Apple iOS 15 promises loads of powerful new features

Apple’s WWDC started today and the tech giant had a lot of news covering iOS, iPadOS, macOS, watchOS and more.

For many non-developers, the big news is going to be the changes coming to the iPhone’s mobile operating system, and iOS 15 doesn’t disappoint.

In the virtual keynote, Apple previewed multiple updates to FaceTime, including ways to make calls more natural using spatial audio and SharePlay for shared experiences during calls (such as listening to songs together with Apple Music, watching a TV show or movie in sync, or sharing the screen to view apps with friends).

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There are new Focus features to help reduce distraction, and enhanced on-device intelligence to discover information.

Notifications have been redesigned too, with contact photos for people and larger icons for apps.

Apple also introduced updates for Maps, Weather, and Wallet.

For me, the ability to recognize text in a photo and interact with it was one of the more useful inclusions, and Apple showed this being used to locate the picture of a handwritten family recipe and also to capture a phone number from a storefront and place a call.

There were a lot of new privacy features added too.

"For many customers, iPhone has become indispensable, and this year we’ve created even more ways it can enhance our daily lives," said Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of Software Engineering. "iOS 15 helps users stay connected while sharing experiences in real time, gives them new tools to help reduce distraction and find focus, uses intelligence to enhance the photos experience, and, with huge upgrades to Maps, brings new ways to explore the world. We can’t wait for customers to experience it."

Other additions to 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, making it easy to quickly access the information in context.
  • 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 developer preview of iOS 15 is available to Apple Developer Program members at developer.apple.com from today. A public beta will be released next month at beta.apple.com and the full thing will available for iPhone 6s and later this fall. For more information, visit apple.com/ios/ios-15-preview.

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