As of this afternoon, anyone with the requisite Apple hardware can download the highly anticipated iOS 14, iPadOS 14, and watchOS 7. The one we're most excited about? iOS 14 by a mile. The updates to iOS 14 are the most sweeping and offer a lot more flexibility with and redesigns of Widgets, iMessage, memojis, App Library, Maps (you can now find out where the heck cycling is easier), a better Health app, App Clips for compact use, a new translation feature, a QuickTake video option for the iPhone XS and XR in photo mode, better resolution for FaceTime, and more. These are some of our favorites.
Widgets, at last — Widgets get a major makeover in this edition of Apple's mobile OS. Before iOS 14, you could only check your Widgets on the Today screen, but with iOS 14 Widgets can be pinned practically anywhere on the Home Screen in whichever size you choose.
Additionally, iOS 14 is a lot more malleable about default settings, including email. The software update allows users to designate Microsoft Outlook as the default mail app. All you need to do head over to your settings, go down to select Outlook for your device, and set it as default. These are the sorts of features Android's had for ages... but bringing them to the iPhone, even if a little late, does erode the appeal of Android somewhat.
Hello to Smart Stack — This is probably great news for the Apple watch crowd as iOS 14 allows you to use its Smart Stack feature on your iPhone, which is all about intuitively arranging your set of widgets. Depending on your location, activity, and time, this Smart Stack will serve up a relevant widget. This all depends on whether you have enabled access to these metrics. Assuming you have, over time you can expect Smart Stack to get better at predicting your needs.
iMessages get the WhatsApp treatment — iMessages resembles the format of WhatsApp in iOS 14. You can pin conversations to the top, search for emojis in the bar, and — in a fashion similar to Slack — you can mute notifications from a group chat but receive an alert if your name is mentioned. Pretty nifty. Oh, and there are now face-covering options for your memojis, which is a very contemporary feature we never imagined we'd want before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
Photos get boosted — iOS 14 comes with improved shot-to-shot capabilities, enhanced resolution for your FaceTime calls, an updated Night mode for iPhone 11 and 11 Pro, and more. You can also use Picture-in-Picture support for the system, which makes recording clips or using FaceTime while in another app a lot easier.
Car key time — iPhone XR, XS, XS Max, 11, 11 Pro, 11 Pro Max, SE, and Apple Watch Series 5 owners with supported vehicles can also start them with the new digital car key feature in iOS 14.
Siri gets compact — Instead of opening up a whole new screen and throwing you off balance, Siri now emerges in a more minimalist form in iOS 14. Getting smaller in size doesn't mean Siri's functions are being reduced, though. In fact, the digital assistant is now better able to handle translations and has a deeper repository of answers for your bizarre questions.
Dear Android — Apple's new software update makes many of Android's unique features, well, not-so-unique anymore. That said, even with it's cheaper handsets, Apple can't rival the range of price points at which you can enter the Android ecosystem. And Android will likely continue to roll out features Apple users may have to wait years for. But that's just the price of playing in the walled garden.