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.

iOS 13 – 3 Things We Like

It’s that time of the year again! One more fall, one more iOS release. With iOS 13 coming out sometime this September, here are 3 things we like based on what we are seeing in the latest public beta release, which is public beta 6 (developer beta 7), build number 17A5565b.

Dark Mode

Well it works. Beg for it long enough, Apple’ll give it to you. Your iPhone will finally have dark mode with the release of iOS 13.

What is so good about dark mode?

For one thing, it looks really cool and it does help you focus. We first saw Apple doing dark mode in macOS Mojave in 2018. I don’t use dark mode on my Mac all the time, but I do find myself toggling it on when I know I need to focus and type away on the keyboard for a while.

The other things is, it just feels good to finally get dark mode on the iPhone. Apple sure has made us wait long enough. Even though we know that’s the way they do things, it still feels pretty darn good.

To activate dark mode, go to Settings, and then Display & Brightness and choose Dark under Appearance. Notice Apple gives you the option to automatically switch between dark and light modes based on the sunset and sunrise time.

Alternatively you could also turn dark mode on using Control Center. Swipe up from the bottom of your device, and 3D Touch or long press on the screen brightness control, you’ll see the option to turn dark mode on or off.

Apple has even made a Control Center control specifically for dark mode. Go to Settings, Control Center, Customize Controls and you’ll see it right there. Add it to Control Center and you’ll be able to turn dark mode on or off with just one swipe and one tap.

Updated CarPlay

CarPlay gets a new interface with iOS 13.

The home button is replaced with a new button to switch between the rows of apps view and what Apple calls the CarPlay Dashboard view.

 New CarPlay Home Button in iOS 13
CarPlay Dashboard

The CarPlay Dashboard view is a doozy. You can glance at multiple things on the same screen – your map on the left filling up the largest tile, your Music controls, calendar items and Siri on the right. 

Speaking of Siri, she now no longer takes up the whole screen. You can keep an eye on things like directions whilst dealing out commands to her – easy commands though, she’s not Alexa or Google Assistant, so go easy on her.

Oh in case you didn’t notice, your album artwork now shows up on the screen as well. 

CarPlay in iOS 13 also gets a new Settings app to change between dark and light display mode, as well as Do Not Disturb and a few other settings. 

One last thing worth noting in the updated CarPlay is, say you have Maps on your dashboard and you pick up your phone (not that we recommend this while you are driving) and quit Maps on your phone, that won’t quit Maps in CarPlay. How awesome is that!

Limited Warranty

Ever wondered how far in you are with your limited warranty for your device? While you could always go to checkcoverage.apple.com, type in your serial number and see your warranty information, now you could also see it right in your Settings app on your device.

Go to Settings, General, About and now you’ll see a row called Limited Warranty where you could see when yours is about to expire.

This is such a small thing, but Apple sure knows how to make these incremental changes to keep their users happy.

iOS 13 comes packed with loads of new features and these 3 are some of our favorites.

Want to find out if your device could run iOS 13 come its release date? Here is a list of compatible devices:

  • iPhone XS
  • iPhone XS Max
  • iPhone XR
  • iPhone X
  • iPhone 8
  • iPhone 8 Plus
  • iPhone 7
  • iPhone 7 Plus
  • iPhone 6s
  • iPhone 6s Plus
  • iPhone SE
  • iPod touch (7th generation)

Can’t wait for the public release? Check out this page to join the Apple Beta program and test out iOS 13 today. The public beta is at beta 6 right now so it’s pretty safe even for your daily driver. Although the lawyer in me is telling me to also mention you should try it at your own risk.

Got a iOS 13 feature you want to share with us? Or have a question regarding iOS 13? Leave comment and let us know! 

Spotify Stations: A Quick App Review

If you want to stream music but feel too cool to curate your own playlists, you should try the easy and simple Spotify Stations app.

Spotify Stations App Login Screen

Spotify

Music streaming is nothing new. Countless companies have had their crack at it. Few are as successful as this freemium service from Sweden that is Spotify.

With 232 million monthly active users including 108 million paying subscribers as of July 2019, Spotify has a user base way larger than its major competitors – Apple Music, Pandora, Amazon Prime Music, Amazon Music Unlimited and the likes.

One of the reasons of Spotify’s success is they are good at serving up music you like. Their website’s tagline says “Music for everyone” and their mobile app tagline says “Discover new music”. I’ll just say those are not false advertising.

Download the Spotify app, give it the names of a few artists of your choice as you start and then heart songs as you go, you’ll have a constant flow of pleasant surprises delivered right into your ears.

Sounds easy and painless, right? Actually, no.

Even that is too much for a lot of people, myself included.

After all, we just want to stream our music and we don’t want to begin by what feels like answering a million questions, and then have to lift our fingers to tell the app we like a song. Our phones should know our music preferences, period. How else could they take over the world and become the overlord they were always destined to be? Oh, they’ll use us for batteries too.

Spotify Stations

If you want to stream music but feel too cool to curate your own playlists, you should try Spotify Stations. The Stations page on Spotify’s website says “Music made simple” and that is exactly true.

The Stations app was launched in 2018, a decade after the world was first blessed with Spotify.

Stations did not make a big splash at its release.

However, people everywhere had the same reaction upon using the app – you did not have to wait long before the music started playing.

Download the app, log in using your Facebook or Spotify account, or create a new account and within seconds you’ll hear your music going.

You do have some of the usual playback controls like play/pause and skip. A free account has ads and allows six skips in one hour which is pretty good.

If you like, you could also thumb up or down a song and with that Stations learns your music preference. You don’t really have to interact with the app too much though. With what they know about the music preferences of hundreds of millions of people and their massive library of 35 to 40+ million tracks, chances are the tunes Spotify serves up will be to your liking.

Spotify Stations also works with CarPlay in case you were wondering. Your commute will be less intolerable. I even find myself singing along when I don’t have a passenger with me.

Spotify Stations App Interface with Playback Controls, Thumbs Up and Down

Spotify Stations in Apple CarPlay

Spotify Stations Now Playing View in Apple CarPlay

Now here’s the question, do you think the Spotify Stations app is sent back in time by the evil Skynet to ease us into letting machines control our lives and ultimately take over? Let us know in the comments.