At the WWDC 2021 conference, Apple announced iOS 15, the latest version of its mobile operating system. The software will replace iOS 14 on compatible iPhone models and add new features and a few changes to the overall look. There’s a lot to see here, so take it easy and see what’s coming soon to an iPhone near you.
Sharing is a concern
Apple knows how important video calling and messaging is today, and has announced a slew of new features for FaceTime and Messages that are built on SharePlay.
SharePlay is the ability to listen, watch and share with friends and family. For example, during a FaceTime call, you can simply press play on Apple Music and listen to the song together, syncing from the beginning. Anyone in the conversation can play or pause playback, giving everyone control over the entertainment.
This also works with video, which can be streamed simultaneously on Apple TV while remaining in sync for subscribers. Apple’s SharePlay API will allow you to use SharePlay in a variety of apps, with Disney+, Hulu, HBO Max, Twitch and TikTok among the partners. You can also share your iPhone screen with your companions during a call, allowing everyone to browse the Web or even give tips on changing settings.
Shared With You works across all areas of your iPhone, from Photos, News and Podcasts to Safari, and lets you share articles, songs and photos with friends as a Message. Photos brings together shared photos of friends who have added you as a friend and family in iCloud, and iOS 15 will sort photos of you and put them in Gallery. News shared in this way is placed at the top of your list, and you get reminders of who sent you the story.
Notifications in iOS 15 are undergoing major changes. The biggest visual change is the “Notification Summary,” a block displayed on the lock screen that organizes all your notifications by priority for a cleaner, more useful look. To make sure you don’t miss anything important, the summary separates notifications and highlights those you can review later, such as app reminders. To prioritize, it uses smart device data to assess which apps you interact with frequently and what’s important to you.
The new Focus feature further enhances your notification summary. You can choose your focus – work, personal, sleep, and Do Not Disturb – so iOS 15 can prioritize notifications based on your circumstances. The new Home screen widgets will let you see notifications in Focus mode. It can even be set to location, and once you set your status, it’s automatically applied to all connected Apple devices. Throughout iOS 15’s notifications system, look out for larger app icons and clearer text to make it easier to see what’s new and important.
Apple introduced a text-scanning feature to the iPhone’s camera, and then beefed it up. Live Text allows you to extract text information from photos, as well as working with screenshots and online photos. When you take a photo, the camera recognizes text, which you can copy and paste into an email or text, or select text from an existing photo to search online. It also recognizes phone numbers that you can call directly from the photo.
The new iOS 15 uses the device’s smart features to scrutinize images. The Visual Look Up feature allows you to search a photo for information about art, books, nature and places of interest. In addition, Spotlight now searches photos based on text, someone’s name, or even items in the photo. You don’t even have to search for someone you know, as Spotlight also recognizes actors and other famous names.
Apple Music has been integrated into Memories, where iOS 15 will create more immersive, personalized collages of photos and videos based on your actions. These short shows are now created using Apple Music tracks personalized to your tastes and appropriate to the setting. All images are timed to the beat.
To further personalize them, you can edit them with Memory Mixes to change the tempo, songs and even the look with different filters. iOS 15 continues to analyze Memory and makes further recommendations for songs based on your personal tastes.
Apple Wallet already stores your charge cards, membership cards, and car keys. Now it’s expanding to include hotel keys. Hyatt Hotels is one of the first partners, and iOS 15 keys will soon be available at 1,000 hotels worldwide. The iOS 15 Wallet will also accept your work ID.
Your driver’s license will be the first identity document to be stored in the Apple Wallet, where it will be encrypted and stored in the iPhone’s secure space. Apple has said that the Transportation Security Administration is working to accept the digital ID soon, and when you share it, a list of what will be accessed is displayed. Apple has not specified when the feature will be added or if it will be available outside of the U.S.
The popular Weather app has been redesigned with new animations to show current conditions, more detailed charts showing what’s happening, and full-screen, high-resolution weather maps.
Apple will soon expand Maps coverage to Spain and Portugal, and by the end of the year to Italy and Australia. In addition, by the end of the year, augmented reality (AR) will appear in a number of cities. The app has received a visual reconstruction with an interactive overview of the globe. There are many new details, including landmark icons, distances, altitude and night mode with moonlight.
Driving directions have been updated in iOS 15 with more details on the map, including bus lanes, crosswalks, bike lanes, and more precise directions for difficult intersections and turn lanes. Initially, these changes will only be available for Maps on iOS, but they will come to CarPlay later this year. For transit orientation, e Maps will follow the route for you and remind you when your stop is coming.
Although iOS 15 has become official, it won’t have a public release until later this year. As with other versions, expect a public beta release of the software before the final version becomes available.