This shouldn’t come as a surprise, considering it’s the main highlight of iOS 14. Yes, widgets, the thing Android users have had for years, have finally made an appearance on the iPhone Home screen. Apple has technically supported widgets for a few years, but it’s only with the release of iOS 14 that they’re allowed to stretch their legs and go beyond the Today view.
Admittedly I’ve only been able to experience Apple’s first-party widgets up until this point – third-party devs aren’t allowed to add widgets until the release of iOS 14 – but the experience so far has been revolutionary. In fact, I use Android smartphones from time-to-time, and I’ve used iOS 14 widgets more than I’ve ever used Android widgets, despite iOS widgets being read-only right now.
Smart Stacks are the true hero here: the functionality allows you to stack multiple widgets of the same size on top of one another, and Siri will intelligently switch between them throughout the day depending on what it thinks you’ll find helpful at any given time. I get a quick look at the weather in the morning, news stories from Apple News during the day and the status of my Fitness rings in the evening to make sure I close them all before bed. It’s very convenient, and I imagine it’ll only get better as third-party widgets from the likes of WhatsApp, Dark Sky, Instagram and more are released.
A simpler Home screen
The addition of widgets to the Home screen had the potential to be a nightmare, with endless pages filled with apps and widgets of all shapes and sizes, but Apple planned ahead. For the first time ever, you can remove apps from your Home screen without uninstalling them – but where will you find them? Apple calls it AppGallery, and it’s a similar idea to Android’s App Drawer. You’re able to access the AppGallery by swiping left from your last page of apps, and presents you with all your apps automatically categorised into smart folders like Social Media, Games and Reading & Reference. There’s also a Recently Added folder for easy access to recently downloaded apps, and you can view all your apps in a list view too.
That means that you can have a simple one- or two-page Home screen with your most important apps and widgets and leave the less frequently used apps to the AppGallery. You can also hide entire pages of apps at a time, meaning you don’t have to go through and manually remove them one-by-one, and you’ve got the option of restoring them later if you want.
Incoming call notifications
Picture the scene: you’re watching a hilarious video on YouTube, about to get the chicken dinner on PUBG Mobile or on a Skype call, and you get a phone call that takes over the entire screen. We’ve all been there and know how annoying that can be, right? Thankfully, Apple has taken note and offers a redesigned incoming call interface in iOS 14.
When your iPhone is unlocked, incoming calls will be displayed in the form of a banner at the top of the display. You can either answer or hang up using the buttons, or even handier, swipe up to dismiss the call without letting the caller know you’ve ignored them. Even when you answer the call, it stays in banner form, allowing you to continue scrolling on Instagram as you chat away.
You can enter the traditional full-screen call experience by tapping anywhere on the banner, allowing you to access other functions like hold, the keypad and more, but it’s a great feature for quick calls.
No more pausing FaceTime calls
Picture-in-Picture has been a feature of the iPad for quite some time, but it’s only with iOS 14 that the technology comes to the iPhone – and it’s very handy. You can shrink videos in many apps (although not YouTube, annoyingly) and let it float on-screen while accessing other content. You can adjust the size and positioning dynamically, making it easy to reach elements beneath where the video is sat, and you can temporarily move it off-screen without closing it too.
It’s handy for TV shows and movies, but it’s also handy when on FaceTime. Up until now, if you wanted to access an app while on a FaceTime call, you had to close the app and pause your camera feed, but iOS 14 makes use of the PiP functionality to let you carry on your call while browsing other apps on your phone.
It’s a small change, but a welcome one for frequent FaceTimers.
Apple’s Bedtime feature isn’t technically new, but there are a number of changes in iOS 14 that make it a much better bedtime companion. First off, you can set different sleep schedules for different days of the week, and you can disable it at the weekends altogether if you desire - a big improvement on the rigid scheduling available in iOS 13.
But it’s the Shortcuts that are the handiest feature; when enabled, you’ll be faced with a second lock screen of sorts – it's dimmer than the standard Home screen, displays handy information about charge status of any Apple accessories and any upcoming alarms, and provides a button to quickly adjust your alarm and run any Shortcuts you’ve created in the Shortcuts app.
I’ve spent the past few months perfecting my shortcuts, and now all I need to do is tap a single button on the lock screen to turn off my TV, turn off my lights and play white noise on my speaker as I head to bed.
Quickly change video resolution
This one is a small tweak, but one that has been requested by iOS users for years – the ability to quickly change your video resolution and frame rate via the Camera app.
Up until now, you’ve had to leave the Camera app, head to the Settings menu and tweak your video capture settings there, but in iOS 14, it’s as simple as tapping the resolution and framerate icons in the top-right of the camera app to browse all available options.
Those are my personal favourites, but there are plenty of things you can do in iOS 14 that I haven’t mentioned here. Once you’ve got iOS 14 installed, take a look at the top iOS 14 tips and tricks to get the most out of Apple’s latest software update.