iOS 14: 5 hid­den fea­tures you should know about

The good and the not so good. Michael Si­mon re­ports

iPad&iPhone user - - CONTENTS -

Even if you haven’t rushed to in­stall the iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 pub­lic be­tas on your de­vices, you al­ready know all about the new fea­tures that’ll trans­form your home screen, apps and over­all mo­bile ex­pe­ri­ence in ex­cit­ing new ways. Ma­jor changes are in store for our home screens, wid­gets and apps, as

Ap­ple makes some long‑over­due tweaks to the iPhone and iPad ex­pe­ri­ence. But it’s not all moon­light and roses. I’ve been test­ing the new be­tas, and I’ve run into frus­trat­ing quirks and road blocks along the way. Don’t get me wrong: there’s a lot to like here, but in true Ap­ple fash­ion, old sys­tems and puz­zling de­ci­sions keep the new fea­tures from be­ing as great as they can be. There’s still a lot of time for the be­tas to be tweaked, of course, but here’s what I like and don’t like so far.

1. Emoji search

What’s good

Fi­nally, right? A fea­ture that is hi­lar­i­ously and hor­ri­bly over­due, Ap­ple now lets you search the Emoji list so you don’t have to rely on the flaky pre­dic­tive text or

your own mem­ory. When you tap the Emoji but­ton on the stock iPhone key­board, you’ll see the same in­ter­face as be­fore, with a left‑right li­brary of all of the Emoji avail­able for use, but now there will be a search bar at the top. It’s fast and smart, search­ing for both con­text and Emoji name so you should find what you’re look­ing for on the first try.

What’s not so good

While Emoji search is awe­some on the iPhone, it’s not avail­able on the iPad. You do get a new pop‑up in­ter­face that’s nicer to look at and a lit­tle eas­ier to nav­i­gate, but there’s no search bar any­where to be found. So if you’re us­ing the Magic Key­board, you’ll still need to reach up and swipe to find your ex­pres­sion.

2. Home screen

What’s good

Many of us have been wait­ing for years for Ap­ple to re­think the iOS home screen, and Ap­ple fi­nally de­liv­ered. I would’ve been happy with a Launch­pad‑ style in­ter­face that hid a search­able launcher for your apps, but Ap­ple took it a step fur­ther, let­ting you hide home screens, add wid­gets and keep things or­ga­nized with­out sac­ri­fic­ing the iPhone’s decade‑long iden­tity. It’s smart, in­tu­itive, mod­ern and clean, and best of all is if you like your home screens the way they are, you don’t have to do any­thing.

What’s not so good

While the new home screen is way more cus­tom­iz­a­ble than be­fore, it’s not with­out its an­noy­ances. The big­gest

frus­tra­tion is that apps and wid­gets still stub­bornly stick to the grid. If you have mul­ti­ple home screens, apps and wid­gets will jump be­tween them and if you start from scratch, icons and wid­gets will jump to the top of the screen. That makes the whole sys­tem feel more con­strained than it should.

It’s also a lit­tle tricky to fig­ure out how it works. I’m sure Ap­ple will pro­vide a tu­to­rial for new iPhone buy­ers, but as it stands, there isn’t much to in­di­cate that home screens can be hid­den or even how to do it (by tap­ping the dots at the bot­tom of the screen when in jig­gle mode). And it’s sorely miss­ing from the iPad.

3. App Li­brary

What’s good

The App Li­brary may be the smartest fea­ture I’ve ever used on a phone. Not only does it blow An­droid’s app

drawer out of the wa­ter, it makes it in­cred­i­bly easy to find and launch apps on your phone. Ac­ces­si­ble by swip­ing all the way left past your last home screen, the App Li­brary or­ga­nized your apps by cat­e­gory and use, with sug­ges­tions of your most re­cently used apps and re­cently added apps at the top and other cat­e­gories fol­low­ing based on your us­age. It’s nice to look at and a down­right plea­sure to use.

What’s not so good

For every­thing that’s great about the App Li­brary, it has one ma­jor short­com­ing: you can’t cus­tom­ize it. So if you want to re­ar­range the cat­e­gories or even add a new one, you’re out of luck. That takes away some of the

use­ful­ness of the App Li­brary, as you’re at the mercy of Ap­ple’s al­go­rithm that se­lects just seven apps at most.

4. Wid­gets

What’s good

I’ve never been a big fan of home screen wid­gets, but I love Ap­ple’s iOS 14 wid­gets. They’re pretty for one, but more im­por­tantly, they do what they’re sup­posed to do: present a glance­able bit of in­for­ma­tion that saves you from need­ing to open the app. They’re fairly lim­ited at the mo­ment, but once de­vel­op­ers start re­leas­ing them for their own apps, wid­gets will be­come an in­dis­pens­able of your home screen ex­pe­ri­ence.

What’s not so good

Most wid­gets come in sev­eral sizes, but you can’t ac­tu­ally re­size them. To pick a big­ger or smaller one,

you need to delete it from the home screen and add a new one, a clunky process. You also can’t in­ter­act with wid­gets yet, so a cal­cu­la­tor or small game is out of the ques­tion for now. They’re also very pushy when try­ing to put them in po­si­tion, so if you’re try­ing to get your home screen just right, it’s go­ing to take sev­eral at­tempts.

5. Com­pact UI

What’s good

The full‑screen takeover for Siri and phone calls is fi­nally gone, and it’s a joy to be­hold. When you sum­mon Siri on ei­ther the iPhone or iPad in iOS 14 you’ll get a small icon at the bot­tom of the screen or a ban­ner that’s much more pleas­ant. And phone calls no longer in­ter­rupt your fo­cus with a jar­ring full‑screen pop‑up. You’ll see a small ban­ner at the top of the screen that

can be eas­ily ig­nored. The Siri in­ter­face is es­pe­cially nice, but both are a huge im­prove­ment over iOS 13.

What’s not so good

While the ban­ner for phone calls lets you keep work­ing when an alert comes in, sum­mon­ing Siri still forces you to stop what you’re do­ing, un­like the Mac where you can keep work­ing. So you’re not re­ally gain­ing any­thing with the smaller UI other than nicer vi­su­als.

Plus, there’s a weird dis­con­nect be­tween the Siri in­ter­face and the re­sponse on the iPhone. The in­ter­face is on the bot­tom of the screen but the re­sponse ap­pears at the top of the screen, which takes a beat to find. I’m sure I’ll get used to it, but right now I’m ac­tu­ally spend­ing more time away from my work when I need to ask Siri a ques­tion.

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