Even if the iOS 14 release date is still very far off given we're still enjoying the last big iPhone operating system update, iOS 13, the next one is coming later this year - and we’re very curious what iOS 14 features are headed our way.
True, Apple hasn’t released anything remotely official that’s come out about iOS 14. But given what was left out this time around - and what new technology could be coming in the iPhone 12 - we can make some educated guesses about what’s coming in the next big iOS update.
Some of these are obvious, like support for 5G should Apple finally decides to release a 5G iPhone that works with the next-gen phone networks. If there's somehow an Apple foldable, well, iOS 14 will have software to make that work, too.
Other iOS 14 features take a little bit of speculative leaps to imagine which tweaks Apple might make in its continual improvements on its iPhone operating system.
Update: The latest rumor suggests that iOS 14 will have a redesigned app switcher. Plus, we've also heard that iOS 14 may be compatible with every iPhone that can currently run iOS 13 - in other words, the iPhone 6S or iPhone SE and newer.
iOS 14 release date and beta schedule
Given last year’s big iOS updates came out on September 19, one day before this year's new iPhone line, we’re guessing that iOS 14 will launch in late September 2020. That will be just in time for the launch of the iPhone 12, which will be the first phones to get the next iOS.
Assuming Apple follows prior years, it will likely unveil iOS 14 at its annual WWDC conference - WWDC 2020 will likely be in early May - and open the initial developer beta the same day. The first public beta will follow later in the month, and will accordingly get new betas after the developer versions.
iOS 14 compatibility
While Apple didn’t leave any phones behind when it introduced iOS 12, the most recent jump to iOS 13 made up for it by stranding two generations of iPhone handsets – anything older than the iPhone 6S or iPhone SE. It’s unclear what kind of new features require Apple to raise the threshold for which iOS phones will be able to download the new version of iOS, so it’s all speculation whether a generation of older iPhones won’t be able to install iOS 14.
We’ll almost surely know which iPhones won’t be able to upgrade when Apple launches the first iOS 14 betas. For now, our best guess is that the iPhone 7 will be the cut-off point, with the big question being: will iPhone SE get the iOS 14 update?
All the hubbub of an iPhone SE 2 launching in March 2020 lead us to think it won’t, but another rumor suggests Apple is thinking of keeping support for the iPhone 6S and SE or newer. It's always possible that Apple changes its mind in the next few months, of course.
iOS 14: rumors and predictions
iOS 14 could usher in the 5G iPhone era
This might be the easiest feature to guess Apple will bring to the operating system in 2020. Unfortunately, as we’ve seen with other 5G phones, this feature can’t be retroactively applied to older iPhones - hooking up to 5G networks requires a particular type of modem and compatible processors. Only the newest phones with the latest top-tier chipsets and modems have been capable of harnessing 5G.
iOS 14 could spill support for Apple AR glasses
Apple is planning to release AR glasses sometime in 2020 alongside a 5G iPhone, according to a Bloomberg report. These would initially serve as an iPhone accessory running through iOS to display text messages and map directions, though that could grow over time to run their own proprietary apps from a dedicated AR glasses store - and perhaps become a standalone successor to the iPhone itself.
Before that happens, though, Apple’s AR glasses would need a killer app as its raison d’etre - or rather, reason for buying, as the lukewarm reception to Google Glasses and even Snapchat Spectacles 2 can tell us. Heck, even Amazon is couching its new Amazon Echo Frames behind an experimental product line to soften any hype.
But given the years of experience developers have had with Apple’s ARKit, it wouldn’t be surprising if 2020 was the year we see Apple branch out to smart spectacles - and iOS 14 could support it.
iOS 14 could have a new app switcher
Rather than the current switcher that fans apps out like a deck of cards, this one shows four per screen with a smaller image of each. There's also (as part of the leak but not in the video) the suggestion that users might be able to choose between these two layouts, among others.
However, we'd take all of this with a pinch of salt. The leak might not be genuine and even if it is, the presence of a feature in an internal build doesn't mean it will be available in the finished version - Apple might just be trying it out.
iOS 14 what we want to see
These days, everyone’s doing business on their phones, including sending emails at all hours. So why can’t we insert links into text in iOS’ Mail client? Or in third-party mail clients like Gmail?
This isn’t just a convenience issue - inserting links just looks more professional. When responding to clients or simply wanting to save space it would be great to give the impression that we’re responding from desks - and not filling our messages with eyesores like full links.
Smarter spam calls filter
While iOS 13 introduced the capability to detect and block spam phone calls, it isn’t too smart. Silence Unknown Callers, as it’s termed, does exactly that - completely blocking any number not from your contact list and sending it straight to voicemail. That’s a good start, but a bit of a strong measure that isn’t too useful for folks with incoming calls from new business contacts or Tinder dates.
Instead, it would be great to see smarter alerts that indicate probable spam calls, as some carriers have started doing and some third-party App Store apps do – for a price. Then it would be nice to have different levels of filtering - light blocking for only the most obvious spam numbers all the way up to aggressive filtering of any call that even has a chance of being a scam.
This is a bit of a stretch since we haven’t heard anything about a foldable iPhone. Oh, Apple is almost surely experimenting with the tech deep in its R&D labs, but without a planned model in the works, it’s unlikely iOS 14 will go to the effort of supporting foldables.
This is in stark contrast with Android, which introduced foldables support with Android 10 just in time for the Samsung Galaxy Fold public release. Apple is on its own timeline, and there’s no rush to add the capability in its operating system before they have a model on the way.