Apple iOS 14 and WatchOS 7 Boast New Features

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Apple says the next version of its iPhone operating system will include a handful of new features designed to declutter its users’ growing app collections, while also better protecting their digital privacy and improving the company’s own maps and messaging applications.

The improvements were announced Monday at the company’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), which is being held entirely online thanks to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Apple showed off similar revamps of the operating systems behind Apple’s computers, streaming TV devices, and iPads.

Meanwhile, updates for the Apple Watch operating system include redesigns of its activity and workout apps, along with new sleep-tracking abilities and more ways to customize and share watch faces.

And, perhaps in the best reflection of the times we live in, WatchOS 7 will include, no joke, automatic hand-washing detection.

Apple’s iOS 14 will officially launch this fall and be available as a free download for iPhones dating back to the iPhone 6s. WatchOS 7 will roll out at about the same time and be compatible with Apple Watches dating back to the Series 3.

Here’s a quick look at some of the new features the operating systems will offer. 

New Features in iOS 14

More organized look. It’s easy to let your homescreen get cluttered with way too many apps, making the ones you do use frequently hard to find. Apple’s new App Library feature will automatically organize them for you, shrinking what once were pages of apps into one screen.

Apps you’re most likely to use next will appear at the top, along with a grouping of your most frequently used apps, and any you recently downloaded.

Apple also has redesigned widgets. They’ll contain more information and be easier to access. You can pin them on any home screen, or view them in a “Smart Stack” that automatically appears at a certain time of day, or when you’re in a certain location. You’ll also be able to choose how big you want them to be.

Picture in picture. The ability to keep watching a video or stay on a FaceTime call while checking your email or texting someone at the same time should delight the multitaskers of the world. You’ll have the option of playing the video in a small window on your screen, or just running the audio in the background.

Smarter messaging. You’ll be able to pin your most important conversations to the top of your screen. And, when responding to group messages, you’ll be able to create conversation threads with inline replies. You’ll also be able to tag specific people in the conversation to make sure they see your message.

Looking for more Memoji fun? Apple’s adding new hair and headwear styles, as well as face-covering and age options.

Improved privacy. Later this year, Apple says, App Store product pages will feature easy-to-read summaries of each app’s privacy practices in order to give you a better idea about what you’re giving up if you download them.

Apple also is going to help you switch existing online accounts that you’re currently logging into with another service, such as Facebook or Google, to the option Apple rolled out last year, which the company says does more to protect your privacy.

There also will be more options for location sharing. Instead of having to share your exact location, you’ll be able to share a more approximate one.

Better maps. You’ll have the option to set your maps up for a cycling experience. They’ll take into account both bike paths and roads when planning your route, as well as warn you of big hills and stairs along the way.

The new maps app also includes electric-vehicle routing that will help you find compatible charging stations.

Conversation translation. Apple’s new Translation app will automatically detect which of 11 languages are being spoken and provide a real-time translation. Other devices, such as Google’s Pixel Buds, have similar capabilities, but what makes Apple unique is that the translation takes place on the device itself, not on a cloud server. That means you don’t have to worry about your private conversations being sent to the cloud for processing.

WatchOS 7

New ways to customize. There are a handful of new watch faces and more ways to make them your own. For instance, if you need a watch focused on swimming, you can add a handful of Complications to your watch face that give you direct access to your swimming related apps.

Apple’s also making it easier for friends to share watch faces with each other. Just press on the display, then choose a contact to export it to.

Fitness focus. Apple is rebranding its current “Activity” app (the one that shows you those three activity rings) as “Fitness.” And it’s adding four new activities to the Apple Watch’s automatic workout tracking feature that will include dance, core training, functional strength training, and cooldown.

Sleep tracking. While Fitbits have been doing this for years, this is a new thing for Apple. Like Fitbit’s app, Apple says its version will eventually show you your sleep habits over time. But, unlike Fitbits, Apple Watches aren’t currently designed to last more than one day on a charge and many people are accustomed to taking them off and plugging them in at night.

Apple says it expects many users to quickly power their watches up either before they go to bed, or first thing in the morning.

Hand-washing detection. Based on your movements, Apple says your watch will be able to tell when you’re scrubbing up. And then, based on audio cues, it’ll know how long you do it for. There will be a 20-second countdown, with sounds and haptics to keep you going. And, if you stop early, you’ll get an alert from your watch.

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Consumer Reports is an independent, nonprofit organization that works side by side with consumers to create a fairer, safer, and healthier world. CR does not endorse products or services, and does not accept advertising. Copyright © 2020, Consumer Reports, Inc.

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