What has changed in iOS 14, iPadOS 14 and watchOS 7 – first impressions and hidden features

Deep immersion in new Apple systems.

On June 22, at the presentation for WWDC, Apple introduced iOS 14, iPadOS 14, tvOS 14, watchOS 7 and macOS 11 Big Sur. Recycled widgets appeared on iPhones on the home screen, the watch received built-in tracking for sleeping and washing hands, tablets added even more desktop features, and macOS received the largest redesign in 10 years.

The editor spent several days with the very first beta versions of Apple’s new systems for smartphones, watches and tablets, which came out surprisingly stable. And now he talks in detail about the first impressions and opportunities that were not emphasized during the presentation.

iOS 14

There are only two most notable innovations in iOS 14: redesigned widgets and App List – the ability to form applications into lists, hiding them from the main “home” screen. Apple has made many other changes – a total of more than 250 – but they are not so striking.

In fact, widgets are not something new for iOS, they were still in the 12th version of the system. But they used to be on the Today screen and it was easy to forget about their existence, therefore, at the presentation on June 22, Apple presented the function as if for the first time.

In iOS 14, widgets have been redesigned. The main change was the ability to place them on the home screen among applications. In addition, the approach to the widget interface has changed: they can now be of three different sizes – a small square, a line, or occupy a third of the screen.

You can also form widgets into a smart stack. In this case, the system will try to predict which widget is most appropriate to show at a certain time based on the use of a smartphone.

Widgets in iOS 14 work through a special WidgetKit framework and do not require the background operation of the application itself. Apple immediately asked developers not to take widgets as “mini-applications,” including not designing complex interfaces.

The company considers widgets to be an opportunity to show some content from applications right on the screen, bypassing their launch. For additional details, the user should still go into the application.

Apple’s perception is clearly visible in its own widgets, including “Music”, “Calendar”, “Photos”, “Notes”, and other standard iOS programs. But, for example, the Apple Music widget, even in the largest version, will not allow you to switch tracks directly from the screen, but will show only the latest playlists.

How useful widgets will be in practice is still difficult to assess. For myself, I did not find them particularly useful application. First I placed the widgets in the middle of the home screen, but then I realized that I was too used to the order in which the applications were on the desktop and put all the widgets on a separate screen.

Now sometimes I switch to this screen to see the weather or the charge level of other devices through the “Batteries” – this is perhaps the most useful widget in general. I believe the utility situation will change dramatically as third-party developers introduce widgets.

Another notable innovation in iOS 14 was the App Library. This is a solution to the problem with a huge number of applications, and, as a result, a cluttered working screen – directly from Apple. Now you can literally get rid of entire pages of the home screen with rarely used applications in just two clicks – the system will put them into an endless list and automatically arrange them into categories.

This is a very elegant move that closes at least my long-standing “pain”, but I believe that many iPhone owners have a similar situation. I immediately turned off most of the screens and they themselves were sorted into folders.

In addition to standard categories like “games” or “entertainment” there are “recently added” and “offers”. If you wish, you can turn off all home screens altogether, leaving only one main one, for example, with widgets. And for the rest, go in manually through the App Library.

It seems to me that it is worth looking at widgets and the App Library as a whole: then the functions complement each other, and the mosaic adds up. Using the App Library, applications can be faded into the background, and only widgets can be left on the screen that will lure content into the desired applications. Perhaps this transformation of the home screen is Apple’s global idea.

Another major innovation is the App Clips feature, but it is not yet possible to test it. It allows you to run simplified versions of applications instantly without having to download them from the App Store. Clips should weigh no more than 10 megabytes and instantly solve the user’s problem.

As planned by Apple, App Clips can be launched both offline via NFC tags and online using Siri tips, Maps, and website banners. Once launched, Clips will be able to send notifications within eight hours and will automatically be deleted from the system within 30 days. Developers are asked not to take them as a tool for promoting applications and focus on solving the most important task without creating accounts and other intermediate steps.

While it seems that App Clips will be most useful when you need to do something on the go. But since the coronavirus pandemic has not yet ended and there is nowhere to go, the usefulness of App Clips remains open to question. But potentially they can really simplify life, however, as in the case of widgets, much will depend on third-party developers.

Among other notable but less significant changes is the picture-in-picture mode, which has long been available on macOS and iPadOS. It also allows you to simultaneously talk to FaceTime on video and continue to work with your smartphone – before, the video stream was disconnected.

Apple has also changed the Siri interface. Now the voice assistant does not overlap the entire screen when activated, but is compactly located at the bottom. Although using a smartphone while talking with an assistant will still not work – it will not respond to clicks. And Siri taught to record voice messages.

The most anticipated innovation is calls, which now look like notifications. Previously, they also overlapped the entire screen and they could not be missed, only to pick up the phone or reject the call. Now you can stay on top of a call and just swipe a notification from above.

Like every new version of the system, Apple has slightly redesigned almost all standard applications such as Reminders, Notes, and Music. The “Messages” added the ability to pin chats, respond to a specific message in the conversation, as well as mention interlocutors and create threads. Basically, the changes are iterative and do not fundamentally change the interaction with applications.

Apple’s Translator has been added to standard applications. While it supports 11 languages, including Russian, it can work offline directly on the device, if you download the necessary languages ​​in advance.

At first glance, the application does not work better than solutions from Google or Yandex. At least when it comes to translating from English to Russian and vice versa. There are minor interface flaws, such as the lack of the ability to quickly swap languages, but this will most likely be fixed in future updates.

In iOS 14, Apple also took privacy very seriously. In addition to the fact that in the App Store developers are now obliged to indicate exactly what data they collect and where they are transferred, the system now clearly shows if the application uses a camera or microphone – an orange or green indicator lights up in the notification center.

But the most important change that has already caused a scandal is the appearance of clipboard scan notifications. iOS 14 began to show if applications pasted what the user had copied and thus could examine the contents of the data. It turned out that so many applications are involved in this, including TikTok, Chrome, Reddit, Medusa and more.

In fact, the problem turned out to be widespread: not all programs use paste from the buffer in order to obtain user data. Often this way they get a link to go to content inside the application.

Prior to iOS 14, this could only be done using paste from the buffer, but now there will be a special method in the system that will allow you to get rid of viewing the copied data. Of course, the developers didn’t know about it in advance, so they couldn’t prepare: probably, for the release of the system, all applications will stop scanning the clipboard.

The clipboard scan scandal once again makes you wonder what data applications collect. Before this situation, I did not even suspect that in this way useful data could be obtained. In general, Apple’s efforts from year to year are increasingly attracting attention to privacy issues and allowing you to stay alert.

Redesigned access to photos has also become one of the new privacy features. Now the application can be given access to one single photo and only once, and not to the entire library. Whether programs can scan photos to display ads is unclear, but having the ability to not share everything in a row is still more convenient than not having it.

Among other things, in iOS 14 made at least two hundred smaller, often cosmetic changes.  collected everything he could find:

  • Emoji search appeared in the keyboard: you can enter a specific word to find the corresponding icon;
  • You can configure the launch of standard applications or Siri quick commands by double or triple tap on the back of the iPhone. This allows you to run even complex scripts from several actions;
  • The Music application has been slightly reworked: the “listen now” section has appeared and the auto-play function has appeared – if the song or playlist ends, the service can select the music itself further;
  • IPhone now warns if AirPods are dead. The headphones also appeared optimized charging to increase battery life;
  • In iOS 14, Apple Watch charging notifications appeared: the system reports when they are fully charged or when they are dead;
  • iOS 14 can now recognize surrounding sounds and inform the user about them: you can enable recognition of animals, a crying baby, flowing water and more. The function does not always work accurately and may confuse sounds;
  • In “Notes” appeared intelligent search and an improved document scanner. The menu of text styles can be called up by holding the “Aa” icon;
  • “Photos” can be sorted in a new way and increase them stronger than before. A smart search also appeared;
  • The “Reminders” feature has a quick recording function and “smart” tips to simplify input;
  • For the first time, users can change the standard applications for mail and browser to third-party programs not from Apple, but there is no such function in the first beta versions;
  • In “Podcasts” you can now create a listening queue and receive new recommendations;
  • Checklists have appeared in Health, which will allow you to monitor the condition in one place. The iPhone can now also count stride length and “mobility”;
  • “Weather” will begin to show a per-minute forecast with a chance of precipitation, while this only works in the USA;
  • iPhone XR and XS got QuickTake – the ability to start shooting video by holding the button for taking a photo;
  • All iPhones have added the ability to switch the resolution of the video and frame rate;
  • In the “night mode”, the iPhone 11 and 11 Pro camera now helps to keep the device level, showing movements with a gyroscope, and you can now turn out to take a long exposure shot without waiting for the process to complete;
  • In the “Camera” appeared the function of mirroring selfies;
  • FaceTime returned “eye contact” – the system redraws the user’s eyes, as if he was looking at the camera when he was looking at the screen;
  • In the “control center” appeared sound recognition and sleep mode switches, as well as selected scenarios from HomeKit;
  • iOS 14 supports electronic keys for cars, but they work through the U1 chip, which is disabled in Russia. The function will appear in 2021, manufacturers must add it to their cars, BMW was the first;
  • Now applications need permission to scan the local network to search for other devices;
  • Now you can hide your Wi-Fi address in the connection settings so that the network owner cannot track the user’s iPhone;
  • Locator supports third-party devices and accessories, but equipment manufacturers must add support for the function first;
  • Apple Maps has learned to show cycling routes and plan a trip so that the electric car’s charge lasts all the way. So far, functions are available only in the USA and some other countries, but not in Russia;
  • YouTube has added support for 4K resolution in both Safari and the application;
  • Memoji added masks and six new ages;
  • Developers have access to the Motion API for AirPods Pro – they can use the tilt, movement and position of the headphones to adjust the spatial sound. The function itself is not yet available for testing;

  • The Files application now supports external drives with APFS encryption;
  • The “Camera” was optimized: you can take pictures 25% faster than before, and take “Portraits” 15% faster than before;
  • With a horizontal orientation, the volume and brightness bars in the control center adjust to the width of the screen – they are made longer;
  • A notification about connecting devices via Bluetooth appeared: the system displays the name of the device and its icon;
  • The interface of the “quick commands” has changed slightly: the buttons have become larger and contain more information;
  • iOS 14 notifies users if they become victims of a data leak – for this, the system reconciles passwords from sites with data about leaks;
  • Navigation in the system has changed slightly: with a long tap on the back button, you can see the transition history and switch immediately to the desired level, for example, settings;
  • In Safari you can see what data the site monitors if you click on the “Aa” icon in the address bar;
  • Search in the system is now not divided into different groups and uses “intelligent” input: it can immediately search both in search results and according to data inside applications;
  • The Apple Arcade and App Store redesigned the game center: now you can see the recommendations of friends, their achievements and announcements;

iPadOS 14

iPadOS received almost all the same updates as iOS. In addition to them, the system continues to introduce functions for more “desktop” work: for example, universal search like Spotlight on macOS or handwriting recognition.

Like iOS 14, the new iPadOS received widget support. Unlike the system for iPhones, they cannot be placed on tablets anywhere on the desktop – they are fixed in the “today” column, as before.

Apple has created both versions of widgets, but so far has opted for a fixed-column version in one column, said Craig Federigi, senior vice president of software development, in an interview with blogger Marquez Brownley. There is also no App List in the first beta of iPadOS 14 – the feature will probably appear in one of the next versions.

A new universal search made it really convenient. It replaces the opening of the browser and swipe down – you can quickly find something and go to a specific application or page on the network.

IPadOS 14 also changed the approach to the application interface. Now they can have up to three columns on the left, and all controls are collected in the side panels. This simplifies the use of familiar programs on iPads: earlier they looked one-on-one like on iOS and were more sharpened for touch control with one hand.

Like iOS, the iPadi 14 has changed the design of Siri. Now it appears as a small icon in the corner of the screen and does not overlap the entire space. iPadOS 14 also received a new notification call interface.

One of the most potentially useful innovations is handwriting recognition in any text fields throughout the system, including during Internet surfing. The function is called Scribble, and so far, unfortunately, it works only in English and Chinese, there is no support for the Russian language, and it is not known whether there will be any swipes in the Russian-language keyboard, although a year has passed since the release of iOS 13.

Scribble greatly expands the capabilities of the Apple Pencil: before it could only be used for drawing, but now it can be used in more everyday things. Which is especially convenient: iPadOS has finalized Notes, so you can even draw complex graphics by hand, the system itself will align everything and do it beautifully.

The new 2020 iPad Pros with LiDAR can now receive an environmental depth map through the Depth API. The tool improves the work with objects of augmented reality: for example, virtual objects can be placed behind the real environment – they will interact correctly. AR objects can now also be tied to a specific location on Apple maps.

In addition to the innovations of iOS 14 in the new iPadOS, there were not so many noticeable changes especially for tablets, especially for users from Russia without the Apple Pencil. It remains to believe that some exclusive features for iPads will be added in future versions of the system.

watchOS 7

The watchOS 7’s biggest innovation was its integrated sleep tracking. Many owners of Apple smart watches have been asking for this feature for a long time, but the company was not in a hurry to release it and during this time many third-party applications appeared that cover this need.

The main advantage of Apple’s own solution is that it is closely connected with the iPhone. The company even during the presentation called the main problem the process of falling asleep, which due to smartphones can shift. Therefore, the “Dream” added the ability to set a period of rest – the time of preparation for bedtime.

In this case, the iPhone’s screen is locked in advance so that there is no desire to connect to the network or chat with someone, and the watch and smartphone go into “do not disturb” mode and darken the screen. You can also configure scripts for launching some applications, for example, for meditation or a “smart” home.

Apple also thought about the situation with charging watches, which many spend at night. “Sleep” monitors the charge level of the watch and one hour before bedtime warns the owner if it is too low and there is not enough energy for the night. And in the morning, the system shows the remaining charge in the daily lift report.

Apple has not yet added anything fundamentally new to sleep tracking: you can set up a sleep schedule for each day separately and see how much you sleep. The new function works quite accurately and captures the time of sleep, but not its depth, heart rate and regularity. Perhaps the company does not consider this an important indicator, but even in the free version of SleepWatch they are.

Another function that was especially focused on the presentation was hand washing. Although this opportunity appeared very in place against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic, Apple began working on it several years ago.

Hand washing tracking works exactly as shown at the presentation. The watch starts the countdown when it “hears” and “feels” that the user has gone to wash his hands, and finishes it only after 20 seconds of a continuous process. If interrupted, the countdown will stop, and the clock will offer to continue.

Of course, you can “not bother” and ignore the requirements of the watch, they will not force you to wash your hands all 20 seconds. But in “Health” the system will collect reports about the average time for washing hands every day.

The function almost always works without errors. I only encountered a false inclusion a couple of times a week when I tied my shoelaces. For me, the innovation turned out to be useful: I rarely counted how much I wash my hands, but now this is not necessary – the clock tells me myself. With them, I really began to do this in accordance with the recommendations of the health authorities.

WatchOS 7 also has the long-awaited opportunity to share your watch faces and download ready-made options from third-party sources. Once it was one of the main features of Pebble smart watches, but so far there is nothing to test it on: even in the AppStore there are no ready-made solutions for watches.

There are also not particularly noticeable innovations like new options for activities: the clock can now count calories when doing dancing, functional strength, recovery and core training. For those who like to listen to music at high volumes, an automatic restriction has been added that does not allow to damage the hearing. After a week’s limit, the watch and iPhone will begin to decrease the volume of music in the headphones.

After several days of using the very first beta versions, it seems that Apple for the first time in many years immediately released stable systems. It’s usually dangerous to install the first beta versions if you are not a developer – a device can fail at the most inopportune moment even in basic things, and this is a beta version.

But this time, with the exception of rare reboots of watchOS 7 and some minor flaws related to the interface, I did not notice serious problems. As some enthusiasts noted, iOS 14 is even more stable than iOS 13, and I also agree with them.

New versions of systems may turn out to be the “softest” in terms of innovations in recent years. They do not have radical changes to the interface: everything works as usual, but new features have been added that can be used or not – at will. The update does not break the usual use, but complement it.


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