This might not have just been us, but this felt like one of the longer WWDC keynotes in recent years. There’s a lot that has been introduced across the iPad, Mac, Home, Apple Watch, and of course, the iPhone. iOS 15 has been announced, introducing a slew of new features that aim to make your life easier.
- What iPhones are compatible with iOS 15?
- When is iOS 15 coming?
- Focus with iOS 15
- Redesigned Notifications
- Camera enhancements
- Interactive Memories in Photos
- Safari has been reimagined for iOS 15
- Navigate and Explore more with Apple Maps
- You can leave that old wallet behind
- iOS 15 keeps your information private
- Further Dark Sky implementations arrive in the Weather app
- Collaborate and organize Notes
- All the small stuff in iOS 15
What iPhones are compatible with iOS 15?
One of the biggest questions whenever Apple releases a new major version of iOS is what devices will be supported. Apple has an excellent track record of supporting older devices, and this continues with iOS 15. You’ll be able to download and use the latest version of iOS on devices dating back to the iPhone 6s and even the original iPhone SE.
- iPhone 12 / 12 Mini / 12 Pro / 12 Pro Max
- iPhone 11 / 11 Pro / 11 Pro Max
- iPhone XS / XS Max
- iPhone XR
- iPhone X
- iPhone 8 / 8 Plus
- iPhone 7 / 7 Plus
- iPhone 6s / 6s Plus
- iPhone SE 1st Gen / 2nd Gen
- iPod Touch 7th Gen
When is iOS 15 coming?
It’s going to be a little bit of time before you can start playing around and enjoying the new features for iOS 15. Apple has released the first Developer Preview for iOS 15 today, along with macOS Monterey, watchOS 8, tvOS 15, and iPadOS 15. We’re expecting the first Public Beta to launch sometime in July, with the final version of iOS 15 to arrive this Fall.
When it comes to FaceTime, being able to video chat with your friends and loved ones from your iPhone is a dream come true. But in years past there have been some issues here and there, but with iOS 15 many of those issues are being fixed. FaceTime is being updated with support for Spatial Audio and improved voice isolation.
With this combination, your conversations will sound more realistic while being able to drown out anything going on in the background. You can even adjust the spectrum of audio, going from isolated to a wide spectrum depending on the levels of the ambient noises around you.
Portrait mode has been added to FaceTime, which is perfect for video calls. The background around you will be blurred, keeping you in focus throughout the entirety of the call.
Going hand-in-hand with the update to FaceTime is the all-new SharePlay. While using FaceTime, you can listen to your favorite songs with your friends, watch a movie in-sync, or even look at apps on your phone together. This extends into the Apple TV with tvOS 15, so you can have a movie night without actually all being in the same room.
Apple announced that the following services and apps will be compatible:
- HBO Max
- Pluto TV
There are also plans to bring SharePlay to even more apps. One name suspiciously missing is Netflix, but that could change in time for the final release of iOS 15 this Fall.
Bringing FaceTime to Android and Windows
While being able to watch movies and listen to music with your friends through FaceTime and SharePlay is cool, there was an announcement arguably even bigger. With the introduction of FaceTime Links, you can create a link from an iPhone, iPad or Mac, and share it. This includes sharing through apps like Messages or Calendar. But for the first time ever, even if you need someone to join who doesn’t have an iPhone or Mac, they can join.
When the FaceTime Links are sent to non-iOS or non-macOS users, the FaceTime calls will load in the end-users browser. Apple was also quick to point out that these calls are still end-to-end encrypted.
For the past few years, iOS and Android features have been introduced in an effort to force us to stop staring at the screen. This feature is known as Digital Well-being with Google’s Android, but Apple has introduced an all-new Focus feature. This is kind of an app, but it’s integrated right into iOS and can be accessed from your Control Center.
Focus allows you to create different profiles based on different needs throughout the day. For example, the Work Focus will show you specific apps and widgets based on your usage and selections. But the Home Focus will get pause those work notifications and show apps like Twitter and Reddit, along with some games that you play in your downtime. You can create and customize your Home Screen pages with specific apps and widgets based on the Focus modes that you want to use.]
One potential problem in previous iterations of iOS is that your friends may not know that you’re actually busy. So there would be a constant barrage of messages being sent, even if they weren’t really important in the moment. With iOS 15 and Focus, a new dialog appears in Messages providing your “status” if you happen to be busy.
Smartphone notifications can be a real pain in the side. Apple, Samsung, Google, and others continue to try to create the perfect way for you to interact, but there are simply just too many to deal with. In an effort to try and combat the onslaught of endless notifications, your iPhone will arrange notifications by priority based on your usage. Any “urgent” notifications will be delivered immediately, so you won’t miss anything.
Any apps that send “non-critical” notifications will be grouped together. Then, you can determine when you want those notifications sent to you. Your iPhone will send them to you when you have more time to really deal with them, based on what you decide.
App icons and contact photos are now larger, making it easier to identify who is sending you a message. This makes it so you can just quickly glance at your phone and determine whether to respond or to just ignore it for the time being.
You won’t find any new dedicated camera modes in iOS 15, but Live Text and Visual Look Up are about to make things a lot easier. When looking at an image through the viewfinder of your Camera, or in the photo itself, your iPhone will not be able to provide different pieces of information. A picture of a restaurant sign can be highlighted and extracted, then you can search for more information about that restaurant. Names and phone numbers can be extracted from a picture of a business card, so you can just call the person right from the picture.
Live Text translation instantly translates up to seven different languages. Just point your camera at the word or phrase, tap it, and have it translated practically instantaneously.
Have you ever wanted to know what kind of flower you were looking at? With Visual Look Up, you can take a picture and learn more about that flower right from your phone. There’s no need to try and search using an awkward description that will likely end up with you being more confused than when you started. Visual Look Up will work with art, landmarks, nature, pets, and much more.
Live Text offers a Spotlight power-up
Spotlight is getting some love in iOS 15 as it will now provide rich search results. This works for artists and movies, along with your contacts. It even works in tandem with Live Text so that you can search your photos and pull up a picture of that restaurant you went to last week.
Interactive Memories in Photos
Memories in the Photos app is pretty wonderful already, but what if your iPhone or iPad could create interactive memories? This new interface introduces Memory Mixes that can be personalized with different filters and images. You can even go so far as to add a clip of a song from Apple Music to the memories.
Unless you have big hands or long fingers, reaching the top of your iPhone while using Safari has been a pain. Forget the finger-gymnastics, as the all-new tab bar design brings the URL bar to the bottom. Not only will it be easier to search for something from the unibar, but it also maxmizes your screen real-estate. With the move to the bottom of the screen, you can now just swipe between your different tabs instead of dealing with the old method just to go back to the tab from before.
If you’re the kind of person that has a boatload of tabs open all the time, many of which are practically always open, then you’ll love Tab Groups. This allows you to save and organize your tabs easily, while syncing across multiple devices. Think of this is a better way to organize your bookmarks and bookmark folders.
Apple is also introducing extensions for iPadOS and iOS 15. These are the same extensions that you’ve been using for years with Safari on the Mac. Now, they are available to be activated and used on your iPhone with Safari.
This one took us a bit by surprise, as it seems that Apple Maps is getting a new icon for iOS 15. But this only goes to show that there are a lot of new changes arriving with Maps. First, you’ll be able to view and “visit” 3D landmarks, while exploring cities with “unprecedented detail”. In the example, Apple Maps will even show you where trees are placed along the side of the road.
While actually using Maps to navigate and not just browse, you’ll be able to view even more details. Crosswalks and Turn lanes are easily distinguishable from other lanes and areas. There is even a new driving map to see what traffic looks like.
For those who need directions while walking around a new city, Augmented Reality has been integrated. After prompting you to scan the buildings around you, you’ll be provided with a live view with step-by-step instructions. And as you walk, the instructions will automatically update just like if you were navigating in the car.
It was only a matter of time, but Apple is finally making it possible for you to add your driver’s license or state ID to the Wallet app. It’s not going to be available across all 50 states here in the U.S., but select states are participating. Simply tapping your iPhone or Apple Watch will present your ID, and TSA checkpoints will be faster than ever to get through.
After you’ve tapped your iPhone to get through TSA at the airport, and when you arrive at your hotel, your iPhone will also act as your key. Although Hilton hotels will be the first, many other hotels are said to be bringing the ability to add a hotel key to your Apple Wallet. With the use of the NFC chip in your iPhone, just tap your phone or Watch and unlock your room.
Apple is also working with lock-makers to bring the same functionality to HomeKit door locks. Your Home key will live in the Wallet app, and just like you’d expect, tapping your iPhone or Apple Watch will unlock your home.
Apple also confirmed that more carmakers, including BMW, will be making use of the Ultra Wideband chip. Turning your iPhone into a car key will be extremely convenient, especially if your hands are full.
Google and Apple are getting more and more serious about keeping your data and information private. Apple has introduced some new consumer-facing tools, and features, along with other back-end features to keep your information out of the wrong hands.
Mail Privacy Protection stops email senders from learning more information about you including hiding your IP address. This also prevents email senders from being able to see if you opened the email or not. App Privacy Report provides an overview for you to discern how many times an app has access things like your location or microphone over the last seven days.
iCloud+ is a new service that essentially acts as an on-device VPN. It sends all of your information through two different relays, ensuring that a website cannot create a “detailed profile” about you. Hide My Email creates random and unique email addresses so you can send and receive emails without sharing your actual email.
HomeKit Secure Video connects more security cameras in an effort to record, analyze, or view your footage. Then, all of that footage will be stored in an end-to-end encryption format in iCloud. Meanwhile, none of the video recordings will count against your iCloud storage.
Early in 2020, the developers of Dark Sky announced that it had been purchased by Apple. This came as a shock to some, but Apple has been integrating some key features into the stock Weather app to make it even better. With iOS 14, iPhone users began receiving a minute-by-minute forecast, along with a next-hour weather chart.
With iOS 15, it seems this integration is going even deeper, as the new Weather app has been slightly tweaked from a design aspect. There are also some new features, including more graphical displays of data, and “dynamic layouts” that change based on what’ the current conditions are. Animated backgrounds are new, and will actually reflect the sun’s position based on the time.
Collaborate and organize Notes
The quest for the perfect note-taking app on iOS continues to wage on. But Apple is introducing some nifty new organization tweaks to help keep you using its built-in option. The first change is the addition of tags, and as you would expect, it allows for easy categorization of notes. Then, just tap the tags in the Tag Browser to view any of those notes.
These also will appear in the new Custom Smart Folders, which groups all of your tagged notes together. Then, there are separate folders based on which tags you have applied.
Collaboration is an interesting addition, as you can now simply type the @ sign and the name of the collaborator. This sends them a notification while providing a link back to the note. This also works with shared notes and even folders. Then, any changes are shown off in the new Activity View.
Apple took almost two hours for its WWDC 2021 Keynote, and only a small block of time was committed to iOS 15. This means that while Apple hit on the big new features, there are literally hundreds of more features that didn’t make the cut. We’ve comprised a list of the highlights, so you can get a feel of everything coming to iOS 15.
- Drag and Drop: Pick up and drop images, documents, and files across apps.
- Built-in Authenticator: Automatically generate two-factor authentication codes that auto-fill when you sign into a website or app.
- The same tagging system introduced in the Notes app is arriving in Reminders. This includes the Tag Browser, and the ability to create a smart list based on a tag.
- Custom Smart Lists automatically add reminders based on dates, times, tags, locations, and more. You can also combine more than one tag for more specific lists.
- Siri can announce reminders while you’re wearing AirPods or Beats headphones.
- Software updates have been split moving forward. If you want to update to iOS 15 as soon as it’s available, you can. Or, you can continue using iOS 14 while still receiving important security updates.
- In addition to the arrival of Shortcuts in macOS Monterey, the Shortcuts app on iOS 15 offers better cross-device management. You’ll also see improved sharing features, and can use Next Action Suggestions to complete the shortcut.
- Keep track of friends and personal items in the Find My widget.
- Stay connected with the new Contacts widget with just a tap.
- View recently played Game Center games in the Continue Playing widget.
- View stories, collections, and in-app events from the App Store on your Home Screen.
- See how well you slept the night before with the Sleep widget.
- Quickly glance at your email and view one of your mailboxes with the Mail widget.
- You can finally re-order the widgets in your Smart Stacks.
- iOS 15 allows you to re-order your Home Screen pages.
- The all-new Magnifier app is now installed by default.
- Customize text and display settings on an app-by-app basis.
While putting this post together, we have installed iOS 15 and iPadOS 15 on our devices. Expect to see much more about Apple’s upcoming operating systems and all of the new features. Sound off in the comments below if you have any questions or just want to let us know what you think about iOS 15!
Andrew is a freelance writer based on the East Coast of the US.
He has written for a variety of sites over the years, including iMore, Android Central, Phandroid, and a few others. Now, he spends his days working for an HVAC company, while moonlighting as a freelance writer at night.