Initial iOS 14.4 beta Includes a new feature was It was first shown during an Apple iPhone 12 event. The new feature relates specifically to the HomePod mini and the U1 Ultra Wideband chip that enables spatial awareness. IPhone U1 can interact with Apple’s tiny smart speaker in new ways on iOS 14.4. Watch our handy walkthroughs as we explore the updated Handoff experience and other changes and experimental features for iOS 14.4.
What’s new in iOS 14.4 beta?
New Handoff Experience for HomePod mini
The biggest new change is, of course, the new Handoff experience that comes with HomePod mini. Unlike the full-sized HomePod that has been available for a few years, the new HomePod mini comes packed with new technologies, such as Apple U1 Ultra Wide chip. The U1 chip allows for spatial awareness, so this iPhone can take advantage of richer close interactions with other products equipped with the U1 chip, such as the HomePod mini.
Apple has decided to upgrade the Handoff experience, which previously relied on placing your iPhone precisely near the HomePod. Compared to the more logical interaction of the old-fashioned way, HomePod mini and iPhone 11/12 running the latest iOS 14.4 beta are able to create intuitive spatial interactions with each other.
Video: iOS 14.4 Changes and Features
Through the previous Handoff interaction, users simply had their iPhones near the top of the HomePod to transmit voice or phone calls to or from the device. A small banner notification will appear at the top of the iPhone screen indicating that Handoff was successful. Handoff is no longer deficient in a small banner notification at the top of the iPhone, but now users can enjoy a full-card interface that appears as the iPhone approaches the HomePod mini.
How the new Handoff experience works
If you move the iPhone playing media near the HomePod mini, you will feel the device’s Taptic Engine working. At first, the feedback is subtle, but the closer the iPhone gets to the HomePod mini, the more feedback. To match the strength reactions, visual flair is also used. When the iPhone senses its close proximity, the HomePod mini LED lights up. The closer you get, the more intense the light increases.
A visual notification appears on the end of the iPhone in the form of a banner. The logo shows the name and location of the HomePod mini, along with the HomePod avatar, the mini album artwork, artist, and track title.
Users have the option to simply tap the logo to manually summon the full-sized Handoff interface, or move the iPhone near the HomePod mini, which will open the Handoff interface automatically. The new Handoff Experience works with the Music app and other types of media sources, such as YouTube. Phone calls are also eligible for Handoff with the new and improved experience.
The updated Handoff interface provides extensive album artwork, transfer controls, volume controls, and an AirPlay button for audio forwarding. Clicking on the album art image will open the source audio application on your iPhone.
Music can be transferred in both directions – from HomePod mini to iPhone, or from iPhone to HomePod mini. a Transfer to iPhone or Transfer from iPhone The button appears at the top of the Handoff interface, but the function has been clicked or lost for me so far.
The U1-enabled Refurbished Handoff Experience is still a little early, but promising. Most importantly, it is one of the first user-facing features to take advantage of the U1 chip found in current iPhones. Although Apple said during its iPhone 12 keynote address that the new Handoff Experience will ship to customers by the end of the year, it is unlikely to be able to fulfill that promise given that this is the first beta of iOS 14.4. However, it will be fun to watch this feature grow over the next few 14.4 beta releases.
Application shortcuts, set background action updates
back Set wallpaper One action in the Shortcuts app was Favorite new features in iOS 14.3Apple has not only kept it in iOS 14.4, but is actively working on improving it. In iOS 14.4 beta, users can now switch Zoom in perspective Wallpaper with an easy-to-use on / off switch. This option gives users the ability to enable or disable the parallax effect that appears on the wallpaper mapped by the shortcuts.
VoiceOver Direct Touch apps
Finally, VoiceOver has received a new Direct Touch App feature, which will allow VoiceOver users to control the app directly without requiring further interaction. A similar feature already exists for direct typing on the keyboard inside the apps, but it looks like this will take this a step further, giving VoiceOver users more flexibility within specific apps.
From my short working time with Direct Touch apps, the feature doesn’t seem to be fully baked, like selecting an app in Settings → Accessibility → VoiceOver → Rotor Actions → Direct Touch apps, doesn’t adhere. We’ll follow up with more details once additional betas are released.
The new Handoff Experience is the standout feature of the iOS 14.4 Initial Beta. Hopefully, more Apple devices will start adopting the U1 Ultra Wideband chip, because it’s what makes interesting new features like this possible. What do you think?
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