January 25, 2021
Ditch Apple Mail and Safari by using iOS 14 and iPadOS 14's new default app feature

11 iPhone and iPad tips and tricks: Everything you need to know about iOS 14


iOS 14 changes the iPhone’s homescreen. 

Óscar Gutiérrez/CNET

Apple released iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 in September, adding new features and capabilities to the iPhone and iPad. (Here’s the full device compatibility list.) And while we didn’t have a new iPhone to go along with the launch of a new version of iOS this year, we now know that Apple will announce the iPhone 12 on Oct. 13 at its “Hi, Speed.” event

We don’t know what special features the iPhone 12 will bring, but we’ve been using iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 and have found plenty of tweaks, settings and features that are sure to change how you use your Apple devices. 

For example, you can completely personalize your iPhone’s homescreen by creating custom app icons and placing new-look widgets wherever you want. For its part, the iPad’s update adds the ability to use the Apple Pencil ($125 at Amazon) to write in any text field, instead of pulling up the keyboard. That’s just the beginning. 

Here are the best tips and tricks we’ve discovered for iOS 14 and iPadOS 14. We’ll frequently update this post, so check back for more fantastic tips. 

Read more: How to install iOS 14 and iPadOS 14


App Library is the iPhone’s new app drawer. 

Jason Cipriani/CNET

1. Check out the new homescreen features

The iPhone gained an app drawer-like feature called App Library, which acts as a warehouse to store all of the apps you don’t regularly use. You can access the App Library by swiping from right-to-left on your screen past all of your current home screens. Another first for the iPhone is the ability to place widgets on the homescreen. Apple provided developers with the tools to create a new style of widget that’s sure to make your Android friends jealous. We go into more detail about the homescreen changes here

2. Create a custom Smart Stack widget

Speaking of widgets, you’re not locked into using Apple’s curated Smart Stack widget. You can create your own stack of widgets using the same technique you’d use to create an app folder. Seriously, it takes longer to decide which widgets you can include than it does to create it. 

Just keep stacking widgets until you’re happy. 

Animated image by Jason Cipriani/CNET

3. Make your own app icons

Apple also added new features to its Shortcuts app, with the most popular addition being the ability to create your own app icons and fully customize the look of your phone. So instead of the Apple Mail app icon, you can download an icon that replaces it with a picture of a cute cat or the Gmail icon and use that to launch the app. The process is somewhat tedious, but if you want a homescreen that’s unlike any other, it’s well worth your time. 


Custom icons are all the rage right now. 


4. Use apps without installing them, thanks to App Clips

Think of App Clips as miniature apps that only show you a portion of what the full app can do. For example, a Yelp App Clip could show you business hours and the menu for a specific restaurant and nothing more. Want to try one? Open the Apple Maps app on your iPhone, search for Panera Bread, tap on a location and then select Order Food. Pretty cool, right? After using an App Clip, you can access it again in the App Library in the recently added folder. 

5. Picture-in-Picture comes to the iPhone

You’re no longer forced to decide whether you want to watch a Twitch stream or browse Reddit on your iPhone. With iOS 14, you can do both at the same time now that Apple has added picture-in-picture mode to the iPhone. The iPad has had this feature for a couple of years now, so it’s nice to see the iPhone get it as well. When you start watching a video you only need to leave the app and go back to the homescreen to trigger PiP. There are some apps, like YouTube, that don’t support the feature. You can view a list of all the apps installed on your phone that support it by going to Settings > General > Picture in Picture. Read more about picture-in-picture to get a better idea of when and where it works. 


Picture-in-picture is incredibly useful. 

Óscar Gutiérrez/CNET

6. Deleting apps can be confusing now

With the addition of the App Library, there’s now an extra step when it comes to deleting an app from your phone and for long-time iPhone users, it’s not at all straightforward. But it doesn’t have to be too confusing, we walk you through the new steps

7. Ditch Apple Mail and Safari

Apple added the ability to delete its own apps from your iPhone a few years ago, but you still couldn’t set apps like Gmail or Outlook as your default email app. Now you can, but Apple has limited this new feature to only the email and web browsers. It only takes a few taps to make the change, after which you won’t have to deal with Apple’s apps ever again. 


It’s true, you can set some default apps on iOS 14. 

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

8. AirPods Pro get a new audio feature

The iPhone and iPad aren’t the only devices that received a big update. Apple’s AirPods Pro also got a small firmware update that added a new feature called Spatial Audio. You’ll, of course, need to use an iPhone or iPad running iOS 14 in order to use the feature. With both devices updated, whenever you’re watching a video the sound will follow the movements of your head, adjusting with each twist and turn. CNET’s David Carnoy described it as an “out-of-bud experience.” And he’s not wrong. 

9. The iPad looks more like a Mac than ever

iPadOS 14 includes several new features and enhancements that bring its interface closer to looking and working like a Mac. Or is it the Mac that’s starting to look like an iPad with MacOS Big Sur? Either way, you’ll want to learn all you can about the new iPad features in iPadOS 14


Can’t find that emoji you need? Search for it. 

Jason Cipriani/CNET

10. Hidden features are the best features

Not to be left out, there are several hidden features in iOS 14 that do some truly amazing things. For instance, a new back tap feature lets you tap on the back of your phone two or three times, triggering a task like taking a screenshot or launching an app. We’ve found a total of nine hidden features worth sharing with you so far and plan to keep adding to the list. 

11. Still want more? We gotcha

You can now tag someone in a group conversation in the Messages app or use Apple’s new Translate app to carry a conversation in two completely different languages. We walk you through those two tips, plus a few more of our favorite features

There’s still plenty more to learn and figure out in iOS 14 and iPadOS 14, so we’re just getting started. Presumably, iOS 14 will be installed on the iPhone 12 when it arrives later this month.

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