The first iOS 14.4 beta introduces a new feature that was first unveiled at Apple’s iPhone 12 event. The new feature specifically applies to the HomePod mini and its U1 Ultra Wideband chip that allows for spatial awareness. An iPhone equipped with the U1 chip can interact with Apple’s smart speaker in new ways on iOS 14.4. Watch our handheld walkthrough as we explore the updated Handoff experience and other iOS 14.4 beta changes and features.
What’s new in iOS 14.4 beta?
New Handoff Experience for HomePod mini
The biggest change is, of course, the new Handoff experience that comes to the HomePod mini. Unlike the full-size HomePod that has been available for a few years, the new HomePod mini comes equipped with new technology, such as Apple’s U1 Ultra Wideband chip. The U1 chip allows for spatial sensing, so an iPhone with this chip can benefit from richer interactions nearby with other products equipped with the U1 chip, such as the HomePod mini.
Apple decided to upgrade the Handoff experience, which previously relied on a precise positioning of your iPhone near the HomePod. Compared to the more boolean interaction of the old fashioned way, the HomePod mini and iPhone 11/12 running the latest iOS 14.4 betas are capable of creating intuitive spatial interactions with each other.
Video: iOS 14.4 Changes and Features
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With the previous Handoff interaction, users would simply place their iPhones near the top of the HomePod to transfer audio or phone calls to or from the device. A small banner notification would appear at the top of the iPhone screen indicating that Handoff was successful. Handoff is no longer a small flagship message at the top of the iPhone, but now users can enjoy a full card interface that shows how the iPhone moves closer to the iPhone. HomePod mini.
How the new Handoff experience works
If you move an iPhone playing media closer to the HomePod mini, you’ll feel that the device’s Taptic Engine is going to work. At first, feedback from the force is subtle, but as you move your iPhone closer to the HomePod mini, the feedback ramps up. To accompany the force’s feedback, visual talent is also used. When it detects an iPhone nearby, the HomePod mini LED illuminates. As you move closer, the light grows in intensity.
A visual message will appear on the head of the iPhone in the form of a banner. The banner shows the name and location of the HomePod mini, along with a HomePod glyph, small album artwork, artist, and track title.
Users have the option of simply tapping the flag to manually attack the full-size Handoff interface, or move the iPhone closer to the HomePod mini, which will bring up the interface Handoff pop open automatically. The new Handoff experience works with the Music app and other types of media, such as YouTube. Phone calls also deserve Handoff with the new and improved experience.
The updated Handoff interface provides large-scale artwork, transport controls, volume controls, and an AirPlay button to replay audio. Tapping the album artwork opens the store audio application on your iPhone.
Music can be transferred both ways – from the HomePod mini to the iPhone, or from the iPhone to the HomePod mini. A. Transfer to iPhone no Transfer from iPhone a button appears at the top of the Handoff interface, but functionality has been hit or lost so far.
The updated Handoff experience with U1 capability is still early days, but it shows promise. More importantly, this is one of the first face-to-face features of consumers taking advantage of the U1-chip found in iPhones today. While Apple said during its keynote iPhone 12 speech that the new Handoff experience would be rolled out to customers before the end of the year, it doesn’t seem to be able to make good on that promise considering this is just ‘first iOS 14.4 beta. Nonetheless, it will be fun to see this feature grow over the next few 14.4 beta releases.
App shortcuts Set Wallpaper function updates
The return of the Set wallpaper functionality in the Shortcuts app was one of my new favorite features in iOS 14.3, and not only is Apple kept around in iOS 14.4, but it ‘s actively improving on it. In the iOS 14.4 beta, users can now build Zoom view for wallpaper using a useful on / off switch. This option allows users to enable or disable the parallax effect that appears on wallpaper set with Shortcuts.
TouchOver Direct Touch Apps
Finally, VoiceOver acquired a new Direct Touch Apps feature, which allows VoiceOver users to control an app directly without the need for further interaction. There is already a similar feature for inserting keyboard typing directly within apps, but this is likely to take one step further, giving VoiceOver users more flexibility alongside inside selected apps.
Since my recent time with Direct Touch Apps, the feature doesn’t seem to be fully cooked, as selecting an app in Options → Accessibility → VoiceOver → Rotor Actions → Direct Touch Apps, is not stick to it. We will follow up once more betas are released with more information.
The new Handoff experience is the standout feature in the first iOS 14.4 beta. Here ‘s the hope that more Apple devices will start adopting the U1 Ultra Wideband chip, as that’ s what makes such exciting new features possible. What do you think?
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