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The best iOS 14 tips and tricks

Apple’s annual mobile updates are hotly anticipated because most device owners can take advantage of them immediately. With iOS 14 — and the current iOS 15 — older devices like 2015’s iPhone 6S can still benefit from most of the enhancements and updates. There are plenty of outstanding features in iOS 14, but also note any iPhone that can run iOS 14 can also run its impressive updated successor, iOS 15, and should upgrade. But if you have yet to do so, or are anticipating the even newer iOS 16 on the horizon, here are some tips and tricks for using iOS 14’s standout features.

How to use widgets

Apple’s updated widgets are a new spin on an old concept. Their enhanced layout and smart stacking capabilities let you combine multiple widgets into a single space on your home screen, allowing you to quickly flip through them. Widgets provide a wealth of information at a glance, and iOS 14 lets you add, remove, and customize them to suit your needs. While widgets are mostly available with native Apple apps like Calendar, Files, Maps, Music, and News, a number of third-party apps like DuckDuck Go, Accuweather, Asana, and more currently feature operative widgets. To add one, long-press on the home screen and tap the “+” icon at the upper-right corner. Then select any available widget from the Add Widgets screen, specify the widget’s shape and size, and drop it onto your home screen. Have a look at our handy guide to iOS 14 widgets for all the ways you can use them.

How to use the App Library

The App Library is revealed on your iPhone by swiping to the right after the last app screen. It is Apple’s way of organizing and categorizing apps to reveal more obscure ones that may be hidden in folders, making them easier to find. You can launch any large-icon apps with a single tap or reveal an entire category of apps by tapping on a four-icon square. With the App Library, almost everything is immediately visible, letting you access all the apps on your phone from this page without having to swipe through all your app pages. You can remove entire app pages to rely mostly or solely on the App Library, if you choose. See our guide for organizing your home screen apps for more information on the App Library.

How to use the Translate app

Apple’s Translate provides on-the-spot language translation on-device without the need for an internet connection. Just enter a word or phrase, choose the language you want to translate to, and the phrase will appear. You can either type in the phrase or say it verbally, and the app will both write it out and recite it back to you. For conversations in two languages, rotate your phone into landscape mode and let Siri recognize each language. There’s support for up to 11 languages. See our guide for more details on how to use Translate.

How to use picture-in-picture mode

Picture-in-picture mode lets you watch a thumbnail-sized superimposed video on any iPhone screen while you perform other tasks on your handset. You can jump back to your home screen while on a FaceTime call, for example, and still have your phone continue your video chat in a small window. This works with video from Apple’s native apps like Safari, iTunes, Podcasts, Home, and FaceTime, as well as Netflix. See our guide on how to use this handy feature.

How to back tap for shortcuts

Back tap is a simple yet highly effective feature that lets you tap twice (or three times) on the back of your iPhone to activate a function or shortcut of your choice. To activate the feature, go to Settings > Accessibility > Touch > Back Tap. You’ll then see two options: Double Tap and Triple Tap. Tap one of them and then chose the action you’d like to assign to it. Actions range from the ability to open the Control Center to using any shortcut you’ve created using the Shortcuts app. Check out our full article on back tap for more information.

How to use streamlined Siri

With iOS 14, Apple added numerous improvements to the iPhone’s interface, including for Siri, which joins phone calls and FaceTime chats as apps that benefit from a more compact visual interface. Instead of occupying the entire screen, Siri’s round icon appears only at the bottom, when invoked. At your request, Siri’s response appears at the top of the screen as a notification card, and if Siri has a question or a comment, it shows up as a tiny banner right above the orb. Siri supports more than 65 languages.

How to access App Clips

App Clips lets you use streamlined versions of apps without having to download their full versions, letting you store them in the App Library, where they won’t take up home screen real estate. App Clips are designed to give you a part of an app right when you need it. You can access app clips through a variety of sources, like clicking on a link in a Safari webpage, in a message, on Maps, or from a QR code. Apple has devised a special code to alert you if an App Clip is available. You can also download app clips using near-field communication (NFC) — but that is only available for the iPhone 7 and later. For more information on how to use App Clips, see our guide.

How to use Hearing control

With iOS 14 comes Hearing, a new Control Center item that helps you protect your delicate eardrums as you listen to music or videos via wireless headphones. Just add Hearing to the Control Center with Settings > Control center. As you play your recording, the Hearing icon tracks audio output to indicate safe or unsafe audio levels. A long-press on the icon gives you the decibel level, where anything over 80 decibels is considered unsafe.

How to set alternative default apps

As always, iOS offers great native apps for you to work with on your iPhone. In the past, though, if you weren’t thrilled with them, you didn’t have much choice in setting go-to apps. With iOS 14, you can choose an alternative browser and email app instead of Safari and Apple Mail. First, make sure your alternative app can function as a default, like Chrome and DuckDuck Go. Then, go to Settings > Browser app > Default browser app and select the one you want to use. From now on, web pages will automatically open in your favorite web-browsing app instead of Safari. You can reverse engineer the process to change it back or to another app.

How to use Shazam with Siri or the Control Center

Another great feature of iOS 14 lets you use the music-recognition app Shazam through Siri or the Control Center. First, make sure you have the Shazam app on your iPhone. To use it with Siri, simply call up the voice assistant and say “Shazam.” To use it with the Control Center, go to Settings > Control center. Then tap the green plus sign next to Music Recognition, which adds Shazam to the Control Center. You can then swipe down for the Control Center and press the Shazam icon to identify songs playing in your vicinity.

How to enhance a Voice Memo

The Voice Memo app is one of the simplest and most useful tools on the iPhone, giving you an easy way to record audio on the spot. In past versions, there wasn’t much you could do in-app if a recording was of poor quality or full of noise. With iOS 14, you can improve the audio quality of a finished recording by toning down background noise. Go to the Edit Recording screen, and then tap the Enhance recording icon to let it run for the length of the recording. Then tap Done at the lower right.

How to control location services

Smartphones track your location — that’s what they do — unless you put a stop to it. With some apps, like Maps, location is critical. For other apps, like Apple Watch Faces, not at all. Go to Settings > Privacy > Location services, where you can see what is being shared with each app on your phone. You can now toggle off Precise Location for any app for which you’d like to keep locations services, say a weather app, but don’t want to broadcast your precise location.

How to create photo and video captions

Until iOS 14, you could not add captions to your photos or videos in the Camera Roll. With iOS 14, it’s super easy. Just navigate to any photo or video you want, and swipe up. There, you will find a place to write a caption. There’s no batch captioning, so each photo or video has to be captioned independently.

How to pin conversations in iMessage

To quickly access your most used threads, iMessage gives you the option to pin up to nine conversations to the top of the app. You can also use this feature with group messages that include SMS or Android messages. To pin messages, go to the top of the iMessage and tap the Edit button. Then find the Edit pins button in the drop-down menu, locate the yellow Pin button by a group or contact, and tap it.

How to search for emoji filters

Emojis are designed to be entertaining or humorous replies to text messages, but if it takes you forever to scroll through all of the options your joke might fall flat. The Search Emoji function for iOS 14 simplifies the emoji-choosing process by using keywords to filter emojis. Just activate the emoji keyboard and search for the appropriate keyword.

How to set Photos app permissions

Privacy was upgraded in iOS 14, notably photo security options that prevent random apps from accessing your images. Customize sharing your photos with various apps by visiting Settings > Privacy > Photos. Select which app you want to adjust access for, and choose All photos, Selected photos, or None. Selected Photos controls which Camera Roll videos or pictures you share with third-party apps.

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Jackie Dove
Jackie is an obsessive, insomniac tech writer and editor in northern California. A wildlife advocate, cat fan, and photo app…
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