Everything we think we know about Apple’s plans for iOS 14

With WWDC 2020 looking increasingly in doubt, the first iOS 14 secrets are beginning to emerge. Here's what we know so far.

Apple, WWDC, iOS, iOS 14, iPhone, iPad, rumor
Daniel L. Lu

With the future of WWDC 2020 increasingly in doubt, there’s little surprise that interest in what’s coming in iOS 14 is beginning to intensify, particularly if Apple is forced to provide a remote version of the conference. Here’s what we think we know about iOS 14 so far:

New product hints inside the code

The leaked iOS 14 builds seem full of new product hints. Not only does it seem to confirm that iPhone 9 will boast Touch ID and Express Transit, but also seems to show that the iPad Pro will indeed feature an iPhone-like triple-lens camera and time of flight sensor.

There is also mention of a new Apple TV remote and yet more confirmation of the company’s planned AirTags tracking devices. Earlier claims included those of over-the-ear headphones, and sleep tracking in Apple Watch.

It seems clear Apple has a huge year of major launches planned. The disaster that is the coronavirus has generated major problems, potentially also derailing its planned March iPhone 9 launch (though the products may still be announced).

So, on to the new feature hints:

Home screen changes

New enhancements in the Home screen will allegedly include:

  • Option to see all apps in sortable list view, including a Recents view.
  • Smart Siri suggestions for apps to recommend solutions based on time of day, habit, location.

Masterful multitasking

A little like the way it works on an iPad, with iOS 14 you’ll be able to see four apps on screen at the same time. A swipe to the right will let you switch into another active app, one report has claimed. Apparently this is being called ‘App Switcher’ in internal testing (if the claim is to be believed). This will let you switch between different App Switch modes.

A new AR App for retail

Apple is developing a new augmented reality app for iOS 14.

A report claims the company is testing integration with Starbucks and the Apple Store for the tool, which would offer product guides when you point your camera at something.

The tool will also support third-party product tags and QR codes and hits a retail market that is already deeply immersed in AR.

More accessibility features

Apple is deeply committed to making sure its products are accessible, and iOS 14 is no exception. One interesting (if a little spooky) enhancement might be a feature that detects sounds like fire alarms, door knocks or crying babies using your device microphone. This will likely become haptic or visual feedback for users with hearing loss.

Toward gesture-based computing

Apple’s iOS devices (particularly iPads) seem set to gain support for mouse cursors, camera-based hand gestures and trackpads. Another feature sees the camera learn to understand hand gestures (very Minority Report) and new Audio Accommodations settings to improve the sound of audio playback for AirPods or EarPods users.

iMessage enhancements

A new tool will let you retract sent messages. Some claims you’ll see support for @mentions, which turns the application into something a little more collaborative.

You'll be able to choose your apps

Apple may make it possible to use third-party apps as default apps to replace its own. This would allow Safari to be replaced by Firefox and Mail to be replaced by another email package, for example – but would hopefully still allow deep integration across the device.

You’ll also be able to share Wallpapers with others

If you make beautiful images, you may now be able to find a new way to distribute them. It seems that third parties will be able to offer wallpaper collections that can be integrated into settings. To support this, Apple is also changing how you organize these things, with new section headings.

iPhoneography for the rest of us

One interesting claim is that Apple will integrate its popular iPhone photography challenges into the Photos app on iOS 14.

This means you’ll be alerted to a new competition from inside the app, and presumably also means you’ll be able to just tap a button to enter the competition. (9to5Mac).

A fitness coach in every iPhone

A new Fitness app in iOS 14 is designed to keep you moving.

The app will provide you with workouts, workout videos and guides to how to exercise. Naturally, this will integrate with Health and Activity on your device.

In one implementation, your activity data may get picked up by your Apple Watch while the relevant exercise video and instruction play on a larger screened device, such as your Apple TV.

Siri gets new voices

Apple may introduce a new framework developers can use to create their own custom voices for iOS. This will make it possible to replace the default voice, which should add even more fun things to Siri. It is called Voice Provider and may not make the cut this year.

Really smart video security

HomeKit Secure Video may become capable of identifying people based on your photographs.

Smooth lighting controls in HomeKit

One HomeKit improvement is set to be the introduction of support for dynamic lighting control, which means your lighting can automatically reflect the brightness of the day. It may also be possible to set Spotify or another streaming music service as the default music provider on your HomePod.

AliPad + Apple Pay

Apple Pay will support AliPay.

Apple Pencil improves

The PencilKit API gains support for handwriting text recognition in apps. And this will be deeply useful (but meanwhile, do try the excellent Notability app).

Apple Watch for the blood

The Apple Watch will be able to detect blood oxygen levels, a report claims. The ECG function will also be improved.

Which devices will support it and when does it ship?

We have previously heard that iOS 14 will be compatible with the same devices iOS 13 supported, but we don’t yet know this for sure. That kind of backwards compatibility will be welcome and will also help maintain the device’s high second user prices.

We don’t know when iOS 14 will ship.

While Apple typically ships the OS at around about the same time as it introduces a new iPhone, the Coronavirus scourge may delay both dates beyond their typical September. I’ll try to keep you posted as we learn more.

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