Apple released iOS 15 at its annual iPhone software update which recently took place. During Apple’s virtual event, the tech giant announced the iOS 15 update was available to the public starting September 20. iOS 15 is the fifteenth and current major release of the iOS mobile operating system developed by Apple for its iPhone and iPod Touch products. This year’s iOS version includes the ability of FaceTime to make calls to Windows and Android users, new integrations for messages, upgrades to maps, privacy protection, and lots more. If you are looking to learn all that there is, you’re in the right place.
What’s new on iOS 15
iOS 15 is packed with new features that help you connect with others, be more present and at the moment, explore the world, and use powerful intelligence to do more with iPhone than ever before. Here are some new features on iOS 15.
In iOS 15, FaceTime offers Spatial Audio so that voices in a video call sound as if they are coming from where the person is located on the screen. There are also new microphone modes to separate a user’s voice from background noise or introduce background noise in Wide Spectrum mode if desired.
FaceTime now features Portrait mode for video calls, so users are able to blur out their background and put themselves in focus, and mute alerts so it is clearer when you are speaking on mute. There is also a new grid view for group FaceTime calls, enabling participants to see more faces at the same time, and optical zoom control for the back camera.
With the new iOS 15, you can now invite anyone to join you in a FaceTime call, even friends who don’t have an Apple device can now join one-on-one and Group FaceTime calls right from their browser instantly — no login necessary. FaceTime was reserved for Apple users only but Apple said users with non-Apple devices can “join using the latest version of Chrome or Edge. Users can now invite their friends into a FaceTime call using a web link you can share anywhere.
- FaceTime Links
Users can now create a link to a FaceTime call and share it through Messages, Calendar, Mail, or third-party apps. FaceTime links can be opened to use the FaceTime app on Apple devices, but they can also be opened through a web browser, bringing FaceTime to Android and Windows for the first time. FaceTime calls on the web remain end-to-end encrypted to guarantee privacy.
SharePlay is a new feature that allows users to share experiences with each other during FaceTime calls, including media like Apple Music songs, TV shows, or movies. Media is played in sync for all participants and there are shared playback controls, so anyone in a SharePlay session can play, pause, or skip content, as well as add to a shared queue. SharePlay also gives users the ability to share their screens to view apps together in a FaceTime call. Third-party apps such as Disney+, ESPN+, HBO Max, Hulu, MasterClass, Paramount+, Pluto TV, TikTok, Twitch, and others have committed to integrating SharePlay.
SharePlay extends to the iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple TV, so users can watch shows or movies on a bigger screen while connecting over FaceTime. Smart volume control dynamically and automatically adjusts audio so you can hear your friends even when shared content is playing loudly. SharePlay also features in-app Messages controls.
The Photos app contains a considerable update to Memories, which now features a new design, integration with Apple Music, a more interactive interface, and Memory looks. Memories will suggest songs based on your Apple Music listening history that synchronize with videos and photos for a more personalized experience. Users can customize memories by swiping through Memory mixes, which let you audition different songs with a different pace and atmosphere.
There are 12 Memory looks that add mood by analysing each photo and video and applying the correct amount of contrast and colour adjustment for a consistent look. There are also new Memory types, including additional international holidays, child-focused memories, trends over time, and improved pet memories, including the ability to recognize individual dogs and cats. It is also possible to view and edit all of the content from a Memory in a bird’s-eye view, and a Watch Next section suggests related memories to watch.
People identification features improved recognition for individuals, and it is easier to correct naming mistakes in the People album. There is an option to Feature Less to let Photos know that you would prefer to see less of a specific date, place, holiday, or person across Featured Photos, the Photos widget, Memories, and highlighted in the Library tab.
In iOS 15, Photos features a richer Info pane to view information about the photo, such as the camera, lens, and shutter speed, the file size, or who sent a Shared with You photo in Messages. You can also edit the date taken or location, add a caption, and learn about items detected by Visual Look Up.
The Photos image picker, including in the Messages app, now allows you to select photos in a specific order for sharing. Third-party apps can also offer simpler selection workflows when you grant access to specific content in the Photos library. Apple also says that the initial sync of iCloud Photos on a new device is faster in iOS 15.
- New Integrations for Messages
Apple messages have a new integration “shared with you”. Now the links, images, and other content shared with you in Messages will be featured in a new Shared with You section in the corresponding app. Users can reply from the corresponding app without going back to Messages. For example, if someone sends a link to music it will show up in the Apple Music app in a section called “Shared with You”. Shared with You is built into Photos, Safari, Apple News, Apple Music, Apple Podcasts, and the Apple TV app.
- New Memoji
Users can now choose outfits for their Memoji and express themselves with new stickers. Users can represent their look and style with multicolor headwear. Accessibility customizations now include cochlear implants, oxygen tubes, and soft helmets.
- Focus Mode
iOS 15 features a new tool to help users reduce distraction called Focus. Focus just like “Do not Disturb” helps you stay in the moment when you need to concentrate or step away. A Focus can filter notifications and Home Screen pages based on what a user wishes to focus on at a particular time, while still allowing urgent notifications through. When a user’s Focus is currently blocking incoming notifications, their status is automatically displayed to other people in Messages, showing that a user is not currently available unless it is urgent. Focus now lets you pre-approve notifications from select contacts. If someone is texting a user who is in Focus Mode, they’ll receive an away message. Users can create multiple Focus profiles for different situations, such as work, play, and sleep. When a user turns on Focus, a status will be automatically displayed in Messages and other communication apps you allow.
iOS will automatically suggest Focuses to users using on-device intelligence to determine which people and apps should notify them at certain times. Focus suggestions are based on users’ contexts, such as work hours, personal time, or winding down for bed. Users can also create a custom Focus to only show certain notifications and Home Screen pages, select allowed interruptions for the most important notifications and apps and set up auto-replies for Messages during a Focus. When a user sets a Focus, it syncs across Apple devices. Developers can implement a new Status API for third-party messaging apps to reflect a Focus status.
- Maps Upgrade
Maps now show step-by-step directions you can view in augmented reality, custom-designed landmarks, and a night-time mode with a moonlit glow. Maps will also feature more detail such as the location of turn lanes and where crosswalks are spotted to help spot traffic conditions more easily and figure out the right lane to join. Maps will also feature new real-time alerts that tell users when they need to get off the bus, train, or subway before they miss their stop.
Maps now feature an interactive globe view and significantly enhanced details in a new 3D view for cities. Neighbourhoods, commercial districts, elevation, buildings, and more are now displayed in detail, alongside new road colours and labels, custom-designed landmarks, and a new “moonlit” night-time mode. The Maps app also offers a new 3D city-driving experience with road details such as turn lanes, medians, bike lanes, and pedestrian crosswalks that works both on the iPhone and in Apple CarPlay.
Transit navigation has been redesigned and travellers can now find nearby stations more easily and pin their favourite lines. Maps will automatically follow along a selected transit route, notifying users when it is almost time to disembark or to get off the bus, train, or subway before they miss their stop. There is also a new walking directions view that uses augmented reality. Users simply hold up their iPhones, and the Maps app will generate an accurate position to deliver detailed walking directions using the camera.
Redesigned place cards make it easier to find and interact with information about businesses, locations, and physical features. There is a new Guides Home that features editorially curated information about new places. When searching for a new location, there are new options to filter results by criteria like cuisine or opening times. Maps will also automatically update search results when moving around and the most-used settings are now located in one, simpler location.
The Wallet app supports additional types of keys in iOS 15, such as home, office, corporate, or hotel room key cards. The Wallet app is also expanding its support of car keys, now using Ultra-Wideband to unlock, lock, and start your car without having to take your iPhone out of your pocket. Ultra-Wideband also gives precise spatial awareness, meaning that iOS will stop you from locking your car while your iPhone is inside or start your vehicle when your iPhone is outside. The wallet now supports remote keyless entry controls, allowing you to lock or unlock your car, honk your horn, preheat your car, or open your trunk.
Starting later in 2021, customers in participating states in the U.S. will be able to add their driver’s licenses or state IDs to the Wallet app. According to Apple, the Transportation Security Administration is working to enable airport security checkpoints as the first place customers can use their digital Identity Card in Wallet. The Wallet app will also now automatically archive expired boarding passes and event tickets. Safari also supports adding multiple passes to Wallet in one action instead of having to manually add one pass at a time.
iOS 15 brings a completely new design to Safari. Controls are brought to the bottom of the screen so that they are easier to reach with one hand. There is a new, compact tab bar that floats at the bottom of the screen so that users can easily swipe between tabs, and it also contains a Smart Search field. Tab Groups allow users to save their tabs in a folder and sync across the iPhone, iPad, and Mac.
In addition, there is a new tab overview grid view. Users can simply pull down a web page to refresh it and there is now support for voice search. Safari also gains a customizable start page and mobile web extensions for the first time. iOS 15 features new Safari privacy protections, including Intelligent Tracking Prevention that prevents trackers from profiling you using your IP address, and Safari will automatically upgrade sites known to support HTTPS from insecure HTTP.
- Privacy Protections
iOS 15 provides increased visibility into how apps access your data, protects you from unwanted data collection, and gives you more control over what you choose to share. App Privacy Report will show you how often an app accessed your microphone or location over the last seven days.
- Notifications Redesign
iOS 15 introduces completely redesigned notifications. Notifications will now display contact photos for people and larger icons for apps to make them easier to identify. There is an all-new personalized notification summary that collects non-urgent notifications together to be delivered at a more appropriate time, such as in the morning or evening. Notifications in the summary are arranged by priority using on-device intelligence that analyzes the user’s interactions with apps, with the most important and relevant notifications rising to the top. Urgent messages and time-sensitive notifications will still be delivered immediately.
Also, there is now the option to mute any app or messaging thread’s notifications temporarily, and iOS 15 will suggest muting a thread if it is unusually active but you are not engaging with it. There is also a new notification API for developers, allowing them to send Time-Sensitive notifications and adopt the new look for notifications coming from people.
Spotlight can now use intelligence to search for photos by location, people, scenes, or objects, and using the new Live Text feature, Spotlight can find text and handwriting in photos. Spotlight also supports web image searches and significantly richer results for actors, musicians, TV shows, and movies. Enhanced results for contact cards show recent conversations, shared photos, and location if it is shared through Find My. It is also possible to access Spotlight from the Lock Screen and quickly install apps from the App Store without leaving Spotlight. For businesses that support App Clips, there is an action button on the Maps results in Spotlight.
The Weather app has been totally redesigned in iOS 15. The Weather app now features more graphical displays for weather data, a full-screen map, and a dynamic layout that changes based on outside conditions. Apple has redesigned the Weather app’s animated backgrounds to more accurately reflect the sun’s current position and precipitation conditions. There are also notifications to highlight when rain or snow starts and stops.
In iOS 15, the Health app has a new sharing tab that allows users to share their selected health data with family or caregivers. Lab results have been enhanced with descriptions, highlights, and the option to pin results for quick access. Health can now detect Trends, drawing users’ attention to meaningful changes in personal health metrics. The Health app also adds Walking Steadiness as a new metric to help manage fall risk. COVID-19 immunizations and test results can be stored in the Health app using a QR code from a healthcare provider. Blood glucose highlights now show levels during sleep and exercise, and feature interactive charts.
- Find My
The Find My app introduces new abilities to help locate a lost device that has been turned off or erased using the Find My network. A family member or friend who chooses to share their location with you will now continuously live-stream their location to provide a sense of direction and speed. Apple is adding Find My network support to AirPods Pro and AirPods Max, and there is a new Find My widget for an at-a-glance look at locations. There are also new Separation Alerts to notify a user if they leave an AirTag, Apple device, or Find My accessory network behind in an unfamiliar location.
Notes in iOS 15 feature user-created tags to conveniently sort and categorize notes in new ways. There is a Tag Browser to tap combinations of tags and quickly view tagged notes. There are also new custom folders that automatically collect notes based on tags. For shared notes, it is now possible to mention other users to notify one another of updates, and an all-new Activity view shows the recent edit history.
Reminders now feature tags to help with organization, and it is possible to search and filter reminders based on tags. There is a new Tag Browser to tap combinations of tags and quickly view tagged reminders. There are also new custom smart lists that automatically collect reminders together based on tags. iOS 15 also brings quick-access options to easily delete completed reminders, improved natural language support and expanded suggested attributes such as tags, flags, priority, and more.
In iOS 15, Siri requests are processed on-device using the Neural Engine, increasing security and significantly boosting responsiveness, while also no longer needing an internet connection. On-device speech recognition and understanding improve as you use your device. Siri is also able to learn about the contacts you interact with most, new words you type, and topics you read about to provide better responses.
Siri can now share onscreen items such as photos, web pages, content from Apple Music or Apple Podcasts, Apple News stories, Maps locations, and more, in a Message, or even take a screenshot to send. In addition, Siri can now use onscreen context to send a message or place a call. Siri is also able to Announce Notifications, such as Reminders, on AirPods and in Apple CarPlay, and users can ask Siri what is on their screen. Siri offers neural text-to-speech voice in more languages.
- Child Safety Features
Apple has previewed new child safety features that will be coming to its platforms with software updates later this year. The company said the features will be available in the U.S. only at launch and will be expanded to other regions over time.
The Messages app on the iPhone, iPad and Mac will be getting a new Communication Safety feature to warn children and their parents when receiving or sending sexually explicit photos. Apple has said that the Messages app will use on-device machine learning to analyze image attachments, and if a photo is determined to be sexually explicit, the photo will be automatically blurred and the child will be warned.
Apple will be able to detect known Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM) images stored in iCloud Photos, enabling Apple to report these instances to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), a non-profit organization that works in collaboration with U.S. law enforcement agencies. Apple will expand guidance in Siri and Spotlight Search across devices by providing additional resources to help children and parents stay safe online and get help with unsafe situations.
Widget, Translate, Voice Memos, Shortcut, TV, Camera, Podcast, Music, Gaming, News, App Store, Live Text, Apple Card and Apple Pay, Screen Time, Privacy, iCloud+, 5G, Apple ID, Accessibility, Keyboard and Dictation, Dictionary and so much more, all had improvements.