It feels like just yesterday Apple unveiled iOS 13 to the world, introducing game-changing features like system-wide dark mode and enhanced editing tools in Photos. But WWDC 2020 is rapidly approaching, which means iOS 14 is as well. As it turns out, we don't need to wait for an official announcement to get an idea of what new features and changes are coming to iPhone this year.
Keep in mind, as with all rumor roundups, the information below might not be set in stone. There's a long list of analysts who have reported on leaked features only for Apple to reveal nothing of the sort. Still, we have some solid sources for most of the features below, particularly 9to5Mac, which gained access to iOS 14 code.
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1. All iPhones Running iOS 13 Will Get iOS 14
Talk about good news. All iPhone models currently compatible with iOS 13 will also be compatible with iOS 14. The information comes from The Verifier and is based on both the iOS 14 code and an unnamed source.
With that, the following iPhone (and iPod touch) models will all receive iOS 14:
- iPhone SE (2nd gen)
- iPhone 11
- iPhone 11 Pro
- iPhone 11 Pro Max
- iPhone XS
- iPhone XS Max
- iPhone XR
- iPhone X
- iPhone 8
- iPhone 8 Plus
- iPhone 7
- iPhone 7 Plus
- iPhone SE (1st gen)
- iPhone 6S
- iPhone 6S Plus
- iPod touch (7th gen)
According to The Verifier, it will be the last update for the iPhone 6S, 6S Plus, and original SE. While sad to hear, those all use 2015's A9 chip, which will mark six major iOS versions of support by the time iOS 15 appears.
Six major iOS versions seems to be the trend for Apple these days. The iPhone 5S also saw six update cycles and is the current record holder at just under six years of updates. It may still be the record holder in regards to its lifespan even after the iPhone 6S, 6S Plus, and original SE stop receiving updates. The iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, which will reportedly see iOS 15 as their last major update, will also stop at six major versions and may not catch up to the 5S either for years supported.
New Features in Messages
Even with stiff competition among excellent third-party messaging apps, iMessage remains a key reason for iPhone users to stay in the iOS ecosystem. As popular as iMessage is, it's still missing features that other apps provide. But some of those features might be coming to iOS 14, however, if rumors can be trusted.
2. Unsend iMessages
Sources suggest that Apple is working on a feature for unsending messages in iOS 14, following in the footsteps of apps like Messenger, WhatsApp, and Telegram. Currently, once a message is sent and delivered in the Messages app, there's no turning back. With an unsend feature, however, you'd be able to remove messages from both your device and the recipient's, saving yourself some embarrassment.
We don't know yet if it there will be a time limit associated with the feature. Apps like Messenger only allow you to unsend messages if they were sent less than 10 minutes ago. On the other hand, apps like Telegram let you unsend messages at any time, allowing you to wipe out entire chat logs from all parties involved. We'll just have to see which approach Apple takes here.
As for SMS and MMS texts, they likely will not be supported as there's no way to recall them. Apple could incorporate a delay in sending messags like Gmail does, but we don't see that happening any time soon.
3. Tagging Contacts in iMessages
Another new Messages feature rumored to be in the works is tagging contacts using the at sign (@), just as it works in Slack and Messenger.
All you do is type @ and your iPhone will bring up a list of contacts to choose from. Select one, send your message, and that contact will be alerted to your tag even if they have notifications disabled for that chat thread. A tagging feature is most useful in group chats, so you can address or talk about a specific user.
4. Status Updates in iMessages
This is a feature I'd really like to see. Rumor has it that Apple will add status updates to Messages. Statuses are something I've wanted in Messages for what feels like forever, because, let's face it — we're not merely texting anymore. Messaging these days is much more like instant messaging back in the day, but you're presumed to be free at all times now. A status update would help tell people, "Hey, I'm in a movie. Don't be offended if I don't respond for a while."
5. Group Chat Typing Bubbles for iMessages
Currently, only one-on-one chats show typing feedback via the ellipsis (•••) bubble. But with iOS 14, that feature could come to group chats as well, making it easier to know when friends are crafting up their responses to the group.
6. Mark Last Messages as Unread
Apple could be working on a feature that lets you mark the last message in a thread as unread, which is perfect for keeping track of essential texts you can't respond to right away. We assume it would apply to SMS, MMS, and iMessage, not just the latter.
New Customization Features
There's a long-standing stigma that iOS doesn't let you customize your iPhone. While Apple's OS is inarguably more rigid than Android, there's still plenty you can do to make it your own, and iOS 14 adds more options.
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7. Set Third-Party Apps as Defaults
Finally. Apple is apparently considering whether to allow users to choose third-party apps as the system default. That would mean setting Chrome as your default browser instead of Safari, or Spark as your default Mail app instead of, well, Mail.
Apple dipped its toes into default apps with the introduction of Shortcuts. For example, you could build Shortcuts to open URLs in Chrome instead of Safari, or to use Siri with a third-party weather app instead of the default Weather. While these options are nice, they're workarounds, not true system solutions.
Third-party default apps are one area I've wanted to see Apple move to for a long time now. There's no downside — if you like Apple's default apps, stick with the defaults. But, if you're using a third-party browser full-time anyway, iOS shouldn't force you to open Safari when you tap on a URL.
8. List View for Home Screen
For all the ways Apple has changed iOS, one thing that's stayed the same is the home screen's layout. You've always had that same fixed grid, with very little you could do to change it (at least, as far as Apple is concerned). That said, iOS 14 could introduce the first significant home screen update ever, adding a list view option that sorts all of your apps in one simple view.
According to 9to5Mac, the list view will offer multiple sorting options. Specifically, you can sort by apps with unread notifications, as well as filter apps by recently used. You'll also see Siri Suggestions on the list, offering helpful app suggestions based on your activity and routines.
9. New Wallpapers
There aren't any rumors about iOS 14's new wallpapers, but we know they're coming. Apple updates the iPhone's wallpaper catalog with each major iOS release, so iOS 14 will undoubtedly continue that trend.
The real question is what kind of wallpapers Apple will add this year. We'd love to see a little more variety from Apple. Last year, the focus was on the wallpapers that changed from light to dark based on the system theme, a tie-in for iOS 13's system-wide dark mode. We'd like Apple to build on that idea, and add more wallpapers that play into iOS's unique features, especially Live Wallpapers.
Speaking of wallpapers...
10. Third-Party Wallpapers
We might see Apple opening up space in the Wallpaper settings page for third parties. While that might put a dent in the "wallpaper dump" culture we currently have, it would be so convenient for third-party wallpaper creators to add their collections directly to iOS. Let's just hope there are plenty of free options here!
11. New Wallpaper Sorting
The cherry on top of iOS 14's wallpaper news is that Apple is likely to add new sorting options to the Wallpaper settings page. Instead of keeping things to just "Dynamic," "Stills," and "Live," we'll see wallpapers sorted by type. 9to5Mac expects to see options like "Earth & Moon" and "Flowers," to improve organization when looking for a new wallpaper to try. The aforementioned third-party options will find their place here as well.
12. Home Screen Widgets
One department Android leads iOS in is widgets. Sure, iOS has widgets, but they're confined to the Today View, and are less customizable than Android's home screen widgets.
We might see iOS adopt an Android-like widget style in iOS 14, however. A recent image leak shows off what appears to be an interpretation of an iOS home screen with widgets. You can see some icons look like the perfect squares they always have been, while others are elongated rectangles, or larger squares entirely. While the legitimacy of the image can't be confirmed, it does resemble something Apple would produce, so it isn't outside the realm of possibility to think the image could be official.
If you want to get an idea for how this could look in practice, take a look at BuzzFeed product marketing lead Parker Ortolani's awesome concept images below. Ortolani's idea would allow developers to offer three different icon configurations: a classic still icon, a "live" icon that can display information or controls, or a full-size widget.
Unfortunately, this feature is all but guaranteed. Tech analyst Jon Prosser claims he was told iOS 14 currently has no builds of this feature, but Apple "has been working on this." If true, that points more to an iOS 15 release than iOS 14. Still, we'll keep our fingers crossed for home screen widgets by fall.
New Apple Apps in iOS 14
It's not every day you see a new first-party Apple app, but that's what we expect to see in iOS 14. Rumors suggest two brand new apps will hit the iPhone in the fall.
13. New Fitness App
If you have an Apple Watch, you know that Apple is big on exercise tracking. That said, Fitbit has a leg up on Apple when it comes to guided workouts. It's one thing to track your workouts; it's another to know you're properly executing them (and a little extra motivation never hurt anyone).
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Apple clearly wants to catch up in the space, as rumors point to a workout app exclusive to iOS 14. The app will feature downloadable guided instruction for activities like indoor running, cycling, rowing, stretching, core training, strength training, outdoor walking, dance, and yoga, and what you do will be tracked by your Apple Watch.
As of now, it appears these routines will be free to download to your Apple Watch, which would give Apple some advantage over Fitbit's paid service.
14. New AR App
It's no secret Apple has been hard at work breaking into the augmented reality market for years now. IOS 14 could be a significant step for the company, with the introduction of a new AR app, codenamed "Gobi." It will reportedly tie-in with Apple's upcoming AR headset.
Apple is working with its stores, as well as Starbucks, to develop AR experiences for customers. When browsing items at the Apple Store, you'll be able to point your iPhone's camera at a product you like to learn more about it. Also, the app will communicate with "triggers" in the store that will auto-populate data and experiences into the app when you open it.
Interestingly, third parties will be able to add their own "triggers" for a unique experience in each store. Right now, the only store reportedly involved is Starbucks, but we imagine more stores will jump on board if the rumor turns out to be true.
15. New Sleep App
If the Health app on iOS and the Apple Watch in general didn't clue you in, Apple takes health pretty seriously. That said, there's one area the company hasn't committed to yet — sleep. Sure, the Clock app has "Bedtime," but there's no true sleep tracking function on iOS or watchOS, forcing you to look third-party for options.
That could be changing this year. The rumor mill has all but confirmed that Apple Watch Series 6 will ship with sleep tracking, but Apple's wearable might not be the only device getting the feature. Twitter user blue_kanikama shared screenshots of what appears to be file paths from leaked iOS 14 software. In it, we can see an exec file for "SleepModeControlCenterButton," as well as a bed icon labeled "ControlCenter-SleepApp-regular@." Put together, it appears Apple is working on both a Sleep app for iOS, as well as a Control Center tile to launch it.
New Features in Photos
Photos got a major update in iOS 13. While the rumors are a bit light for Photos so far in iOS 14, there are still changes coming to the app. Of course, there could be more changes in store that we're just not aware of yet.
16. #ShotOniPhone Challenges in Photos App
Want some motivation to upgrade to iOS 14 right away? You might find your photos on a billboard near you. Apple's famous "Shot on iPhone" campaign is coming to the Photos app, where you can submit photos directly to Apple for consideration. It's not yet known if it will send pictures to firstname.lastname@example.org or share to Instagram, Twitter, or Weibo with the #ShotOniPhone hashtag. There could even be another more direct way with iCloud.
New Podcasts Features
Apple's Podcasts app has come a long way in recent years. But that doesn't mean Apple is shying away from continued updates.
17. Personalized Suggestions
Podcasts could soon see personalized suggestions enter the fray. According to 9to5Mac, Apple will introduce the feature with iOS 14, in a similar fashion to Apple Music's "For You" tab. That means you'll see new podcasts appear in-app based on your listening habits, instead of what popular everywhere.
18. User Profiles
Stemming off personalized suggestions, 9to5Mac also reports Podcasts will allow for user profiles with iOS 14. You'll be able to follow your friends and check out what they're listening to, again similar to the Apple Music feature.
19. Bonus In-App Content
9to5Mac also reports that Apple will add the ability for podcast creators to add bonus content for their audiences directly in the Podcasts app. Expect your favorite shows — especially big name ones — to offer content outside usual episodes.
New Security Features
One of Apple's biggest strengths in iOS is its commitment to security. Every year, we're very interested to see what privacy and security measures Apple will bring to the table. Here's what we know about so far.
20. Reused Password Warnings in iCloud Keychain
One essential new feature coming to iCloud Keychain is reused password warnings. These alerts are designed to let you know if you already used the password you entered for a different site. That way, you can change the password to something else, strengthening your security.
Reusing passwords is bad. Once hackers find one of your passwords, they'll use it for all the accounts they can think of. If you haven't reused the password, they won't be able to break into any other accounts. If you have, they'll easily slip into the ones that use the same password. The reused password warning will help protect you from that scenario.
21. Generate Two-Factor Authentication Codes in iCloud Keychain
Currently, if you use an app that requires generated two-factor authentication codes for sign-in, you need to go with a paid service like 1Password or a separate authenticator app like Google Authenticator. Apple is looking to change that, as iOS 14 could introduce 2FA codes in iCloud Keychain. Apple would provide the service for free, and in the same location where your passwords are stored, maximizing efficiency and convenience.
New HomeKit Features
If you've dipped your toes into smart home tech, you know how useful HomeKit is. So, who wouldn't you want new HomeKit features with the latest iOS update? There's good news, as Apple seems to be working on a couple of new additions for HomeKit with iOS 14.
22. Auto-Adjust Light Temp Throughout the Day with HomeKit
Smart lights are about to get smarter with iOS 14. The rumor is that Apple is working on a HomeKit feature where smart lights automatically change color temperature throughout the day. That way, you start your day with cooler lights, matching the light coming from outside, but then slowly end up with warmer lights at night, when a more yellow or orange tone is preferred.
23. People Detection for Security Cameras with HomeKit
If you thought smart cameras recording people automatically as they approach your home was impressive (and borderline creepy) enough, it's getting better. Apple is planning to introduce a HomeKit update to smart cameras to support identifying specific people based on their faces. It makes sense since Photos can recognize the faces of individual people, so why not your smart camera?
New Accessibility Features
The more people that can use an iPhone, the better. Apple always emphasizes accessibility with each iteration of iOS, and iOS 14 appears no different. Hand gesture detection and audio accommodations are just a couple of the improvements Apple has in store.
24. Better Mouse Cursors
With iOS 13, we were introduced to mouse support for the first time on the iPhone. While it's great to have the option to use a computer mouse with an iPhone (and especially an iPad), it feels a bit like an afterthought since the feature was both buried, and the cursor itself was a bit simple.
Apple seems poised to upgrade mouse control to something more along the lines of macOS, at least on iPad. 9to5Mac isn't very clear, as it references both iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 in its reporting. Just don't be too disappointed if these changes don't come to your iPhone as well.
Apple might be adding support for dynamic cursors. That means your cursor will change when moving over regular items, text, links, etc., just like it does on macOS. The cursor might also disappear after a few seconds of inactivity, in case you'd like to return to touch controls or just have a cleaner view when reading or watching your device.
25. Detect Sounds & Convert to Haptic Alerts
According to 9to5Mac, Apple is working on a feature for iOS 14 that would detect important sounds like sirens, alarms, and door knocks in your environment, which would then be sent to you as personalized alerts. The site presumes these alerts could come in the form of haptic feedback, so even if you can't hear the sounds, you'll feel the haptics instead.
26. Detect Hand Gestures
Another cool accessibility setting on the horizon is the ability to detect hand gestures with your iPhone's camera. There isn't much information about the feature at this time, but I imagine it will be a big win for users who rely on hand gestures to control their devices, like on macOS.
27. Audio Accommodations Can Improve Audio Tuning
Wrapping up the accessibility features train is Audio Accommodations for audio tuning. 9to5Mac shares this specific quote:
Audio Accommodations can improve audio tuning over AirPods or EarPods for people with mild to moderate hearing loss.
The idea here is that Audio Accommodations, such as an audiogram baked into iOS 14, will help hard of hearing users hear better with their AirPods or EarPods in.
New Features for Accessories
2020 looks like a big year for Apple accessories, at least, according to iOS 14. Thanks to code leaks, we've seen new products and new product support making their way to iPhone (and Apple Watch). If you're interested in an Apple version of Tile or Apple-branded over-the-ear headphones, check out the rumors below.
AirTags rumors are nothing new. We've heard all about Apple's upcoming Tile competitor. What iOS 14's code suggests is that you'll be able to set up multiple AirTags at once on your iPhone, so you won't need to worry about activating the tags one at a time.
We've also learned that AirTags will have a replaceable battery, which is an interesting move for Apple. Most of its products feature a fixed rechargeable battery, so it's a change of pace to see a modern Apple product with a user-removable battery.
Twitter user Soybeys tweeted a video of what they claim are AirTags sounds. It's not clear what sounds are for which function, but it's an interesting video to check out:
29. AliPay Support for Apple Pay
Another change 9to5Mac briefly identified was AliPay support in Apple Pay. If you're someone who uses AliPay, but wants to use Apple Pay's native iOS integration, iOS 14 will be your chance to do so.
30. Apple Watch Blood Oxygen Detection with Warning Alerts
Following in Fitbit's recent footsteps, Apple is reportedly working on introducing blood oxygen (SpO2) detection to iOS 14. While the feature will only work if you have an Apple Watch, you will receive warning alerts on your iPhone if your SpO2 saturation dips below normal levels.
The alert system is nothing new for Apple. You'll currently receive warnings if your heart rate is detected to be too high, too low, or irregular. As with those readings, we expect SpO2 warnings to be automatically logged in the Health app, so you can review any issues.
31. Support for Apple's Yet Unseen Over-the-Ear Headphones
Buried in code for iOS 14 is a logo for a pair of unseen over-the-ear headphones. It would appear these headphones are the ones Apple has been rumored to be working on for some time now. Just like AirPods are Apple's brand of wireless earbuds, these headphones would be Apple-branded as well.
The logo would be used throughout iOS to indicate a connection with the Apple headphones. Right now, there are different glyphs to represent AirPods, Beats, and other supported Bluetooth devices when connected to your iPhone. It would appear the new icon will do the same for Apple's headphones.
New Find My Features
Apple's "Find My" app received a major update with iOS 13, as it combined both "Find My iPhone" and "Find My Friends" into a single app. Now, it looks like Apple is about to take Find My to the next level.
32. Time-Based Alerts for Contacts' Locations
Find My is, of course, a great tool for keeping track of your friends and family. With iOS 14, Apple is planning to deepen that experience. Now, you can set the app to alert you when a contact doesn't arrive at a specified location at a specified time. For example, if your child is supposed to get to their class for 9 a.m. but doesn't for some reason, Find My will ping your iPhone and let you know.
Building off of that feature, Find My will also alert you if a contact doesn't leave a location at a specified time. Let's say your kid is supposed to leave their friend's house at 5:00 sharp to be on time for dinner, but misses that deadline, your iPhone will spill the beans.
33. Use AR for a More Detailed Experience
Find My is also likely to receive AR this year. Apple reportedly is interested in adding augmented reality to your Find My experience, to help guide your search for a missing device, or even one of your friends. It's not clear how exactly AR will be utilized yet.
New Safari Features
As Apple's default web browser, Safari usually gets some major updates with each iOS release. Last year, we saw a slew of new features, such as a new website view menu, custom website settings, and the ability to hide toolbars, just to name a few. Let's take a look at what's new with Safari in iOS 14.
34. Built-in Website Translator
Visiting a website in another language? Don't worry about downloading a third-party app or extension — with iOS 14, Safari will have a built-in website translator, so you can instantly understand what the page in question is saying. Translation will occur through the Neural Engine, which means you can do so offline.
We know about this new feature thanks to 9to5Mac, who report that Safari might not be the end of this translation update. The site claims Apple is testing translation with other apps on iOS, but it's not clear if these tests are in anticipation of iOS 14.
New System Features
Some new features don't apply to just one app or setting. Some new features, instead, apply to the entire system, meaning you see their affects across iOS. For example, iOS 13's dark mode doesn't just work with one app. It automatically adjusts all compatible apps to match the system theme.
35. Accessing Apps Without Downloading Them on Your iPhone
Apple is working on a feature that would allow you to use apps you don't actually have on your iPhone. How would that work? Well, think about it this way. When you tap on an app-specific link right now, your iPhone will do one of two things. If you have the app installed on your iPhone, it'll open the app. If you don't, it'll open the link Safari, or potentially the app's page in the App Store.
In iOS 14, there's a third option — when you tap on a link and you don't have the app, iOS will open a floating "card," which will load the app in question without it needing to be on your device in the first place. It seems to work just like Google Play Instant, if you want to see how an iOS equivalent could look.
We've known about Apple's "CarKey" API for some time now. The software, discovered in iOS 13.4's beta, will allow you to unlock and interact with your car with just your iPhone. Of course, that technology requires two parties to work — Apple and the car manufacturer.
According to 9to5Mac, iOS 14's code shows that Apple is working on this technology with BMW, who could be the first car manufacturer to support CarKey.
37. OS Recovery
The third beta for iOS 13.4 contained the first evidence of a new iOS 14 feature called "OS Recovery." That feature would allow you to restore your iPhone to factory settings over-the-air, which would be huge. While you can currently "Erase All Content and Settings" with just your iPhone, a proper restore requires a Mac or PC and a lightning to USB cable or lightning to USB-C cable.
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I can verify "Detect Hand Gestures." I saw it on my daughter's iPhone Pro Max yesterday.
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