A slew of travel-friendly tools will join home-screen widgets in Apple's new iOS 14, representing the most drastic changes to the smartphone software since the product’s release in 2007.
Expected to land in September-October as a free upgrade for all iPhones from the 6s series and later, iOS 14 will join new versions of the iPad OS and MacOS – the later of which will forge the path for Apple's transition away from Intel chips in favour of its own-designed processors, and in the process allow desktop and laptops to run iPhone and iPad software.
Apple says the new Translate app will offer "quick and natural translation of voice and text" and work with English, Mandarin Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, German, French, Italian, Russian, Brazilian Portuguese and Arabic.
Specific sets of translations can be saved on a Favorites tab for easy access later, while users will be able to download translation dictionary sets to enable the app to run offline, rather than requiring a live WiFi or 4G connection to the Internet.
Updates to Apple Maps include travel guides and improved bicycle routes for some cities, with bike routing including dedicated bike lanes and paths along with elevation, busy streets, stairs, and steep passages for use when planning your ride. Apple has also worked with BMW on a wireless car key that can unlock new vehicles using an iPhone.
Widgets, at last
The new home screen allows users to place widgets that sit between the typical grid of apps to present information from an app, such as the weather or a calendar, that updates throughout the day and can be set to varying sizes.
Widgets were one of the most-requested features and one that Google has offered on Android phones for years. Craig Federighi, Apple’s head of software engineering, said the widgets were designed based on the information screens on the Apple Watch.
Some Apple-made widgets let users quickly play podcasts, watch TV shows, read news and view daily fitness activity.
The new software will also allow users to hide apps and access a new screen for organizing and searching for software – a similar feature will also come to the iPad.
For the first time, users will also be able to set their default email or Web browser to any app of their choosing, rather than be locked to Apple's Mail and Safari apps, after the company faced complaints from developers alleging anticompetitive behavior.
Siri, the company’s voice-activated digital assistant, will no longer cover up the screen when opened and will allow users to record audio messages and dictate text messages without transmitting their voice to Apple’s servers. A new version of the Messages app adds improvements to group threads and animated emojis.
Another new tool called App Clips offers miniature software that works without a lengthy download. Apple said this will be useful for renting electric scooters in cities or paying at a parking meter. They can be accessed via websites, the Maps app, text messages or wireless tags.
The iPad will also see new designs for apps that make better use of larger screens. Several apps, including Calendar, Files, Music, Notes and Photos, will receive a Mac-like sidebar and tool bar.
Additional reporting by David Flynn