Apple iOS 14 is a gigantic upgrade with a new home screen, a Siri redesign, and a will to live on your phone

It should come as no surprise that Apple wants you to not only care about upgrades made to iOS, but care enough to install them as soon as possible. At the company’s digital-only WWDC 2020 keynote, iOS 14 was unveiled, and it’s an upgrade that fits this objective perfectly.

iOS 14 seems to have it all. Users have been waiting years for some a overhaul to the home screen, and Apple is giving that to you. Better privacy controls are always great to have, and it’s included with the system. Picture-in-picture, a smaller call UI, language translations, a major Siri redesign – it’s all here. Combined with everything else Apple throws into the mix, it’s clear that this release of iOS is meant to grab your attention and hold onto it, all the way to the “Download and Install” button in the Settings app.

Let’s start with the home screen. Apple is introducing what Android users have enjoyed for years: widgets. The company added these software accessories a few generations of iOS ago with the widgets pane to the left of your home screen. Now, those widgets can be dragged and dropped onto your home screen and resized to a variety of widths and heights. Widgets have also received a visual revamp with much prettier graphics.

Another big change: App Library. If you don’t wanna have to swipe between a ton of pages of apps to find the app you’re looking for, Apple gives you the App Library (a.k.a. an Apple-ized version of the app drawer on Android). It sorts all of your apps into folders and provides a search field to find the app you’re looking for quicker. The library lives all the way to the right of your app pages so to simplify navigation, Apple lets you hide pages of apps you don’t need. In other words, you don’t have to have all of your apps on your home screen all at the same time. Just like on Android.

In my opinion, this would be reason enough to upgrade to iOS 14. I and a ton of other people have been waiting yearsfor a big change to how the home screen works on iOS. I’m glad they finally gussied up the courage to pull the trigger this year.

Here’s the second biggest feature you’re going to notice in iOS 14 (well, assuming you actually use it in the first place): Siri. Instead of a full-screen UI, Siri now sports a much smaller circular overlay at the bottom of your iPhone. Ask it questions, tell it to do things, and Siri will respond to much more gentle cards and overlays at the top of your device. Speaking of much more gentle things, incoming calls will no longer fill up your entire screen. This is true for both iOS 14 and iPadOS 14. Praise be to God.

I’m gonna call this a big feature only because I know Apple’s gonna market it to death. There’s a new feature called App Clips in iOS 14 that basically lets you interact with a portion of an app at a moment’s notice. For instance, if you didn’t have a certain transportation app on your phone (Apple uses Scooter as an example), you could simply install the App Clip and avoid having to go to the App Store to download it. The Clip lives on your phone and is guaranteed to weigh less than 10 megabytes. Apple’s gonna make it easy to discover them as well by granting access through NFC, QR codes, web links, and more.

This is all in a push to get more users to discover more apps that are on the App Store. To me, it seems like a convenient feature I’ll use a handful of times. I get it, but I’m not sure if it’s enough to convince people to install more apps on their phone. It’s actually kind of ironic: Apple wants you to install more apps while also giving you a way to hide the insane amount of icons on your home screen.

One app icon we all hit incredibly often is the Messages icon, and the app is getting a nice upgrade with iOS 14. Apple is giving users the ability to pin conversations to the top of the app for quick access. Another handy feature: Mentions. You can now directly @ mention someone in a group chat to get their attention. You can also follow inline replies in case multiple conversations are taking place at the same time. You can also assign a photo, emoji, or Memoji to a group chat to give it some identity.

Oh, speaking of which, Apple is upgrading Memojis with over 20 new hair and headwear styles. And yep, you guessed right – face masks made the cut.

If you want a feature that can only be described as “cool,” it’s the car keys feature. In iOS 14 (and apparently in iOS 13 at some point in the future), Apple will let you not only unlock your car with your phone but also start it up. It’ll use NFC to operate and securely store your data on your phone. Your “key” will be located in Wallet and can even be shared with your contacts. And yes, the Apple Watch will do the same thing.

Apple says the first car to support this feature will be the 2021 BMW 5 Series. It’ll work for five hours even after your iPhone battery dies so you won’t have to worry about charging your phone if you wanna drive home.

This feature is seriously wild. It’s kind of crazy to think just how much you can rely on your phone nowadays.

Here’s a list of some other big features that are worth your attention.

  • Apple Maps is getting the ability to steer you around a city on your bicycle, guides to help you find all the best places to visit when traveling, and EV routing for electric cars to take the most efficient route and hit a charging station along the way.
  • Apple is introducing a new Translate app to let you have a conversation in multiple languages.
  • The Home app is getting an enhanced UI with suggested automations for smart home accessories, visual statuses for your devices, facial recognition for security cameras, adaptive lighting for smart bulbs, and increased security.
  • Safari now supports translating web pages, password monitoring (a.k.a. it’ll bark at you if your password isn’t strong enough), privacy reports, and increased performance (making it the “fastest mobile browser” according to Apple).
  • CarPlay now supports wallpapers and new app types like parking, food ordering, and EV charging.
  • AirPods get automatic device switching based on which device you’re currently using, battery notifications, and headphone accommodations. Meanwhile, AirPods Pro get spatial audio support to emulate surround sound with way-over engineered physiques. (I might have to write a whole blog post on this feature alone).
  • You can now set third-party email and browser apps as the default system-wide. This feature is incredible and I’m so happy it’s here.
  • Picture-in-picture mode is finally supported on iPhone through both media streaming apps and FaceTime.
  • Everything from the App Store to the Camera app to Game Center to Notes to Photos to Reminders is also getting a few new features here and there.

Rounding things off are the privacy protections Apple has implemented this time around. The App Store now gives you information on every app’s privacy policies and what data it collects before you download it. Sign in with Apple now lets you merge your Apple ID details with supported app’s log-ins to minimize the amount of passwords you have to keep track of. Location sharing is now much more vague as you can share only an approximate location with apps like local news or weather. Finally, there’s a little orange dot that will show up whenever an app is using your camera or microphone. This is really a genius idea, especially if you’re skeptical of someone spying on you through your phone.

See what I mean by a big, flashy upgrade to grab your attention?

There’s a ton of new features packed into iOS 14, and Apple really didn’t pull any punches. For a keynote that wasn’t in front of an audience, it was a gutsy move for the company to detail all of this over just a live stream. It’s the features that will get all of the attention, and the company knew that. That’s what makes iOS 14 so fascinating. Apple made the best of what they had to work with.

When will you get iOS 14? The fall. Apple will release iOS 14 to iPhones dating all the way back to the iPhone 6s and original iPhone SE. That means if you’re running iOS 13, you can install iOS 14. A developer beta is being tested now and a public beta will come out in July. At some point I’ll be giving the system a try. It’s a really intriguing upgrade.

Now we wait to see how the public responds.