Our Favorite iOS 14 Features and Updates

iOS 14 Logo

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Apple had their first-ever no-live-audience WWDC keynote on June 22, 2020. As expected, Apple announced iOS 14. Between the keynote and Apple’s iOS 14 preview page, here are 5 features and updates we love in the next iOS release. 

CarPlay Wallpaper

Starting with a really small and personal one. In iOS 14, users will be able to change the CarPlay Dashboard and Home Screen wallpapers. Apple’s WWDC demo and iOS 14 preview page suggest users will only be able to select from pictures shipped with iOS 14 – not from their own photos. But hey, it’s something. I drive a Volkswagen so my car’s interior needs some livening up – I know.

iOS 14 feature - CarPlay Wallpaper

Pinned Messages

Apple’s Messages app is one of those things that’s been keeping a lot of people in the ecosystem, myself included. However, it’s becoming a headache over the last couple of years to deal with spam messages. I get so many of them and they quickly bury the real conversations. This is why being able to pin conversations to the top of the Messages app in iOS 14 is such good news to me.

Pinned Messages in iOS 14

New Compact Incoming Calls UI

Since the introduction of the iPhone in 2007, incoming calls have always taken up the whole screen. This is anxiety-inducing sometimes. In iOS 14, incoming calls will no longer take over the whole screen. Instead, they’ll show up on the top of the screen, just like any other notification, and if you so choose, you can dismiss the banner with just a flick of your finger.

See, this is why I believe Apple is the biggest troll. This feature feels like something we should have had all along, but Apple took 13 years and 14 iOS releases to give it to us. Who’s complaining?

Incoming Calls Banner in iOS 14

Smarter Siri with New Compact UI

I use Siri a lot, but only for simple things, like conversations, translation, setting timers, and creating reminders. When I ask Siri other simple questions like how old a celebrity or politician is, instead of giving me the answer, Siri would show me web search results which I have to pick up the phone to look at. This really defeats the purpose of a virtual assistant.

Siri has been dumb for some good reasons that we will not get into here. But it’s really great to know that in iOS 14, Siri will be able to answer a broader set of questions using information across the internet without me having to browse the web – exactly what I need.

The iOS 14 Siri will also have a compact UI and no longer take up the whole screen. It will only appear at the bottom and it’ll have new animations.

iOS 14 Compact Siri UI

Enhanced calendar picker for Reminders app

This update is so small that even on the iOS 14 preview page, it’s listed at the bottom in the “Even More” section, but it’s really important and personal for me.

Ever since iOS 13, the Reminders app can contextually add the date and time as I type out the text of a reminder. However, if I want to pick the date and time manually, I need to flip two separate toggles, one for the date and the other for the time. In iOS 14, users can choose the right date and time to be reminded with a new calendar menu, quickly see the whole month, and easily scroll through months and years. 

iOS 13 Reminders App Screenshot

iOS 14 is expected to release in September 2020 with the public beta available in July.

What are some of the iOS 14 features you are looking forward to? Let us know in the comments.

Free iTunes Movie Rentals from Apple

In honor of the Black Lives Matter movement sweeping the country, Apple has been offering a selection of free iTunes movie rentals. Here is an incomplete list of the movies.

Apple TV Screenshot

Glory

Glory - Free iTunes Movie Rental

Drama – 1989

Tomatometer – 93%

Starring Matthew Broderick, Denzel Washington, Morgan Freeman. Director Edward Zwick.

Considered one of the classics by many, Glory tells the epic story of the first black regiment to fight for the north in the civil war.

Ali

Ali - Free iTunes Movie Rental

Drama – 2001

Tomatometer – 68%

Starring Will Smith, Jamie Foxx, Jon Voight. Director Michael Mann.

Will Smith plays Muhammad Ali “The Greatest”. 

Antwone Fisher

Antwone Fisher - Free iTunes Movie Rental

Drama – 2002

Tomatometer – 79%

Starring Derek Luke, Joby Bryant, Denzel Washington. Director Denzel Washington.

Denzel Washington’s directorial debut tells the true-life-inspired story of Antwone Fisher, a troubled sailor who embarks on a remarkable journey to confront his painful past and connect with the family he never knew.

Monsters and Men

Monsters and Men - Free iTunes Movie Rental

Drama – 2018

Tomatometer – 86%

Starring John David Washington, Anthony Ramos, Kelvin Harrison Jr. Director Reinaldo Marcus Green.

A young father witnesses the police shooting of an unarmed black man and what ensues. 

Selma

Selma - Free iTunes Movie Rental

Drama – 2015

Tomatometer – 99%

Starring David Oyelowo, Tom Wilkinson, Carmen Ejogo. Director Ava DuVernay.

Nominated for Best Picture and winning Best Original Song (Glory) at the 87th Academy Award, Selma tells the story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic struggle to secure voting rights for African-Americans, culminated in the historic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama that helped brought forth the Voting Rights Act in 1965.

TV App Screenshot on Mac

Google Podcasts Now Available on iOS

If you live in the Apple ecosystem and you listen to a lot of podcasts, chances are your go-to podcast app would be Apple Podcasts. There are also many other free and paid options out there if you so choose. Pocket Casts and Overcast both have great ratings. Today you get one more option. Google’s very own podcast app, called Google Podcasts, no surprise there, is now available on iOS.

Google Podcasts App Icon

If you are thinking you are finally able to ditch Apple Podcasts, here are a few quick facts about the iOS version of the Google Podcasts app that you’ll want to check out first.

Content

First of all, all your favorite podcasts will also be available on the Google platform. However, you will have to search for them and subscribe again one by one if you haven’t previously used the app in conjunction with your Google account.

User Interface

Compared to Apple Podcasts, the Google Podcasts app has a rather slick design.

You get three tabs at the bottom of the screen, Home, Search and Activity. The Home tab has all the shows you are subscribed to and the episodes available. The Search tab is where you can find new shows. In the Activity tab, you have your queue, downloads, history and a list of your subscriptions.

There is a button on the top left corner for streaming your podcasts to AirPlay and Bluetooth devices. You also have another button on the top right corner for your Google account.

In the Now Playing screen, you get all your usual playback controls – play, pause, fast forward, rewind, sleep timer, playback speed and such.

iOS Google Podcasts App Main Interface 

iOS Google Podcasts App Now Playing View 

Possible Deal Breaker?

The Google Podcasts app does not currently work with CarPlay. Although I don’t see any reason why Google would take too long to add CarPlay support. But then again, there is this thing called COVID-19 going on right now. Did you wash your hands enough today?

Rating

As of the time of this post (Sunday, March 29, 2020), the app has 4.2 stars with 112 ratings on the App Store.

iOS 13.4 Mail App Move and Compose Controls No Longer Tucked Away

iOS Mail App Icon

Mail App Move and Compose Controls in iOS 13.0 to 13.3.1

In Apple’s iOS 13 release, they decided to hide some of their Mail app controls. As a result, instead of using all the toolbar real estate at the bottom of an open email, Apple only puts two buttons there, one for Delete (Trash navigation bar and tab bar icon - iOS 13.4 Mail App Changes) and the other for Reply (Reply navigation bar and tab bar icon).

If you would like to perform other actions, say Move (Organize navigation bar and tab bar icon - iOS 13.4 Mail App Changes) or Compose (Compose navigation bar and tab bar icon), you’ll have to tap the Reply button to get to those actions. Obviously, this is very unintuitive.

We all get enough emails as it is. By hiding the frequently used controls, Apple is really getting on people’s nerves.

iOS 13 Mail App Toolbar

Then again, Apple likes to have us scratching our heads with design decisions like this from time to time. Think the hastily released Apple Maps, trashcan Mac Pro, Magic Mouse 2 charging port and MacBook butterfly keyboard. The list goes on.

My theory is someone on the iOS 13 software team really wanted to troll their Mail app users.

Changes to Mail App Controls in the Upcoming iOS 13.4

The good news is, users will get back control of their Mail app buttons in the next iOS 13 release which is iOS 13.4. Or to put it more precisely, Apple is going to give its users back control of the Mail app buttons.

In the latest iOS 13.4 public beta, Apple no longer tucks away the Move and Compose buttons in the Reply button. The Delete, Move, Reply and Compose buttons are now side-by-side on the toolbar. This makes it easier for you to go through your emails.

iOS 13.4 Public Beta Mail App Toolbar

Finally, if you are interested in trying out the iOS 13.4 public beta, you can sign up at beta.apple.com. Just remember to not do this with your primary daily driver.

If you are already using iOS 13.4 public beta, what are some of the changes that you like?