Apple’s iOS 15: Everything You Need to Know


Apple iOS 15, the newest version of its mobile operating system, will be released on September 20, 2021. The software update will bring many changes and new features to the vast majority of iPhone users, whether they’re still using an aging iPhone 7 or upgrading to a brand-new iPhone 13.

Here’s everything you need to know about iOS 15.

When is the iOS 15 release date?

If you have an eligible iPhone model, you’ll be able to download iOS 15 when it launches on September 20, 2021. The public beta has been out since July, and we’ve already done a hands-on review of it.

What devices will get iOS 15?

The new Apple iPhone 13 models will ship with iOS 15, but there are hundreds of millions of iPhone users with older devices who will benefit from the update as well. Apple is releasing iOS 15 to all iPhone models going back to the iPhone 6S, iPhone 6 Plus, and iPhone SE, making these the longest-supported iPhone models yet. And iPads will get the corresponding iPadOS 15, which will roll out to a slew of devices including the iPad Air 2, iPad Mini 4, iPad (5th generation), and iPad Pro 9.7, all the way to the new iPad Mini 6 and 10.2-inch iPad.

What are the new features of iOS 15?

There are many new features and improvements in iOS 15. Here are a few of the most exciting ones to watch out for once you update:

Notifications

If you’re the type to ignore notifications or let them pile up, this update should make your life a bit easier.

A new Notification Summary on the lock screen will compile your notifications for a cleaner look. You don’t have to worry about missing anything, though. The summary uses on-device intelligence about what you interact with the most to separate and prioritize notifications, so urgent notifications like messages won’t be lost among app reminders.

The new Focus feature enhances the Notification Summary even further. You have the option to select between modes — Work, Personal, Sleep, and Do Not Disturb — so iOS 15 can prioritize notifications based on your circumstance. New widgets for the home screen let you see the notifications in your Focus mode. It can even be set to a location, and once you set your status, it automatically applies across all connected Apple devices. Throughout the notification system in iOS 15, you’ll find larger icons for apps and clearer text to make it easier to see what’s new and important.

Sharing

Apple knows how important video calls and messaging are today, and it has announced a variety of new features for both FaceTime and Messages that are all built around SharePlay.

SharePlay is about listening, watching, and sharing together with friends and family. For example, during a FaceTime call, you can simply press play in Apple Music and listen to a song together, all synced up right from the start. Anyone on the call can play or pause, giving everyone control over the entertainment.

A group of friends uses SharePlay to stream a television show together.

This also works with video, which can be streamed to an Apple TV at the same time, while always remaining in sync for callers. Apple’s SharePlay API will bring SharePlay to different apps, with Disney+, Hulu, HBO Max, Twitch, and TikTok among the partners. It’s also possible to share your iPhone’s screen with people on a call, letting everyone browse the web or even provide advice on how to change a setting.

Shared With You works throughout the iPhone, from Photos, News, and Podcasts to Safari, and lets you share articles, songs, and photos with friends as a message. Photos integrates shared photos from friends who have added you to friends and family on iCloud, and iOS 15 will sort photos with you in them and place them in your gallery. News shared with you in this way is placed at the top of your list, and you get reminders about who sent you the story.

Camera

Apple has introduced a text-scanning feature to the iPhone’s camera, and then supercharged it. Live Text unlocks text-based information from photos and works with screenshots and online photos, too. When you take a photo, it recognizes text, which can be copied and pasted into an email or text message, or you can select text from an existing photo to search online. It also recognizes phone numbers, which can be called directly from the photo.

A person using the iPhone to capture text on a whiteboard.

The new iOS 15 uses on-device intelligence to look closely at images. Visual Lookup lets you search a photo for information on art, books, nature, and landmarks. Elsewhere, Spotlight now searches for photos based on text, someone’s name, or even elements in a photo. You don’t even have to search for someone you know, as Spotlight also recognizes actors and other famous names.

Photos

Apple Music has been integrated into Memories, where iOS 15 will build more exciting, personal collages of photos and videos based on your activities. It now builds these short shows with Apple Music tracks personalized from your tastes and appropriate to the setting. Images are all timed to the beat.

A Memory Mix playing on an iPhone.

To personalize them further, you can edit these using Memory Mixes to change the pacing, songs, and even the look using different filters. And iOS 15 continues to analyze the Memory and makes further recommendations on songs to use, all based on your personal tastes.

Apple Wallet

Your driver’s license will be the first personal identity document stored in Apple Wallet, where it will be encrypted and stored in the iPhone’s secure space. Apple stated 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 shown. Apple wasn’t specific on when this feature would be added or whether the feature will be available outside the U.S.

A driver's license stored in Apple Wallet.

In addition to payment cards, work IDs, and driver’s licenses, Apple Wallet will soon store digital hotel keys. If you’re staying at a hotel that offers digital keys, you can skip the front desk and go directly to your room. The first hotel to partner with Apple is World of Hyatt.

Maps

Apple is expanding Maps coverage to Spain and Portugal soon, and then Italy and Australia before the end of the year. It is also introducing an augmented reality (AR) view to a selection of cities before year’s end, but that update will only be available on iPhone models with A12 Bionic or newer chips. A12 Bionic was first used in the iPhone XR, iPhone XS, and iPhone XS Max, released in 2018.

Cities with AR will also support walking directions. To use walking directions, users will scan their surroundings using the Camera app. Maps will determine your location, and then deliver walking directions back to the camera app.

The new Maps will have an interactive globe overview. There are lots of new details, including custom-designed landmark icons, distances, elevation, and a night mode with a moonlight look.

Apple Maps' new driving details.

Driving directions have been updated in iOS 15 with more granular details on the map, including bus lanes, crosswalks, bike lanes, and better guidance for complex junctions and turn lanes. Initially only for Maps on iOS, these changes will come to CarPlay later this year. For transit guidance, Maps will follow the route for you and remind you when it’s your stop.

What iOS 15 apps are changing?

There are more changes, new widgets, and support for more languages in iOS 15. Here are some other popular apps that are getting updates:

FaceTime

You’ll soon be able to FaceTime anyone, even people with Windows and Google phones. You’ll be able to schedule FaceTime calls in advance (which will sync with the Calendar app), or invite people to FaceTime calls instantly with a link that they can open in Edge or Chrome. Once all your friends are in the call, you can use the new Grid view to see them all in same-size tiles.

Safari

Apple iOS 15 is introducing Tab Groups that sync between devices. You can create whatever groups you need, like Recipes for weekly meal-planning. When you don’t need to see those tabs, you won’t have to keep scrolling past them. You can also switch between tabs by swiping left or right on the new tab bar at the bottom of the browser.

Open tabs in Safari on iOS 15.
Andy Boxall/DigitalTrends

Health

The Health app is getting a few updates as well. The app will store information from your Apple Watch, immunization records, and lab results. You can share health data with loved ones or health centers, and it’s easy to see who has access to what.

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