solve crimes, while conveniently neglecting to mention its vast array of hacking tools that also makes it easier than ever to get the data that prosecutors seek.

Now a legislative fix to the government’s near-nonexistent problem. The bill, if passed, would create a “backdoor mandate” that would force tech companies to build in “backdoors” to let police, with a warrant, access an encrypted device’s photos, messages, files and more. The same would apply to data “in motion” as it traverses the internet, undermining the security that keeps our emails safe and our online banking secure, and effectively banning end-to-end messaging apps like Signal, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.

Experts decried the bill, as expected, and as they have done with every other attempt to undermine the security of the internet. Their argument is simple, and mathematically irrefutable: If police can get a backdoor, so can hackers. There’s no secure way to give one access and not the other.

Lawmakers seem set on changing the law of the land, but they can’t change the laws of mathematics.

More on that in this week’s Decrypted.


THE BIG PICTURE

‘BlueLeaks’ dumps data on decades of police files

Hacking collective Anonymous crashed onto the internet a decade ago by publishing reams of secret files and stolen data from governments and corporations. Last week the collective emerged after a long hiatus, returning with a massive trove of data obtained from hundreds of U.S. police departments in an operation dubbed BlueLeaks.

The data was published by Distributed Denial of Secrets, an alternative to WikiLeaks that’s dedicated to publishing files in the public interest. The data contains a decade’s worth of police training materials and other internal law enforcement data, like protest containment strategies, which have come under fire after tactics used against protesters in the wake of George Floyd’s death.

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Apple unveils iOS 14 with home screen widgets

During the virtual keynote of WWDC, Apple shares the first details about iOS 14, the next major version of iOS that is going to be released later this year. The most visual change is that the home screen is getting widgets.

“This year, we spent time rethinking the iconic experience of the iPhone,” SVP of Software Engineering Craig Federighi said. “We’ve rethought some of the core elements of iOS.”

As you know, iOS already comes with widgets in the Today view — swipe left on the home screen to access widgets. Widgets have been completely redesigned. Some of them take the full width of the device, others can be limited to a small square. You can now have two columns of widgets.

But widgets are no longer limited to the Today view. You can drag them out of the Today view and drop them on your home screen. There’s also a new widget gallery that lets you add widgets when you’re moving icons around on the home screen.

As for home screen organization, Apple knows that a lot of people have an endless list of icons, making the home screen harder to use. Apple is adding some smart organization features.

“Today’s home screen is great but as we get more apps we end up with this — lots and lots of pages,” Federighi said

At the end of the home screen pages, there’s a new page called the App Library. All the apps that aren’t on your home screen are sorted in automatic categories, such as Apple Arcade.

The other feature that is going to have an impact on multitasking and the home screen is that you can use picture in picture on the iPhone just like on the iPad. You can keep a video in a corner of the screen and do something else on your phone.

Better group conversations in Messages

Messages is getting a much-needed update to compete with WhatsApp, Telegram and other popular messaging app. You can now pin conversations at the top to access them more easily.

Conversations themselves are getting an upgrade as you can reply to individual messages. You can then tap on the reply to see the conversation as a separate thread. People can mention you and you can filter your notifications to mentions only.

Each conversation is now more customizable. You can set a photo or an emoji for a conversation. Apple also shows the icons of your contacts in a specific conversation. The most active people get a bigger icon.

Memoji is getting some new options, such as new hair options, new age options and face covers. There are new Memoji stickers as well, such as a hug sticker, a fist bump sticker, a blushing sticker.

Other apps

Apple is also adding new feature to Maps. While the U.S. has received updated data, Apple is going to roll out better maps in other countries, based on its own data set. Up next, the U.K., Ireland and Canada will get much more detailed maps. And this is just the first step as the new data set opens up more possibilities.

“In iOS 14, the Maps team will be working with some of the most trusted brands to bring you guides,” Meg Frost, Director Product Design of Apple Maps, said. You’ll soon be able to browse information from AllTrails, Zagat and more sources.

In some cities, Apple is going to roll out cycling as a transportation mode. It’ll take into consideration elevation. Cycling will be available in New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Shanghai and Beijing at first. For walking directions, you can now say to avoid steps and steep hills.

For drivers, there will be more features as well, such as EV routing and more information about restricted city centers. And if your car supports CarPlay, there will be more types of apps in the future, such as parking apps, EV charging apps and food ordering apps.

Car manufacturers will also be able to let you use your iPhone as a car key. It leverages the U1 chip on the most recent iPhone models. Interestingly, you’ll be able to share your key with a friend by sending it over iMessage.

Redesigned Siri and new Translate app

While Siri can be a hit or miss, Apple is still iterating on the voice assistant. Siri will no longer take over the entire screen when you trigger it. It’ll be a small bubble at the bottom of the screen, which doesn’t obstruct the rest of the screen. Results appear at the top of the screen and appear like a notification.

You can now ask Siri to send audio messages using iMessage. And if you hate audio messages like me, keyboard dictation has been improved. Your voice is now processed on device, which should help when it comes to speed.

Siri lets you translate words already, but Apple is going one step further by releasing a Translate app. Like Google Translate, you can have a conversation in two different languages. You can translate from voice-to-text-to-voice. If you rotate your iPhone in landscape mode, each person has one side of the screen.

App fatigue

You know that feeling. When your friends ask you to download another app, you don’t want to open the App Store. That’s why Apple is launching App Clips. They are sort of mini apps that you can launch without installing an app. It’s a small part of an app that you can easily share.

There are many ways to share App Clips. You can launch those apps from the web, from Messages, from Maps, from NFC tags or from QR codes. Get ready to see stickers at cafés, on scooters or in museums. Scan a code or tap your phone on it and you get an app-like experience. If you want to dive deeper, you can download the full app from the App Library.

As always, iOS 14 will be tested over the summer and should be available to everyone in September.

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