iOS 14’s public beta is rolling out today

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The public betas for iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 are rolling out today, and they bring a laundry list of new features, including the biggest changes to the iOS home screen that we’ve seen in years.

This will be the first opportunity for anyone who’s not enrolled in Apple’s developer program to try out the new operating systems, which we expect to see in their final form at the end of this summer. The usual caveats about beta releases apply: it’s very possible you’ll experience bugs or glitches that Apple is still in the process of ironing out, so if that’s going to be a huge hiccup for you, make sure your device is backed up (or just wait for the final release).

What you’ll probably notice first is that Apple has redesigned the iOS home screen: you can now add and customize various “widgets” in addition to apps, and there’s a new “App Library” view that automatically organizes your programs into groups and lists — it’s a similar concept to Android’s app drawer.

Siri has gotten a makeover for both systems; it has a new icon that will pop up at the bottom of the iOS interface (rather than overtaking your entire screen) and can now send audio messages (rather than just dictated text messages).

There are a number of improvements to make the system easier for folks with disabilities, including a new sound-recognition feature through which you can tell your phone to listen out for different sounds (sirens, doorbells, etc.) and notify you if it hears them.

Elsewhere, Apple is adding system-wide picture-in-picture functionality to iOS videos and FaceTime calls. There’s a new “App Clip” feature that will allow you to install a snippet version of an app if you only need to access some of its functions (a store’s rewards program, for example). You can finally set third-party email services and browsers as your default. There’s a new Translate app similar to Google Translate, and some new features in Messages including Memojis with face masks and support for threaded conversations in group chats. Maps is getting dedicated cycling directions and routing features for electric vehicles. The Home app now supports facial recognition for Homekit-enabled security cameras and adaptive lighting for smart bulbs. Safari is getting a version of Chrome’s password alert feature. Seriously, there’s just a bunch of different stuff, and what’s most significant to you will vary based on how you use your phone.

iPadOS also hasn’t seen a ton of dramatic changes; it largely focuses on refining the user experience and improving app designs for a large screen. Some apps like Photos and Music have new sidebars, while Calendar has more controls at the top of the screen. Apple has also added a new search engine called Universal Search for pulling up apps, contacts, or documents; and a feature called Scribble will convert handwriting done with the Apple Pencil into typed text.

iPadOS also borrows some of the features coming to iOS 14, including third-party default apps, groups in iMessage, and cycling directions. You’ll be able to set third-party defaults on an iPad as well.

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How to install the iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 public betas
iOS and iPadOS 14 public beta preview: something for everybody

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