An iOS 14 Beta Review
At the time of writing the third public beta of iOS 14 has just been released. As such, I have decided this is a perfect time to drop my feelings on the new iOS after having used it for a few weeks.
If you're just here for a quick and dirty review I'll tell you this: iOS 14 is good. If you're a nerd like me, you will like it. If you'd like a bit more detail, read on.
In a previous post, I mentioned that the important new features of iOS 14 are its new App Library, the overhaul of widgets, and updates to Messages. I still believe this, so those features will be the ones I focus on.
Also, I don't plan on explaining what these new features do again. If you're reading, I assume it's because you're interested in Apple or because you read my last Apple blog.
Firstly, the App Library is simply wonderful. I've kept my iPhone pared down to one screen for years now, and this has mostly resulted in a series of ever-more-confusing folders, all due to the amazingly huge amount of apps I keep on my phone. I probably use about six or seven apps every day (Messages, Instagram, Twitter, Reminders, Drafts, Streaks and Safari, if you care), but I have (checks notes) 66 apps on my phone. That means about 90 percent of the apps I have are ones that mostly just... sit around. Before iOS 14 this was a huge issue because my home screen was overly cluttered with folder upon folder of tiny icons I never actually investigated. Now, however, I am proudly folder-free. I keep most of a page of apps at the ready for when I need them and anything else is happily hidden away in the new Apps Library. I genuinely feel a lot better looking at my home screen now, and given my iPhone is by far the device I use the most, that means a lot.
Next comes widgets. Boy, oh boy have I ever been so conflicted on something I was absolutely sure I would love. I keep two (call it four) widgets on my new home screen; the clock on its own, and Weather, Calendar and Reminders in the form of a Smart Stack. I thought widgets were going to be a game-changer for me, but really they're just a neat new addition. My biggest issue comes in the form of utility. See, widgets in the iOS 14 beta act more or less like over-sized, information-presenting buttons. For the most part they are completely non-interactive. For some apps, like Weather, this isn't an issue, but apps like Reminders really suffer here. This means that when I have, let's say, a reminder set to check my email on display that I need to check off, clicking said reminder on my widget doesn't tick off the task, but rather opens up the Reminders app. This is really annoying, because it feels like Apple almost got there, but not quite. The whole point of widgets, to me anyway, is to create situations where I don't have to open the full app, but iOS 14's widgets do the exact opposite. Don't get me wrong, I love widgets. I just hope Apple fleshes them out a bit more before the Fall.
My time with Messages is probably the most boring of all my iOS 14 experiences. I don't use Messages for any kind of professional work, so the biggest new feature to come to Messages for me is the ability to pin threads to the top of the app. I have a couple group chats pinned to the top of my Messages app along with a place of honor for my girlfriend, and it's been really nice for the most part. Pinning group chats means my thread list no longer gets bogged down when a couple people in my friend chat decide to go off and have their own conversation, which can be really nice for managing notifications. This ability to more easily ignore new texts is a double-edged sword, however. I often find myself muscle-memory checking only my main list of message threads for new texts, so I sometimes miss an important update in a group, or worse, a text from my girlfriend. This problem is a user error though, and something I know will fix itself over time as I get better at using the new Messages app.
All in all, I really like what Apple is doing with iOS. It seems like they're finally listening to consumers and adding features we've been asking for since Android got them years ago. It's nice to feel excited about Apple again, and I really look forward to what the next couple years has in store.