The iPhone home screen hasn’t changed since Steve Jobs first showed it in 2007. By Fall 2020, iOS 14 will dramatically shake things up with some features that will be familiar to anyone who’s used an Android device in recent years. years.
That is not bad. The new features of the iOS 14 home screen will be a welcome change for most users. The same changes are coming to iPad with iPadOS 14, too.
iOS gets online widgets
In iOS 14, widgets can now live on the home screen along with your app’s icons and folders. These widgets come in a variety of shapes and sizes and use the current layout of the home screen grid as a guide. The larger a widget, the more information can be displayed.
Tapping and holding an app icon, choosing “Edit Home Screen” and then selecting a “+” button at the top of the interface reveals the widget browser. Available widgets are searchable, with suggested widgets appearing at the top of the list. A list of categories follows, providing an idea of why Apple expects the widgets to be used.
There are widgets for your batteries, exercise widgets that display information from your Apple Watch, and “Up Next” programmers based on your calendar. You can add a Now Playing widget to control media playback, get News headlines at a glance, or get Maps information about the local area.
These widgets can be arranged and moved around your home screen in the same way that app icons do in iOS 13. You can have a full home screen full of widgets if you want, but the new feature will probably work best when strike a balance between useful information and frequently accessed applications.
To save space, you can stack multiple widgets on top of each other and move between them with a feature that Apple calls Widget Stacks. You can also place more than one of the same widgets on a single home screen, which sounds useful for displaying different calendars or inboxes at once.
There’s also a special Smart Stack widget that works a bit like Siri’s hints in iOS 13. This widget will change based on your usage and time of day.
The iPhone is considered too high by many to comfortably reach the top row of icons with one hand. In iOS 14, you can place some 2 × 2 widgets or a single 4 × 2 widget in this out of reach space. This reduces the rest of your app’s icons to two rows without completely wasting screen space.
Widgets, Widget Stacks and Smart Stacks are already integrated in the first developer preview of the private beta version of iOS 14. Just keep in mind that Apple is known to have made changes between now and the final version in previous versions of iOS, so some of these details may change.
Finding software is easier with the application library
Don’t you hate organizing your iPhone apps? In iOS 14, you don’t have to. The new app library groups the app according to various criteria, including Siri Suggestions, recently added apps, and categories like Social, Entertainment, and Apple Arcade.
This app library appears at the bottom of your list of home screens, accessed by swiping from right to left. Folders are displayed as 2 × 2 squares, with a search field at the top to launch applications even faster.
In iOS 14, you no longer need to show all apps on your home screen. You can hide all applications and use the Application Library exclusively if you want. Touching and holding an app will now show an option to “Remove app” instead of removing it entirely, as is the case in iOS 13.
There’s even an option to prevent newly installed apps from appearing on the home screen, instead of deferring all newcomers to the App Library. It’s great news if you’re in love with new widgets or just want a minimalist iOS home screen.
The App Library will also maintain a list of another new iOS 14 feature called App Clips, in the Recently Added category.
The app clips work the same as the snapshots on Android. The clips are delivered via QR codes, NFC tags, other apps, and app clip codes. These mini apps are compatible with Apple Pay and log in with Apple. They allow you to do things like pay for a service or make a reservation without searching the app store, downloading an app, and registering to use it.
Do more without leaving the home screen
One of the great themes of iOS 14 is to make better use of the available space. In addition to a more useful home screen, Apple is committed to making other UI elements less intrusive whenever possible.
A good example is how iOS 14 handles calls. While iOS 13 announces a call taking up the entire screen, iOS 14 simply places a notification box at the top of the screen like any other notification. This means that you can take or ignore a call without interrupting whatever you are currently doing. You are less likely to accidentally answer the call because you will need to reach the top of the screen to accept or reject it.
A new picture-in-picture mode lets you watch videos or receive FaceTime calls without dedicating the entire screen to what you are watching. You can drag, zoom, or zoom the window around your home screen (or your web browser, or whatever else you’re doing).
Siri is also less intrusive now. The usual Siri animation appears at the bottom of the screen, with any relevant information appearing in a window at the top. Whatever you were doing before summoning Siri remains on the screen, which should probably have been the case all along.
While these new features aren’t specifically related to the home screen, they allow you to take calls, watch videos, and talk to Apple’s virtual assistant without leaving your home screen.
iOS 14 arrives in autumn 2020
The latest version of Apple’s mobile operating system (along with a tailored version for tablets called iPadOS) will arrive in the fall, usually right after the latest batch of iPhones is announced.
In the meantime, you can sign up for the public beta version of iOS 14, which should arrive in July.
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