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The Latest iOS Updates Will Improve The In-App Experience In A Big Way

Technology

Tammy Slaughter wrote this article

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This year’s WWDC was an entirely virtual event thanks to Covid19, but it definitely did not disappoint in terms of delivering some much-needed innovation.

Apple has unveiled a number of software updates with iOS14 that will go a long way to improving the overall user experience of iOS apps moving forward.

Let’s dive in.

Introducing The All-New App Library

Finally!

The app library is a dedicated window on the Home screen where apps are automatically organized based on app usage, time of access, recently added, and more.

This is arguably Apple’s biggest change to its user interface ever, and it’s arriving circa iOS 14.

Similar to Android’s app drawer, Apple’s new App Library feature is tucked away at the far right of your Home screens. Simply go to your last Home screen and swipe right to left again. Categories featured in the new interface include productivity, social and creativity.

If you don’t feel like searching through the various categories, you can pull down from the top — or tap on the search box to bring up an alphabetized list of all your apps to scroll through manually, or simply drag your finger down the featured alphabet bar to speed up the process.

If you have countless apps on your phone, swiping through a dozen Home screens may be obnoxious to access the App Library. To rectify this, Apple made it possible to hide additional Home screens. And of course, the new alphabetized search feature helps out immensely, too.

At the same time, a lot of users simply use the universal search bar to open apps, negating the need for all the Home screens cluttering up the interface in the first place.

No matter which camp you belong to in terms of preference with your iPhone’s organization, this move will provide a satisfying app storage solution to users everywhere.

How to hide pages in the App Library on iOS 14

– Enter jiggle mode on the Home screen

– Tap on the pagination dots at the bottom of the screen

– Uncheck any pages you wish to hide

– Tap Done

Into the Land of Widgets We Go

In typical Apple fashion, after successfully piloting widgets with the Apple Watch and working out the kinks, they’re now unpacking these features across their product line with additions to iOS14’s Home screen.

Widgets now come in three different sizes: a small square, a medium double-wide rectangle, and a large box that envelops roughly half your iPhone screen.

‘Today View’, the screen just to the left of your various ‘Home’ screens is chock full of widgets. The ‘edit’ button has been removed from the bottom, instead tucked away in a contextual menu that is opened by pressing and holding down for several seconds on any of the featured widgets. You can also press “Edit Home Screen” to enter ‘jiggle mode’ or quickly add a new one but tapping the “+” button in the top left-hand corner. You can also tap and drag, no ‘jiggle mode’ needed. Easy peezy.

Widgets can also be interspersed amongst your apps on whichever home screen you choose, even stacked to create information-dense areas on your Home screen.

Cue the makeover for all of Apple’s existing widgets you might have previously been ignoring up to this point. Apple Maps, Music, Podcasts, Notes, Stocks, News, Photos, Fitness, and more have all gotten the 2020 treatment.

Do take a look at these once you the update is available for download.

Apple also created an entirely new widget called Smart Stack, which intelligently rotates the widgets you’d need throughout your day. For your morning commute, it may present you with your music streaming apps and a map application you often use. At lunch time, it might feature your photos you so often browse through on your break, and later on at the gym, it might feature the Fitness widget.

This is all dictated by how you typically use your phone throughout your day.

However, you don’t have to let Apple do all the guess work.

The Smart Stack widget can be edited as well, allowing users to turn off specific modules by long-holding on the Smart Stack and tapping “Edit Stack’. This also includes the ability to disable the auto-rotating smart feature of the Smart Stack if you’d like.

App Clips: There’s An App For That, But You Might Not Need to Download It

Here’s what Apple’s press release on App Clip‘s had to say:

“App clips are a great way for users to quickly access and experience what your app has to offer. An app clip is a small part of your app that’s discoverable at the moment it’s needed. App clips are fast and lightweight so a user can open them quickly. Whether they’re ordering take-out from a restaurant, renting a scooter, or setting up a new connected appliance for the first time, users will be able to start and finish an experience from your app in seconds. And when they’re done, you can offer the opportunity to download your full app.”

Essentially, App Clips let users preview small parts of apps quickly without downloading them. The new feature is meant to help users discover more of what the App Store has to offer, without cluttering the home screen or going through a lengthy download for a quick task.

They’re small – less than 10MB – fast, designed to carry out just one or a few set tasks and disappear from your iPhone, along with all the data, after a few days.

By scanning a QR code, a dedicated App Clip code or NFC tags (Apple’s new unique app identifier coming later this year), your iPhone will launch the necessary App Clip card. You will then be able to tap ‘Open’ to launch the app without downloading it. App Clips are also compatible with Apple Pay and Sign in with Apple, so users don’t have to make an account with an app or use credit card information when they want to use an app.

Users will be able to pay for takeout or parking and learn more about local businesses simply by scanning.

Similar to Android’s ‘Instant Apps’ feature, you’ll be able to access App Clips within Messages, Safari, Maps, and Apple.

This is a good thing, as it’s bringing your app’s services to an audience that ordinarily might not download at all. Users will likely be more inclined to enter your app’s unique identifier and explore the app in a way that feels ‘not-so-permanent’, and less prone to cluttering their phone’s screen.

And App Clips don’t necessarily ‘disappear’ right away either.

All recently used App Clips are stored in the App Library for future access. Convenient, right?

Of course, while convenient for users, App Clips will push users to complete transactions using Apple Pay, which as we know, comes with a 30% transactional ‘Apple Tax’. This could draw further ire from developers, who are already concerned with Apple’s undue reach and influence when it comes to app monetization.

Improvements Made with the User Experience In Mind

Together, these enhancements create a more accessible, information-rich, and fast Home screen experience for iOS users.

These user interface improvements extend beyond the home screen and improve some of the iPhone’s core functionalities.

As an additional bonus feature, Siri no longer takes up the whole phone screen when ‘called’ (if you’re anything like me, you’ve summoned her accidentally on numerous occasions and most ungratefully bemoaned the hijacking of your phone’s screen each time).

Calls will no longer take up the full phone screen either, allowing for better usability while you’re on the line. And with ‘Picture in Picture’ mode, users can even watch videos or talk on FaceTime while using other apps at the same time, with the ability to move and resize the video as needed to any corner of the iPhone’s screen.

I, for one, am loving these new space saving measures when it comes to the user experience and being able to use multiple apps at once while utilizing the iPhones’ other core functionalities.

Many of these features users have been clamoring for while now, with Apple just now delivering, but doing so in typical Apple fashion. Everything feels polished, and designed this way for a reason.

Right now, the biggest downside to this update is with the iPad. iPad is getting many of these changes, but it distinctly lacks the App Library as well as the ability to place apps anywhere on the Home screen, still confined to the Today View list. Likely, the thinking behind this is that Pad’s display is larger, so finding apps is less of a chore, but it still would be beneficial to users. We’ll keep an eye out for this update with iPadOS 14 whenever it exits beta.

These updates arriving with iOS14 will go a long way to encouraging both deeper and more sporadic interaction with apps and services available in the App Store, and we are so excited to see what’s in store next.

Stay tuned, folks.

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