As expected, Apple revealed numerous details about its upcoming iOS 15 operating systems for iPhones and iPads today. Due later this year, the software updates will introduce major new features to notifications and other parts of the experience.
In the age of COVID, FaceTime is unsurprisingly getting new features to make conversations more natural. A new spatial audio feature will make it sound like “people are in the same room.” Callers’ voices will come from the same direction as their thumbnails. Machine-learning-powered voice isolation will block out background sounds, while a “wide spectrum” mode will pick up everything in the room.
Grid view will let you view FaceTime calls just like Zoom. Portrait mode will blur out your background, just like a camera mode. You can also generate a link for a FaceTime call, making it work, again, just like joining Zoom. FaceTime is even coming to Android, sort of, via a browser. A new feature called “SharePlay” will let you share media or your device screen over the video call.
iMessage is getting some upgrades, too, like a collage view for multiple photos. Any articles shared over Apple News will show a tag identifying who shared it, allowing you to quickly jump into a conversation with them over iMessage.
Notifications have been revamped with a new design and bigger pictures. “Notification Summary” can bundle several notifications into a big group, ordered by priority. Message notifications get elevated out of bundles so you won’t miss them. A “do not disturb” status will be automatically displayed in iMessage, so people can see you would like to be left alone, but there will be a way for them to break through the feature if the case of an emergency. Notification settings are now available for individual apps and people, allowing you to elevate important apps and people above the noise.
A new camera mode called “Live Text” will let you copy and paste text from real life. One of the demos involved taking a picture of a handwritten whiteboard and just copying and pasting the text through the magic of machine learning. The feature works in seven languages and can even do searches based on images (identifying dog breeds was one of the examples used).
On the Apple Wallet front, Apple is adding keys for your car, house, and hotel rooms. The company is also pushing for in-app government ID cards, for which you’ll be able to pull out your phone when you would normally show a driver’s license. Weather has been revamped with full-screen graphic displays for air quality and other weather data.
Apple Maps is now projected on a 3D globe and is getting new details like 3D map elevation, nighttime lighting, and more. New driving map details show crosswalks, bike lanes, and 3D overlapping highways and bridges. Transit lets you pin your favorite route to the top of the UI. A 3D augmented reality camera view will let you quickly orient yourself without relying on the sometimes-unreliable compass.
Don’t forget about iPad OS
And let’s not forget about iPads and iPad OS. Just like on iOS, you can now mix in widgets with your app icons instead of siloing them on an individual page. The iPad also gets bigger, more content-rich widgets.
Multitasking has been revamped in iPadOS, with buttons at the top of the screen to move apps into split screen. Apps can be swiped down out of the split-screen view and replaced with a different app. A new area called “the shelf” gives you easy access to all open windows of an app.
Notes is getting a system-wide upgrade called “Quick Note.” Swiping in from the corner of the screen will make a popup note app appear, and you can quickly jot something down. Translate is getting a similar system-wide upgrade and can now translate apps.
“Swift Playground” is like a portable Xcode for iPad, allowing you to make Swift UI apps on the iPad. Since you’re doing this on iOS, code you write is immediately reflected in the preview.
A new privacy dashboard will give you reports on apps, showing which ones accessed which permissions in the past seven days. Mail will also block tracking pixels and your IP address. Siri voice commands won’t leave the device anymore, thanks to on-device voice recognition. Siri is a lot faster, too.
Family and friends can be given a recovery key for your account. They won’t be able to log in, but the key will let you log in if you can’t access your account. There are also new “Digital Legacy” contacts that can request access to your account when you die, just like a will.
Apple also announced a premium iCloud+ tier with additional privacy features, which we’ll look at in detail as soon as we get access.
Health has three new features: Mobility (“Walking Steadiness” from device-motion sensors); Labs (the health app now includes detailed lab data explanations and expected ranges); and Trends (insight on long-term physiological factors). You’ll also be able to share your Apple Health data with your doctor. If it’s your job to take care of children or aging parents, you can be granted access to their health data, too, so you can keep an eye on your loved ones’ health. Of course, all this data is encrypted, and there are tons of sharing controls for your health data.
The limited beta for iOS 15 starts today, a public beta starts in June, and the consumer release is this fall.
Listing image by Apple