One of the biggest new features in iPadOS 14 is better Apple Pencil functionality
Apple's own iPad apps get a revamped UI with a sidebar
watchOS 7 gets sleep tracking and improved UI complications
AirPods Pro can now deliver spatial and directional sound effects
Apple has unveiled iPadOS 14, watchOS 7, and new features and functionality for AirPods and AIrPods Pro, among the many announcements made at the WWDC opening keynote. iPadOS 14 gains all the features first shown off in the earlier iOS 14 demo, along with new tools and optimisations that are specifically aimed at getting the most out of an iPad's large screen and Apple Pencil compatibility. The improvements to watchOS 7 include better watch face management, sleep tracking, new workout types, and hand washing instructions. The new operating systems for Apple's portfolio of devices will be available later this year.
What's new in iPadOS 14?
The main UI improvement dedicated to Apple's iPad and iPad Pro models is the sidebar element, which has been added to multiple first-party apps including Apple Music, Mail, Notes, Calendar, and Photos. The sidebar will let people quickly jump between sections, and also to drag and drop content between things such as playlists and photo galleries.
Another improvement specific to Apple Music is a new Now Playing screen that has room for live song lyrics to scroll in sync with the music, alongside playback controls.
There's also a new drop-down toolbar UI element in multiple apps, allowing users to quickly find more controls in one place
Apple's first-party apps get a new sidebar for navigation
iPadOS 14 introduces a new search interface with the whole function being rebuilt to work more like macOS's Spotlight pop-up search bar. You can launch apps, find contacts, and even jump to websites, and iPadOS will autocomplete as you type.
Users might also appreciate the new incoming call UI, which uses a notification-style popup at the top of the screen rather than obscuring the entire interface, interrupting whatever you're doing. This works in iOS 14 on iPhones as well.
There are many improvements to Apple Pencil functionality on compatible iPads, aimed at making scribbles and handwriting input smoother. You can now write with the Apple Pencil directly into any text field such as Safari's address bar or the new search UI. Apple demonstrated support for English and Mandarin handwriting recognition. This lets you multitask without having to put the stylus down to type using the keyboard.
Apple Pencil can also be used to make sketches look more professional, just by pausing after completing a line or shape. Users can now select what they've written and convert it to text instantly. It's also easier to rearrange scribbled content on a page to make space for new things. iPadOS 14 will also recognise things like contact names, addresses, and phone numbers that have been handwritten, allowing users to use them to trigger actions.
Not mentioned during the WWDC presentation, but teased on screen, iPadOS 14 also gets a new version of ARKit and a new depth API to help with augmented reality applications. It will also help leverage the LiDAR scanner on the latest iPad Pro models.
Also not mentioned, but reported by The Verge, iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 will allow users to set third-party email apps and web browsers as their defaults, in a break from Apple's tight control over the user experience. This has also been a much-requested feature for years.
New features shared with iPhones running iOS 14 include a new compact Siri UI, overhauled privacy features, new home screen widgets, an improved Messages UI and more memoji customisation options.
iPadOS 14 will be available for the iPad Air 2 and later, iPad (5th Gen) and later, iPad Mini 4 and later, and all iPad Pro models, later this year.
Apple Watch can now track sleep and hand washing durations
What's new in watchOS 7?
Among the many new capabilities of Apple's watchOS 7 are greater flexibility in arranging watch face complications. Users can now have multiple complications from a single app, and can now share watch face configurations with specific complications. Watch faces can also be downloaded from various websites or messages, allowing companies to share specific configurations with users.
Sleep tracking is a long-awaited feature. Compatible Apple Watch models can help users with a downtime routine, pre-set sleep goals, and a UI showing important information in the morning. Silent haptic alarms can help a user wake up without disturbing others.
Considering the current pandemic, Apple has also introduce hand washing detection. Apple Watch can help users wash their hands for an appropriate amount of time.
New workouts that can be detected include dance and core training. The iOS Activity app has been renamed to Fitness and gets new visualisations of activities.
Noise level updates will help users stay at comfortable and healthy volumes when using headphones.
Other features include cycling directions through Apple Maps, Siri translations, and mobility metrics.
What's new with AirPods and AirPods Pro?
AirPods and AirPods Pro can now switch between multiple Apple devices instantly, depending on which ones audio is playing from. Spatial audio for AirPods Pro allows for surround sound and directional audio effects with the sound sources staying in place even when a user moves their head or is in a moving vehicle.
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Jamshed Avari has been working in tech journalism as a writer, editor and reviewer for over 13 years. He has reviewed hundreds of products ranging from smartphones and tablets to PC components and accessories, and has also written guides, feature articles, news and analyses. Going beyond simple ratings and specifications, he digs deep into how emerging products and services affect actual users, and what marks they leave on our cultural landscape. He's happiest when something new comes along