By Tracey Dowdy
Hey kids, Apple’s doing it again. iOS 14, slated to be released this fall, comes with a whack of fun new features that will make you love your phone even more, and make Android users smile. More on that later.
For me, one of the most exciting new features allows users to pin a conversation to the top of messages. If you don’t get a lot of texts in the run of a day, this may not seem important, but at a time when many of us are still at some level of quarantine and several states are rolling back re-opening plans, keeping in touch via text is more essential than it’s ever been. For me, having my family group text pinned to the top saves me scrolling through multiple texts from coworkers and friends. To pin a contact or conversation, swipe to the right across any thread.
Not only can you pin a conversation, but you’ll also be able to tag someone in a conversation when you want to get their attention. This will transform the way we communicate in group texts and be a relief to everyone who hates group texts but doesn’t know how to escape without being rude or missing out on the occasional piece of useful information. You’ll also be able to reply directly to a message to create a sub-thread within the conversation to avoid blowing up everyone’s phones in the group. Although we’ve always had the option to start a separate message, this keeps it all within the same thread. To tag an individual, use the @ symbol just like you do on other platforms.
Not that most of us will be traveling abroad any time soon, but iOS 14 has a translation app built-in. Instead of using Google’s Translate app on your iPhone, a native app will convert text or hold conversations with someone who speaks a different language. Current languages include English, Mandarin Chinese, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Arabic, Portuguese, and Russian.
Users have two options. Type the word or phrase you want to be translated, or tap on the microphone on the bottom of the screen to use voice-to-text. Once you’ve finished typing or speaking, the app will translate it to your selected language. I wish I’d had this in France when my Uber driver and I were on opposite sides of a busy street and couldn’t find each other. Though the word “ibis” is spelled the same in French and English, trust me, it’s pronounced quite differently.
If you need more than the pronunciation of a word or to have a sentence translated quickly, turn the phone to landscape mode and tap on the mic icon. You don’t need to press and hold – the phone will continue to translate the conversation.
iOS14 will finally allow users to add widgets to their home screen, a feature Android users have had since 2008. Widgets contain more information and are more functional than app icons, so Apple is pretty late to the party on this one. Instead of swiping to the left of the home screen, you can add them directly to your display. You’ll be able to choose from multiple sizes, and the intuitive Smart Stack widget will show you information from numerous apps when it thinks you need it. For example, it will bring up your calendar, the weather app, and drive time for your commute when you wake up. You can choose to continue to view widgets in Today View off to the left side of your main home screen, or, drag and drop a widget from the Today View onto your home screen.
A second “Android’s had that for years” feature is an app drawer that Apple calls App Library. The feature will auto-sort all your apps into folders, making it easier to find all the apps installed on your phone. To access, swipe left on your home screen, and choose one of three ways to find the app you’re looking for:
- Check in one of two folders at the top of the screen: Suggestions (recently used) and Recently Added (newly installed apps). Both will automatically update to adjust which apps are in either folder.
- Search for your app by name in the search field at the top of the screen.
- Tap to see an alphabetical list of your apps.
Bonus – App Library pairs with another new home screen feature allowing you to hide pages of rarely used apps.
Finally, iPad’s popular video in picture-in-picture that creates a thumbnail image of a video that continues to play even when you’re on another app or screen is coming to your iPhone. The feature allows you to switch to a different part of your phone, without pausing or stopping your video. You can drag PiP around your screen, adjust the size of the video by pinching and zooming or even temporarily hide it off the edge of your screen. To exit PiP, tap the X to close. It works with FaceTime video calls and Apple TV, podcasts, Safari, FaceTime, iTunes, Home, and any third-party app that supports PiP on iPad.
Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.