iOS14 Public Beta Review: A Sneak Peak Into the Future of the iPhone

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On July 9, Apple finally released the public beta of iOS14. So naturally we at FinalBoss decided to download the update on an iPhone 11 and see for ourselves all the amazing new features coming in September. Here’s our review of what we liked, and didn’t, so you know what to expect later this year. 

A word of caution, Apple does not recommend you install beta software on your daily device. So it’s best if you download the betas on a secondary device that you have lying around. That said, we would rather you wait for the full version to launch in September (with much less bugs). If you still feel adventurous enough, read on to know more before attempting to download iOS14.

iOS 14 Performance

Beta software isn’t meant to be stable, not by a long shot. It’s full of bugs and errors that make using an iPhone a pain. However, iOS14 isn’t anything like that. It’s been nearly a week and my iPhone has rebooted just once (a huge miracle). For a first beta, this is incredibly stable. Some apps have crashed, but for the most part, things seem to work fine. Animations have been smooth and app switching hasn’t caused any issues (yet).

Battery life too has been pretty decent. I’ve been able to squeeze around nine hours of battery life on an iPhone 11, with Low Power Mode enabled when the battery reached 30%. It’s not bad, all things considered. I have had to recharge my phone for about 30 minutes in the middle of the day, but given the fact I spend about eight hours a day on average, this is great.

iOS 14 Interface

New to iOS14 is a more card-like interface. Each button gets divided into its own box, and information (like phone numbers, emails, albums) gets divided into cards with rounded corners. At first, it may not really stand out, but the more you use iOS14, the more you see it. Some apps like Calendar, Contacts and Music really benefit from this new interface. I love the new Music app look, and I can’t wait to see it replicated on macOS. 

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The iOS14 Music app has a new ‘Listen Now’ tab along with a new card-like interface for playlists.

There are however, some inconsistencies throughout the interface. Right now, some apps like the Clock, Phone, Settings and Stocks don’t reflect the new card-like layout entirely. The Timer in Clock also retains its old ticker, rather than the new manual interface for selecting time as seen in Calendar and Contacts. It’s not as fun, but it is more precise and quick.

Updates to Search also make it super easy to use. I often use Search to get to webpages and Contact data, so to be able to do it one step quicker is great. I wish Apple would divide search results per app, like on macOS though. 

One thing I have a major issue with is Apple’s selection of wallpapers. In the first beta, Apple has released three new Stills (with a Dark Mode option). Dynamic and Live wallpapers have been completely ignored. I pine for the good old iOS7 days, when Apple had some amazing options. If the company won’t allow third-party Live/Dynamic options, it should definitely add (and not subtract) more native wallpapers. I loved using Dynamic and Live wallpapers on older iOS versions, but of late the lack of choice has become increasingly frustrating. 

Apple has added just three new wallpapers to iOS14.

iOS 14 Features

I can’t believe it took Apple so long to introduce widgets to the home screen. It may or may not be a complete life changer for some, depending on your use of widgets on older versions. Personally, I love the Batteries, Screen Time and Weather widget. I wish Apple added one for a World Clock and a Timer, hopefully that arrives sometime soon. Apple also removed the Favorites widget, which I hope is purely by accident. I hope it shows up in later builds. There’s clear that there’s a lot of potential here, so I can’t wait to see what developers come up with. 

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Another long overdue update is the new Siri and call interface. I cannot ever imagine going back to the full-screen version, though Apple does have an option to do that. If there is one issue I have, it is that Siri presents results at the top of the screen but transcripts and captions at the bottom. Of course, you can turn these off if you want, but it’s just a little inconsistent when enabled. 

Picture in Picture (PiP) is also amazing, especially with FaceTime calls. While I haven’t tested it with group calls just yet, it works pretty well on one-to-one calls. PiP may be a little too small if you want to multitask while watching videos with captions, but without them it is a very handy feature to have. I am not sure if it is a bug, but my iPhone does tend to heat up slightly when PiP is enabled over prolonged periods, but it’s not a major concern.

The App Library is another hit-or-miss, depending on the user. Personally, I don’t have a lot of apps and they are all sorted on two pages. So I haven’t really used the App Library. However, there is certainly a lot of potential there, especially for people with plenty of apps. I can see the Library being moved to the first page in future iOS versions, where it might be of more use. Intelligent organisation isn’t perfect yet, so it can be confusing at times, but hopefully that is smoothed out soon. 

If you are a frequent user of the Health app, iOS14 will be a pleasant update. Wind Down and Sleep Mode are great ways to limit your phone use late at night, and I love that Apple finally lets you select schedules for weekdays and weekends independently. There is also some new data like walking speed, step length and tracking for symptoms like body ache, coughing and fatigue. In the age of coronavirus, the Health app is a treasure trove. 

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The Health app in iOS14 has gained a new ‘Symptoms’ and ‘Mobility’ section.

I haven’t been able to test out some features, like the updates to Maps and Messaging just yet. However, trawling through Twitter, it seems to me as if they are welcome updates indeed. The Translate app is pretty basic, but works decently for Spanish and German. There’s one little feature I know parents will love – captions for photos. It might not seem like a huge thing now, but for sure parents are going to find this handy. There are plenty of other features I wish I could talk about, but there’s simply no way to break them all down. Bottom line- iOS14 is more personal, customisable and context-driven. 

iOS 14 Privacy Features

Apple has always been big on privacy, but in 2020 it has declared war on Facebook and other apps. The first big privacy feature I want to mention is clipboard content. iOS14 can now warn you when an app copies/pastes data from your clipboard. Early testers have already stormed Twitter, and one user has already sued LinkedIn for reading clipboard data without consent. Expect more lawsuits as the OS rolls out to the public.

Apple has also introduced the ability to share approximate location, rather than your exact location. Apps will still know which city you are in, but they won’t be able to narrow down into what shop/street. Rather, they will see a large area of 10 sq. miles (as per AppleInsider) as your location. This is a great way to hide your visits from nosey apps like Facebook. I’d recommend setting it up as soon as you update. 

Safari’s tracking report is another great (and eye-opening) feature to have. While there’s nothing you can do with the information, it is still good to know where all your data is going. Likewise, the recording indicator is another nifty addition. iOS14 also introduces the ability to limit photo library access. Personally, I don’t find it all that useful since only a handful of apps have access to my library (like WhatsApp and Instagram). However, I can see the case for limited access, and it’s good to have, even if you don’t use it. 

Safari’s privacy report in iOS14

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