During its WWDC Keynote presentation on Monday, Apple took the wraps off iOS 15. While new hardware is always exciting, iOS is maybe Apple's most important and impactful product of all, as it gets installed on over a billion iPhones around the world.
Due to release this fall with a beta test starting right away, it's full of new features and changes both big and small. These are the top five features that will have the biggest impact on iPhone users with iOS 15 is released this fall.
Big FaceTime upgrades
FaceTime is getting a big boost in iOS 15. Spatial audio will separate out voices so group chats sound more natural. A new grid view shows everyone the same size, and highlights the person talking. New microphone modes makes it easier for others to hear you—Isolation Mode eliminates background sounds to focus on your voice, while Wide Spectrum is the opposite, taking in all the sounds around you. Portrait mode is coming to FaceTime too, blurring the background automatically.
FaceTime links can be opened in a browser on non-Apple devices!
Perhaps the biggest news is FaceTime Links. You can generate a link for a future FaceTime call and send the link to anyone in any app, or attach it to a calendar event. And in a huge change, users on Windows or Android can click on these links and join your FaceTime call on the web!
Sharing goes big
Apple's making iOS 15 all about sharing. Apple's got a huge number of sharing features it collects under the umbrella term SharePlay. You can listen to music, watch video, or share your screen together with someone on a FaceTime call. The audio or video will be synced, and others on the call will get media controls if they want to pause or skip to another track, and the whole group can build a collaborative playlist. Screen sharing even works across Apple devices.
You'll be able to share video and music in FaceTime, all in sync.
This is going to work with Apple Music and the TV app right out of the gate, but Apple has an API, so other apps will update to support it as well. Apple called out popular apps like Disney+, HBOMax, Twitch, ESPN+, and more.
A new Shared With You section in Apple's apps will collect and highlight the things that people send you in iMessage. Open Photos, and you can see the photos people sent you in Messages all in one place. The same is true in News, Podcasts, TV, and Safari. It's a great way to quickly find those links people send you without scrolling back through your message threads. In Messages, you can pin stuff and it will be elevated in the Shared With You section of each app.
Notifications get smart
Notifications in iOS are long overdue for an overhaul, and iOS 15 is finally adding some much-needed intelligence and organization. A Notification Summary brings together that flood of notifications you've been ignoring all day—you set the time you wish to receive it, and you can catch up easily.
Catch up on that flood of missed notifications at the time of your choosing.
If you're in Do Not Disturb mode, others will be able to see that in Messages, so they know you may not reply right away. If they've got something really urgent, they have a way to break through.
Most interesting is a new Focus mode, or rather, modes. If you're focusing on work, for example, you can set a work focus mode where only the apps and people you choose can send you notifications. You can even pick which apps you want to see on the home screen in each Focus mode. On-device intelligence will suggest new Focus modes based on your activity, but you can create your own, too.
Live text (and more) everywhere
A new feature called Live Text uses machine learning to find text in images, and allows you to treat it like regular text. It all happens on-device to protect your privacy. Point the Camera app at some text, and you'll see an indicator in the lower right you can tap to isolate and select it. You can then paste it in a message, email, whatever.
Live Text recognizes text in images across multiple apps and devices.
But this works all over the operating system, not just in the Camera app. You can select text directly in existing photos, search for text in them, and even select text in images on the web. Live Text recognizes them just like with native text: Select a phone number and you can call it with one tap. Select an address and open it on a map.
While the Live Text system is the most transformative thing, it's not just for text! The intelligent system can recognize pets and other animals, objects in nature, books, landmarks, and some common objects.
Wallet gets fatter
The Wallet app already does a lot, with payment cards, transit cards, and tickets. But it can't replace your physical wallet yet. Apple's working to change that with some big updates to Wallet.
CarKey was released back in iOS 13.6, but doesn't have a ton of support yet. With iOS 15 it expands to include Ultra Wideband (UWB) support, and some auto makers will start supporting it at the end of 2021. But Wallet will start to allow other kinds of keys, like your home key (with supported smart lock), work keys to enter your office building, or hotel keys. All of this needs support, of course, but Hyatt will start to support keys in the Wallet app at over 1,000 properties later this year.
In supported states, you'll be able to store your government-issued ID in Wallet.
You still need your ID, though. Soon, Wallet will be able to store a valid ID card. In supported states, you'll just scan your driver's license or state ID and Wallet will store a valid ID that can be used in place of your physical one. It's encrypted and stored in the Secure Element, so nobody ever collects that data (not even Apple). The TSA is working to be one of the first to support this new digital ID, so you can just tap your iPhone and go.