Friday, September 24, 2021
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iOS15 will arrive next week (though features won’t come until later updates)

Apple will release iOS 15 on Monday, September 20. However, some features — including SharePlay and Universal Control — have been delayed until upcoming updates.

Speaking of SharePlay

Apple says that, with iOS 15, FaceTime conversations with feel even more natural. How? With spatial audio, voices in a FaceTime call sound as if they are coming from where the person is positioned on the screen. New microphone modes separate the user’s voice from background noise. 

Portrait mode is now available for FaceTime and designed specifically for video calls. Users can blur their background and put themselves in focus. While using Group FaceTime, a new grid view enables participants to see more faces at the same time.

Users can share experiences with SharePlay while connecting with friends on FaceTime, including listening to songs together with Apple Music, watching a TV show or movie in sync, or sharing their screen to view apps together. SharePlay works across the iPhone, iPad, and Mac. With shared playback controls, anyone in a SharePlay session can play, pause, or jump ahead. 

What’s more, SharePlay extends to Apple TV, so users can watch shows or movies on a big screen while connecting over FaceTime. SharePlay will keep everyone’s playback in sync. Disney+, ESPN+, HBO Max, Hulu, MasterClass, Paramount+, Pluto TV, TikTok, Twitch, and many others are integrating SharePlay into their apps — creating entirely new ways to connect.

FaceTime calls also extend beyond Apple devices with the ability to create a link from iPhone, iPad, or Mac, and share it through Messages, Calendar, Mail, or third-party apps, so anyone can join a FaceTime call from their web browser on Android and Windows devices.3 FaceTime calls on the web remain end-to-end encrypted, so privacy is not compromised.

Tools to help you focus

Focus is a new feature that filters notifications and apps based on what a user wants to focus on. Customers can set their device to help them be in the moment by creating a custom Focus or selecting a suggested Focus. It uses on-device intelligence to suggest which people and apps are allowed to notify them. Focus suggestions are based on users’ context, like while they’re winding down for bed,.

When Focus is set on one Apple device, it automatically applies to their other Apple devices. Users can create Home Screen pages with apps and widgets that apply to moments of focus to only display relevant apps and reduce temptation. When a user’s Focus is blocking incoming notifications, their status is automatically displayed to others in Messages. This shows that a user isn’t currently reachable.

The new notification experience

Notifications have been redesigned, adding contact photos for people and larger icons for apps that make them even easier to identify. To help reduce distraction, a new notification summary collects non-time-critical notifications for delivery at a more opportune time, such as in the morning and evening. 

Using on-device intelligence, notifications are arranged by priority, with the most relevant notifications rising to the top, and based on a user’s interactions with apps. Urgent messages will be delivered immediately, so important communications will not end up in the summary, and it’s easy to temporarily mute any app or messaging thread for the next hour or for the day.

Live Text, advanced Spotlight search, more

Spotlight search

iOS 16’s Live Text feature uses on-device intelligence to recognize text in a photo and allow users to take action. For example, users can search for and locate the picture of a handwritten family recipe, or capture a phone number from a storefront with the option to place a call. 

Apple says that, with the power of the Apple Neural Engine, the Camera app can also recognize and copy text in the moment, such as the Wi-Fi password displayed at a local coffee shop. With Visual Look Up, users can learn more about popular art and landmarks around the world, plants and flowers found in nature, breeds of pets, and even find books.

Spotlight now uses intelligence to search photos by location, people, scenes, or objects, and using Live Text,  The search tool can find text and handwriting in photos. Spotlight now offers web image search and all-new rich results for actors, musicians, TV shows, and movies. Enhanced results for contacts show recent conversations, shared photos, and even their location if shared through Find My.

Photos Memories gets a new look, an interactive interface, and integration with Apple Music. It uses on-device intelligence to personalize song suggestions that bring memories to life.

Safari changes

Safari gets a new design built to make controls easier to reach with one hand and puts content front and center. Apple says the new tab bar is compact and lightweight. It floats at the bottom of the screen, so users can easily swipe between tabs. Tab Groups allow users to save tabs and access them at any time across an iPhone, iPad, or Mac. There are other new Safari features such as the customizable start page and web extensions on iOS.

Apple Maps

With iOS 15, the Maps app offers users will experience enhanced details in cities for neighborhoods, commercial districts, elevation, and buildings, new road colors and labels, custom-designed landmarks, and a new night-time mode with a moonlit glow. 

When navigating using iPhone or CarPlay, Maps features a three-dimensional city-driving experience with new road details. The goal is to help users better see and understand important details like turn lanes, medians, bike lanes, and pedestrian crosswalks.

Transit riders can find nearby stations more easily and pin favorite lines. Maps automatically follows along with a selected transit route, notifying users when it’s nearly time to disembark. Riders can even keep track on an Apple Watc®. With iOS 15, users can simply hold up iPhone, and Maps generates an accurate position to deliver detailed walking directions in augmented reality. At least for certain cities.

Wallet

With iOS 15, Apple Wallet adds support for additional types of keys, making it possible to access everyday places with just a tap. Last summer, Apple introduced digital car keys. BMW was the first car company to add its keys, allowing users to tap to unlock. This year, Apple says digital car keys get even better with support for Ultra Wideband technology, so users can securely unlock and start their supported vehicle without removing their iPhone from a pocket or bag. An iPhone can also be used to unlock a user’s home, office, or even a hotel room — all through keys stored in Wallet.

Later this year, customers in participating states in the U.S. will be able to add their driver’s license or state IDs to Wallet. The Transportation Security Administration is working to enable airport security checkpoints as the first place customers can use their digital Identity Card in Wallet. Identity Cards in Wallet are encrypted and stored in the Secure Element. Apple says that’s the same hardware technology that makes Apple Pay private and secure.

Redesigned Weather and Notes apps

Weather in iOS 15 includes more graphical displays of weather data, full-screen maps, and dynamic layouts that change based on conditions. Apple says that redesigned animated backgrounds more accurately reflect the sun’s position and precipitation, and notifications highlight when rain or snow starts and stops.

Notes adds user-created tags that make it easy to quickly categorize notes, and mentions allow members of shared notes to notify one another of important updates. An all-new Activity view shows the recent history of a shared note.

Additional features

Apple says that additional features of iOS 15 include:

  • Siri adds Announce Notifications on AirPods, the ability for users to share what’s on their screen just by asking, and more.
  • Shared with You works across the system to find the articles, music, TV shows, photos, and more that are shared in Messages conversations, and conveniently surfaces them in apps like Photos, Safari, Apple News, Music, Podcasts, and the Apple TV app.
  • iCloud+ combines everything users love about iCloud with new premium features, including Hide My Email, expanded HomeKit® Secure Video support, and an innovative new internet privacy service, iCloud Private Relay, at no additional cost.Current iCloud subscribers will be upgraded to iCloud+ automatically this fall. All iCloud+ plans can be shared with people in the same Family Sharing group, so everyone can enjoy the new features, storage, and elevated experience that comes with the service.
  • The Health app gets a new sharing tab that lets users share their health data with family, caregivers, or a care team, Trends gives users a way to focus attention on meaningful changes in personal health metrics, and Walking Steadiness is a new metric that empowers people to proactively manage their fall risk.
  • HomeKit accessory makers can now enable “Hey Siri” in their products, allowing customers to talk to and get responses from Siri on third-party devices. “Hey Siri”-enabled accessories will relay requests through HomePod or HomePod mini and will support features such as Personal Requests, Intercom, timers, and alarms. Starting today, smart home device manufacturers can begin working with Apple to integrate Siri into their accessories.
  • Find My introduces new capabilities to help locate a device that has been turned off or erased, as well as live-streaming locations for family and friends who choose to share their location. Separation Alerts notify a user if they leave an AirTag, Apple device, or Find My network accessory behind in an unfamiliar location, and the Find My network now supports AirPods Pro and AirPods Max. A new Find My widget offers an at-a-glance view directly from the Home Screen.
  • Translate adds a new Live Translate feature that makes conversation flow naturally across languages. Systemwide translation allows users to translate text anywhere on iPhone.
  • The Apple TV app now features a new row titled “For All of You” — showcasing a collection of shows and movies based on the interests of selected people or an entire household — perfect for movie nights.
  • New iPhone setup makes it more seamless than ever to get started with iPhone. Existing iPhone users can temporarily back up data to iCloud — even without a subscription — to easily transfer their data to a new iPhone. For those moving to iPhone for the first time, an improved “Move to iOS” experience easily transfers photo albums, files, folders, and Accessibility settings, so iPhone feels personal right from the start.
  • Accessibility across iPhone expands with new features for VoiceOver that enable users to explore even more details about the people, text, table data, and other objects within images. In support of neurodiversity, new background sounds help minimize distractions, and for those who are deaf or hard of hearing, Made for iPhone supports new bidirectional hearing aids. Sound Actions customizes Switch Control to work with mouth sounds, and users can now customize display and text size on an app-by-app basis. Apple is also bringing support for recognizing imported audiograms — charts that show the results of a hearing test — to Headphone Accommodations.
the authorDennis Sellers
Dennis Sellers is the editor/publisher of Apple World Today. He’s been an “Apple journalist” since 1995 (starting with the first big Apple news site, MacCentral). He loves to read, run, play sports, and watch movies.
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