The latest version of iOS will roll out in preview mode to developers today, with a public beta supposed someday in July.
App Library: A new home screen page that will display after you swipe past your final page of apps. It automatically categorizes and sorts each of your apps, highlighting those you use the most.
Widgets: Widgets can now live on the home screen beside your app icons, rather than being hidden on the Today screen
Picture-in-picture on iPhone: While the iPad has had picture-in-picture video playback since iOS 9, it’s been curiously missing on the iPhone. No longer! If you switch apps while playing a video (or having a video chat), it’ll stay playing in a small box you can drag around the screen.
Siri: The Siri interface has been improved to no longer take over the fullscreen, and can do speech-to-text transcription fully on-device for speed and privacy. Messages: You can now pin your most important chats to the top of your messages list, and you can set up notifications on noisy group messages to only alert you when you’re mentioned by name.
Maps: Apple’s “new maps” are rolling out later this year in Ireland, UK, and Canada. Maps will also soon be taking cycling directions (in NYC, LA, Beijing, SF Bay Area, and Shanghai at first) that are mindful of things like bike lanes and hills, simultaneously directions for electric vehicle owners that factors in things like battery range and charging locations.
CarPlay: CarPlay is becoming new wallpaper options, along with a handful of new built-in apps focusing on things like parking, charging, and food ordering. Meanwhile, Apple has been working with a handful of carmakers (including BMW) to let you use your phone as a key.
App Clips: Tiny, fast, lightweight “Applets” that pop-up on-demand without asking you to manually install anything — like, say, something to take payment on the fly when you want to rent a scooter. It can be triggered by QR code, NFC, or via Safari/Messages.
While iPad OS will receive most of the features above alongside iOS 14, it’s also getting a few new tricks of its own. Such as:
Apple Pencil/Scribble: Handwriting recognition now works in any text field, letting you write a quick note without having to put the Pencil down to type. You can also now draw rough shapes (like octagons, stars, and arrows) and have them automatically change to prettier computer-drawn shapes by briefly holding your pencil in place as you finish drawing.
New “universal search”: Apple has refreshed the iPad search UI — it’s no longer full screen, and can now dig deeper into apps like Messages, Keynote, Mail, and Files.
Automatic device switching: AirPods can now automatically switch between various devices. Play a video on your iPad, and you’ll hear that audio from your AirPods; if a call gets in on your iPhone, AirPods can automatically shift over respectively.
Spatial Audio: Simulated surround noise, compatible with AirPods Pro only. They consider things like the position of your head into account, using AirPod’s built-in accelerometers to make it seem like the audio is “fixed” to the real world around you.
Face Sharing: Got your Apple Watch set up in a way you love? You can share your current watch face setup with others through Mail, Messages, or Safari. If the person on the receiving end doesn’t have a needed app/complication, they’ll be shown where to get it.
Multiple complications per app: Each app on watchOS can now allow multiple different watch face complications, instead of just one per app.
Sleep tracking: Watch can now automatically identify when you’re sleeping, recording this data, and helping you track your sleep schedule over time.
Handwashing detection: Important! The Apple Watch can identify when you’re washing your hands, using the accelerometer to look for the relevant motions and the microphone to listen for the sounds of washing. When it identifies you’re scrubbing away, it can automatically start a countdown timer to help assure you’ve done the full twenty seconds.
Approximate location: Want an app to know about where you are, but not exactly? You can now allow an app access to your location, rather than the pinpoint-precise spot.
Mic/Camera indicator: While maybe not as good as a dedicated hardware light, iOS will now show an on-screen indicator when an app is accessing your microphone or camera.
Simplified privacy polices: App developers will now have to give a simplified “highlights” of what user data they track and/or share with third parties. These summaries will now display before download in the iOS/macOS app stores.
Adaptive lighting: Homekit can now automatically adjust the brightness/temperature of your attached smart bulbs throughout the day, conceding for things like cooler lights during work hours and warmer temperatures when it’s time to wind down.
Face recognition: Homekit-enabled doorbell cameras can now identify known faces, and allow you to know who’s at the door via Homepod/AppleTV notifications.
Activity Zones: If you’ve got a security camera setup through HomeKit, you can now restrict alerts to just specific sections of the video stream — motion alerts only when something enters your yard, for example, and not each time a car drives by on the street just barely in the frame.
macOS Big Sur:
The next build of macOS will be named “Big Sur”, and will cover some tweaks that’ll make it look and feel a bit more like iOS.
Control center: Using an idea from iOS, macOS will now have a dropdown in the upper right area of the screen that gives one-click access to display brightness, dark mode, volume, WiFi controls, and more.
Notification Center: Notification Center has been cleaned up, bringing notifications/widgets into one combined view while making it easier to clear out lots of notifications at once.
New maps: Maps on macOS has been redesigned with assistance for things like in-door maps, guides, favorite locations, etc.
Safari: Safari can now control your saved passwords to look for those that might’ve been shown in breaches. A “Privacy Report” button, while, breaks down what’s known about what data is being tracked by the site you’re currently on.
Overhauled extensions: Safari’s long antiquated extensions system is getting a refresh, with a focus on limiting what data extension developers can obtain. If an extension demands the ability to do something like access browsing history, it can be allowed for a limited period of time, only on a specific site, or across all sites.
New Processors on Macs
As rumored for months, Apple is shifting from Intel to custom ARM-based CPUs it’s designing in-house, as it’s done for years across its iPhone/iPad/Watch lineups. Apple says that this will bring a “whole new level of performance” while using less power, and support for things like Apple’s Secure Enclave to come to the Mac. And iOS apps will be ready to run on the Mac!
While developers will want to update their applications to run natively on the new chipsets, Apple says most developers should be able to get things “running in just a matter of days”; while “Rosetta 2” in Big Sur will automatically translate existing apps for compatibility.