The recent Apple event didn’t surprise many with the showcase of new iPads and Apple Watches — though you’ll have to wait just a bit longer for iPhone 12 — but one thing that was a surprise is the sudden release of revamped operating systems for Apple devices.
Typically, the latest iOS drops concurrently with the latest iPhone. This year (and what a strange one it has been so far), they’re releasing iOS 14 early, and along with it comes the new iPadOS 14 and WatchOS 7. They didn’t miss out on updating AirPods Pro and Apple TV while at it, either.
It’s a lot to take in right now, but all you need to know is that the new software should make your life in the walled garden that is the Apple ecosystem a lot easier to navigate through these troubled times.
Here’s how you can get your Apple gizmos up to speed and get started on the new features in store.
iPhone - iOS 14
Before you do anything, spend a couple of minutes just cleaning up your phone — delete those apps that you haven’t touched for months and clear photos, screenshots, videos and other files that are just taking up space. We suggest backing up your iPhone too when you’re done.
Head on to Settings > General > Software Update > Download and Install. It’ll take a while because iOS 14 is a beefy one to download wirelessly. Make sure you have enough battery life on the iPhone or leave it plugged in to power just in case.
Widgets: Spice up your home screen now that widgets — which used to live off the left side of the first page — can be plopped directly on your display. There are multiple sizes to choose from too, so you can see even more information (like weather forecasts, calendar appointments, and reminders) without having to go into the app. Long press on an empty spot on the home screen to enter jiggly mode and hit the plus sign on the top left. There you’ll get to choose which widgets you want and how detailed you want the displayed information to be.
App Library: Now you don’t have to put every single app you download in multiple home screen pages and folders. The App Library is much like the App Drawer on Android phones, but this one lives in the right-most swipe of the screen. It’s just a long page of apps that have been automatically arranged by category so it’s all organised without you having to touch anything. Infrequently used apps can even be removed from the home screen and live in the App Library instead. Less clutter on home screen pages is always a good thing.
Back Tap: More of a hidden enhancement than a highlight feature, you can now double-tap or triple-tap the back of the iPhone to perform custom tasks. First, you have to switch it on via Settings > Accessibility > Touch > Back Tap. There, you can choose various tasks to trigger — so you can make the iPhone take a screenshot or bring up notifications if you tap the back.
iPad - iPadOS 14
The same advice applies — do some basic housekeeping and clear out the junk on your iPad before you update the operating system. Back it up on iCloud or on your Mac or PC.
To make the jump into iPadOS, go to Settings > General > Software Update > Install Now. Keep the device plugged in just in case and it should be done in about 15 minutes or so depending on your internet connection.
In terms of features, you’ll pretty much get the same set of new capabilities (like Widgets, App Library, etc) as iOS 14 on the iPhone. There are some that are specific — or at least more useful — for Apple’s tablet.
Scribble: Got an Apple Pencil? Now you’re able to use it to write in any text field (like search bars) and it’ll convert your handwriting into text. Your sloppy handwriting can even be copied as text and pasted into another app, so hasty notes can be digitised as legible words and sentences.
Shape recognition: Great for illustrators and sketchers. Drawing things like lines, curves, circles, squares, triangles and other shapes will be recognised and the iPad will convert your crude designs into perfect outlines.
Picture-in-Picture: iPads are great for watching video content, and now you don’t have to hit pause when you need to switch to another app. Picture-in-Picture mode will create a floating, resizable screen over your home screen or any other app so the content plays on while you take notes or clear your email inbox, for example.
Apple Watch - WatchOS 7
Updating software is more straightforward on this one. Open the Apple Watch app on your iPhone, tap My Watch > General > Software Update. Download the update and enter the passcode on the watch if prompted.
Automatic hand-washing detection: Clean hands are more important than ever these days, and the watch can actually know when you’re washing them. Upon detection (through motion and sound), it’ll kick off a 20-second countdown so you don’t miss a spot. If you wanted to, you could even allow the watch to remind you about washing your hands once you return home.
Custom watch faces: New watch faces are always welcome (Chronograph Pro is especially cool) but now Apple Watch owners and app developers can create and share their own watch faces with custom designs and complication layouts.
Sleep tracking: Finally, Apple’s own sleep tracking. The new Sleep App will automatically help monitor the duration and quality of your sleep as well as help you wind down for bed when its time to turn in. Keep your watch on and it’ll dim the watch face as you sleep and gently wake you up with little taps on your wrist.