Originally, I was going to write something up about the new MDM controls for iOS, but they just weren’t that compelling. MacOS has some major improvements, but I felt this week we are best served with looking at iOS 14. My review is mainly focused on features that Enterprises care about so no Emojis or Photos here! We will cover the following areas:
- iOS 14 Layout Changes including Widgets and the App Library
- The New Siri
- Search Improvements
- Introducing “Set Default Apps”
- iMessage Improvements
- Apple’s New Translate App
- Safari Improvements
- App Clips
- Privacy Enhancements
- Back Tap
- Field Test Mode
iOS 14 Layout Changes
in iOS 14, they are reimagining the layout, which really means they are copying Android sorta and also putting their own spin on what a layout really means. We will talk about Widgets, the App Library, and how it impacts your layout personalization.
For the last few years, if you swipe enough times, you would eventually find a dashboard with all sorts of faux widgets. You can see on my iPad Pro, sort of what it’s like below. It’s nothing special focusing on things like upcoming meetings, app suggestions, Apple News etc. You would have an exhausting number of widgets to use for 3rd party applications, Apple Apps, etc.
iOS 14 Widgets
With iOS 14, they are introducing a new evolution of widgets. You can now use widgets more interactively along with 3 different sizes of widgets, depending on your requirements. Additionally, we have these great advancements called “Smart Stacks” which we will cover.
As of Beta 3, we have the following options for widgets below.
As you add your widgets, you will be given the opportunity to pick one of the 3 form factors, which makes the creation a breeze. The examples for battery look like this.
Your end result of your widgets could look like this, which I know you will agree is a huge step in the right direction.
Another item to cover in widgets are stacks. Stacks are a nice new addition in iOS 14 where you can create a carousel of widgets to flip through for an immersive experience. This is probably one of my favorite concepts as it’s innovative. It’s hard to innovate in mobility as most people are just stealing ideas from each other. Let’s show you a quick demo on how this works.
Stacks is a compelling feature that helps the minimalist in all of us come to life. Stacks will become more intriguing once 3rd party widgets hit iOS 14 in the near future. That takes us to the last of the features we wanted to hit on.
iOS 14’s new invention for user experience is known as the “App Library”, but I assure you there will be no librarians!
The iOS App Library you could look at as a natural progression to the app folders that some people use to put similar apps together. I think the App Library is a great new feature that helps make an overwhelming home screen more manageable. A quick video on the feature can be seen below.
One last thing to mention are new settings feature introduced that will let you put all new app downloads only in the App Library making your device even simpler and organized.
Home Screen Personalization
The last thing that I wanted to cover is how you can build a really compelling home screen layout with these new features. The widgets can now be moved into the pages of your home screen bringing everything together and eliminating the tedious flipping needed in iOS 13.
The New Siri
Siri has made a few nice enhancements in iOS 14 similar to MacOS. One of the main ones that I love is how it doesn’t take over your entire screen anymore.
A few of the ways that Siri has improved in iOS 14 are:
- Much larger collection of facts
- Large improvement on using web-based information to provide facts
- New Share ETA function in iOS 14 (shows a live-updated route similar to when you order food)
- Support for 65+ languages
Siri overall just feels cleaner and simplified, which is a major setup over its invasive approach in the current version of iOS.
Search Improvements in iOS 14
iOS Search since introducing Spotlight some years back has been a work in progress. iOS 14 has done a nice job of cleaning things up. The first thing that I really like is how they have cleaned up the GUI for Spotlight. When typing in a search term, it will now display tiled sections for Safari history, web searches, and to search inside of apps that support these new APIs.
Additionally, a nice accessibility feature available is how you can just tap “enter” to select the application you are searching for which open faster than ever before.
Setting Default Apps
A new feature that is very exciting for many people right now is setting default apps for mail and browser. This feature is not yet available on the public BETA because the developers need to add the default web browser and default mail client entitlements on their applications.
The gist of this feature will be to let you set your default browser and mail client in iOS 14 similar to this screenshot below. The hope is that Apple will extend this to other apps in the future, but it will definitely make many of those Apple apologists quite happy.
I don’t typically bring up iMessage when I think about enterprise features, but I feel like they have added a few feature that I will highlight that save some time. Before we dive into that, don’t forget to enable two of the features “Notify Me” and “Filter Unknown Senders” that I will cover.
Filtering Messages in iMessage
in iOS 14, you can now filter your messages to prioritize things easier. After enabling the feature above, you can tap on the “Filters” section and select to read messages from everyone, known senders, or unknown senders. It’s a nice enhancement on the spam filtering, but is good to point out.
Pinning People in iMessage
You have Outlook so you know what pinning is. You long press on a contact and tap “Pin Mike” in this example and it will pin them to the top of your iMessage List.
The really cool thing is that you can see chat bubbles when they are typing to you and then a small preview of their unread messages. It’s a beautiful feature that I give them major kudos on.
Yes they have finally copied Slack. Now people can shut up about it!
You can now long press a message, click “Reply” and start a threaded message. You can see the neat icon in iMessage showing the inline chat.
The last item that I wanted to cover are @mentions. In group conversations, you can now @mention people just like Office 365. If you recall up above, this is a feature that we enabled in the Messages settings.
Apple Translate is an intriguing addition to iOS 14 that I think falls a bit flat at this point. One nice thing for world travelers is you can save languages for offline use, which is very handy.
A few of the features that the translate app offers are:
- Automatic Translation and detection of languages
- Integrated Dictionary
- Read-Aloud Translations
I have a few many gripes with the application and usability. Siri should be able to translate on the fly and send text messages with it e.g. “Siri send a text messages to mom translate english to spanish how are you today?” Additionally, you should be able to seamlessly use the share sheet inside of translate to make it more functional.
Overall, I consider this application to be mostly a Google Translate copy that is missing that “it factor” similar to when Apple Maps first came out. “Dear Apple, people like Google and need a reason to not like Google to use your apps.”
A few of the Safari improvements, which will be hashed out more as we get closer to a final product are:
- Built-in Translation Features
- Website Tracking Reports
- Password Monitoring
The Translation is pretty simple. You just tap the aA icon in the navigation bar and tap “Translate to English”
Website Tracking Reports
Website Tracking Reports deserve some nice attention. Basically, it monitors your identity security in Safari. This feature shows all of the trackers that are installed on a website and what Safari blocked. It’s a smart move that gives peace of mind:
Apple is now taking another page out of Google’s book with actively monitoring passwords in your keychain and providing recommendations. It’s not rocket science, but is a nice way to make your users paranoid.
Once you navigate itself, it will show you where you should make some changes.
App Clips are another exciting advancement that improves upon some of the App Thinning stuff Apple has introduced in recent years. Basically, instead of downloading a full application, you can use a part of the application in the moment. It’s good to point out that you can allow or block this feature via MDM when the new iOS 14 APIs hit.
Apple will let you leverage 6 different ways to launch App Clips as developers to make life simple.
One of the things that I love about App Clips is it’s part of their application aka Xcode project, which means as people release new versions of their applications for iOS they will hopefully have App Clips available. The code required isn’t bad at all. I suggest looking at the Apple Developer documentation here to learn more.
We won’t go too deep here, but they are now offering a few new enhancements for privacy in iOS 14.
- App Store Privacy Notice links in the Apple App Store for Consumers
- Clipboard Notifications showing when pastes occur
- Tracking Controls
- Network Access
- Photo Access will let you grant scoped access to your photos for 3rd party applications
- Recording Indicator will notify you when you are recording
Wireless Private Addresses
Another section that needs a good explanation are Private Addresses. This is luckily a feature that will be customizable with the iOS 14 MDM updates. You will likely need extensive testing of this on my corporate networks as it tends to break things.
This feature will anonymize your MAC address, which is another popular idea that will pickup speed quickly. We need to protect our identities and this is a great advancement.
Approximate location is a huge feature and needs its own area. This new feature let’s you track GPS on your users, but without the major security concerns. They NEED to get this into the MDM APIs. When you set this feature on an application, they will only get a rough idea of where you are and not an exact location, which is HUGE.
Back Tap is a feature that I love and many people aren’t noticing it exists. Basically, you can setup shortcuts for when you tap the back of your phone twice or three times. You set them up in Accessibility > Touch > Back Tap
You have a multitude of settings to choose from, but it can be very useful. I strongly believe in ergonomics in mobility and this is a great addition.
Field Test Mode
This is mostly for geeking out and because they cleaned up the field test mode visual.
You can get into this mode by opening the phone call and placing a call to *3001#12345#*
Field Test Mode is a nice way to seeing your cellular metrics and looking at their strength when you have cellular issues. Something for you to check out if you have interest. I’m definitely a big fan.
Now Its Your Turn
In recent years, I’ve reviewed code changes and introductions from Apple like my article here. I decided to go in a different direction this year and see how iOS 14 will us as Mobility Engineers and Architects.
The iOS 14 features are going to be a big help, but only if Apple gets their act together. The lack of changes on Apple iOS MDM API is a concern especially considering some of the great new features around customization and privacy.
Only time will tell if Apple understands the enterprise and punts on the user experience. We can be creative, but only with the crayons that Apple puts in our coloring box. We will rely heavily on our MDM vendors and their great team to help us build on these changes and move forward.