WWDC 2020: The Big Changes to iOS and macOS

Wwdc 2020 Featured

For fans of Apple products, June is always a big month. That’s when Apple holds the Worldwide Developers Conference. While developers get an early start on creating and updating their products to work with Apple, consumers get to see all the exciting products that Apple has been working on behind the scenes. WWDC 2020 was one for the books, though, giving users many of the things they’ve been begging for.

Of course, as with most things in 2020, WWDC was different because of the health crisis taking place across the world. Instead of packing developers and press into a venue, this was a virtual event. There was also only one bit of hardware mentioned, as shipping dates are still up in the air. But it’s clear that while Apple engineers have been sheltering in place, they decided they would start granting wishes.

iOS 14

Let’s face it: The idea of the app switcher in iOS was getting very old. Finally, Apple has given us multitasking to be excited about. Most of us have tons of apps on our iPhones. Organizing them in folders makes them too small to see what’s in the folder. But now iOS 14 will automatically organize them into an App Library that puts them into categories and allows you to search through an alphabetical listing.

Wwdc 2020 Ios 14

Just as exciting is Widgets! Sure, iOS has always had widgets, but they will now be much more involved in your phone experience than something you can only access by swiping. Now you’ll be able to make them part of your home screen and will be able to choose their size and how they look.

Other notable changes: Picture-in-picture allows you to resize it a video and continue to watch it while on another app. Apple Maps has added cycling directions. Digital Car Key will be available for now just in the BMW 5 series. App Clips will allow you to use some functions of an app without downloading the whole thing.

When phone calls come in, instead of obliterating the entire screen, they will now just give you small notifications to either answer or swipe away. Messages has received an overhaul as well, allowing you to pin conversations and converse more easily in group conversations. Siri has been improved and is now more immediate and will not force you to lose the context of what you’re working on.

iPadOS 14

Of course, iPadOS 14 will get many of the same changes as iOS 14, such as the widgets, Siri, and iPhone answer notification.

Wwdc 2020 Ipados 14

The App Library wasn’t mentioned in the WWDC 2020 Keynote. Instead, it will utilize a universal search that will allow you to search for anything you want. This includes a website, an app, information, etc. This will work on the home screen or inside apps. There will also be sidebars and pull-down menus in apps that will enable you to get around apps more easily.

If you’re an Apple Pencil user, you can rejoice, as now there will be handwriting recognition in a feature called Scribble. You won’t have to put the Pencil down as often to start typing. You can keep it in your hand and just scribble URLs, notes, designs, etc., and iPadOS 14 will convert it to text.

watchOS 7

As with iOS and iPadOS, watchOS 7 is also getting a few things that have been long-awaited by users. First on that list is a sleep app. Users have had to rely on third-party apps, but now they can rely on either their Apple Watch or iPhone. Your watch will automatically turn to “Do Not Disturb” and will keep the screen from waking you while you sleep. It will also track your sleep and allow you to create a schedule for your routine.

Wwdc 2020 Watchos 7

Watch faces can be shared now. This means not only can you share them with friends, you can save them from your friends, from websites, or from the App Store. No longer will you be confined to only the few that are baked in to watchOS.

Other changes: Fitness receives a few changes as well. There are new workouts, with cycling appearing again, as well as dance, functional strength training, and post-workout cooldown. Additionally, there is a Hand Washing feature that will be triggered when your watch detects that you’re washing your hands. It will ensure you wash for the recommended 20 seconds.

macOS Big Sur

As with iOS 14 and iPadOS 14, organization of apps is also featured in macOS Big Sur. It will feature full-height sidebars and refreshed toolbars to make sure you can always easily see what you’re working on. Just like what iOS has had for years, Macs will now have a Control Center that allows you to access Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Dark Mode, music controls, etc.

Wwdc 2020 Macos Big Sur

Notifications and widgets will be combined in one view so that you can quickly get to the information you’re looking for. Also just like iOS, Messages will allow you to pin conversations and have an improved experience when messaging within a group.

But the big fun change to macOS will be to a re-designed Safari. It hasn’t had many changes in a while. Now you will be able to customize your start page, just like nearly every other browser out there, and now you can find extensions on the App Store more easily. Hovering over tabs will allow you to preview them.

As the only bit of hardware that was announced at the WWDC 2020 Keynote, Apple is doing away with the Intel processors and will be going with custom ARM chips, “Apple Silicon.” It expects to have new Macs with the new chips released by the end of the year, and the change to Apple Silicon will be fully changed over in two years. However, the company promises to continue to support older computers with Intel processors.

tvOS 14

The Apple TV OS isn’t getting any huge updates, but like iOS, it will have picture-in-picture. Ostensibly, you’ll be able to watch a movie while you work out to a fitness app. Also, it will be easier to game on tvOS 14, with multi-user support, saved game progress, and the ability to use more gaming system controllers.

Wwdc 2020 Tvos 14

The biggest change, though, is that there will be enhanced support for using your Apple TV as a home hub. With picture-in-picture, you can see real-time alerts from your security camera that works through Apple HomeKit.

Speaking of Apple HomeKit, it’s been enhanced. Apple has worked along with Google, Amazon, and other tech companies on a universal smart home standard. Now it will be much easier to add devices through the Home app.

Perhaps the biggest change that has requested for so long wasn’t even mentioned. Eagled-eyed folks saw it in a slide about iPadOS 14. Apple will now allow users to change default browsers and email apps. No longer will clicking a link force you to Safari or the Mail app. That’s huge!

The developer betas of all this software were opened for use on Monday. The public betas will be available sometime in July. watchOS will be in public beta for the first time this year. The official releases will be out later this year. Learn how to get public betas of macOS and follow similar instructions for the other OS.

Image Credit: Apples Newsroom

Laura Tucker Laura Tucker

Laura has spent nearly 20 years writing news, reviews, and op-eds, with more than 10 of those years as an editor as well. She has exclusively used Apple products for the past three decades. In addition to writing and editing at MTE, she also runs the site's sponsored review program.


  1. “Digital Car Key will be available for now just in the BMW 5 series”

    This is an interesting idea, but I wonder how well it will be received. After all, I hear that owners are charged hundreds of dollars to clone the chipped keys (I have no personal experience in this as my car is a 2005 Toyota Echo with a regular, unchipped key that only cost a couple of bucks to get duplicated) that are used these days…and I’d think that the car manufactures are unlikely to willingly accept losing all that money.

    I also wonder how long it will take for this to trickle down to the entry-level models of cars that most people drive…after all, not everyone can afford a BMW :-)

    “Now you will be able to customize your start page, just like nearly every other browser out there” (referring to Safari)

    You can do that now. I’m still running 5+-year-old Yosemite, and I’ve customized both the start page (which also gets used with a new “blank” window) and the “new tab” page…the ability to do so is right in “Preferences”. Not that I use Safari often…there are some Firefox extensions I use that haven’t been ported to Safari yet.

    “now you can find extensions on the App Store more easily”

    It’s not difficult to find them now. I opened the App Store, typed “safari extensions” in the search bar and got more than a screen full of them. You can even get there from within Safari, by clicking the Safari menu and selecting “Safari Extensions”.

    What’s actually new with Safari extensions is that Safari is being changed to use the same WebExtensions API that Firefox (and I believe Chrome) use, so all of the extensions that can be used with Firefox (and possibly Chrome) should now also be able to be used with Safari. That’ll be nice.

    “Apple Silicon”

    Heh. Had to laugh when he said that, knowing it was just a way of *not saying* they were switching to ARM-based chips…an announcement some of us have been expecting for about a year now! Of course, that “curtain” didn’t last long…once Craig started demo’ing the updated Macbook, he opened the “About This Mac” window which showed that the processor was an A12Z Bionic, which is the same 64-bit ARM-based CPU that’s used in the iPad Pro that Apple introduced in March.

    “and the change to Apple Silicon will be fully changed over in two years”

    Are you sure about this? They’ve already got at least one Macbook converted (and most likely many others, probably including ones from each model of the Mac lineup, to test things out), so it should be easy enough to quickly convert the entire Mac lineup within a few months to a year…depending on availability of parts, and production capability, during the pandemic, of course. But my understanding from what he said (and the way he said it) is that Apple expects all 3rd-part software to be changed over in two years. This follows somewhat in line with when Apple switched from PPC chips to Intel chips…the original Rosetta was introduced in 2006 with OS X 10.4.4, was depreciated (although still available) in 2009 with 10.6 and was dropped completely in 2011 with 10.7. Now, granted, that’s a 5 year period before PPC program support was dropped, not 2, but conversion from Intel to ARM should be a lot quicker/smoother…developers can see what kind of problems they’re going to run into RIGHT NOW, on current machines. After all, they can already compile for the ARM processors used in iPhone, iPad, Watch and TV…all a macOS developer has to do is select that option for their program(s). The developer of MarsEdit (a blogging editor) has reported that he “flipped the switch” to have the program compiled for ARM processors and it compiled without errors, first time. So, it’s not all that unreasonable to figure that all 3rd-party software will be converted within 2 years.

    1. What I reported here is information direct from Apple. I’m just reporting what they are saying. They said extensions would be easier to find in the app store. If you can already find them easier, that’s great! As far as the Silicon change-over and what they were referring to, the Apple press release says, “Apple plans to ship the first Mac with Apple silicon by the end of the year and complete the transition in about two years.” There is no mention made regarding third-party software.

      1. I meant to post again yesterday, but forgot to. Since I made the other post, I’ve read a few other articles that all report the same thing you did…that Apple expects their *hardware* to be fully converted within two years. So…I stand corrected.

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