At Apple’s developer conference, the company unveiled the new mobile operating system: iOS 15. Head of software engineering Craig Federighi announced a slew of new features reaching into things like FaceTime, Messages, Photos, Maps and notifications.
Spatial audio will come to FaceTime to make the video calling app more realistic. Your friends’ audio streams will sound like they’re coming from the side of the screen they’re on. Noise reduction can also make your sound clearer by muting distracting sounds like the wind or vacuum cleaners in the background. If you want your caller to hear everything around you, the wide-spectrum mode lets your microphone pick up your voice as well as the rest of your surroundings. You can also clean up the background appearance by applying a new portrait mode to blur everything except the face.
A new Grid view lets you see everyone in blocks as FaceTime links arrive to help schedule calls. You can send them on Calendar, WhatsApp and more, and even those on Android and Windows devices can use the links to join FaceTimes from their browsers.
SharePlay lets you watch a video with your friend on a call, and you can keep your movie playing while you explore other things on your phone, thanks to Picture-in-Picture support. Apple is introducing a SharePlay API to allow other developers to use this feature and is already supported by partners such as Disney+, Hulu, HBOMax, Twitch, TikTok and Paramount+.
In addition to watching a show with your friend on FaceTime, you can also see what’s on your phone through screen sharing.
Federighi also announced updates to the Messaging app. Instead of having to keep your unread notifications close at hand to remind you when you’ve received something from a friend but aren’t ready to check it out yet, the new Share feature can help. When friends send you photos in Messages, for example, the relevant images will be saved in your device’s album. Apple determines the relevant images as the ones you’re in, so you won’t get screenshots filling your gallery. Sharing with you also works with Apple Music and Apple TV so playlists and shows that people send you can be pinned and easily found again later.
Apple is also improving the way notifications work on iOS 15 to make it easy to disconnect when you need to. Aesthetically, iPhone alerts will be easier to read with new contact photos for people who sent messages and larger icons for apps, so you can more easily identify which app sent the notification.
A notification summary gives you a snapshot of all the alerts you’ve missed and organizes them based on what the system determines to be your favorite apps. The most relevant notifications will also be placed closer to the top. When you need a break from the relentless onslaught of notifications, Focus mode shuts down most of them system-wide.
Apple will use “device intelligence about your past activities to suggest apps and people to allow notifications from.” You can also set different profiles like Work, Sleep and Personal to prioritize different apps or contacts during different times of the day. When you change your profile, you can also set it up so that your iPhone home page changes to show different apps – Slack and Email when Work is enabled while Reddit and YouTube show when you’re in Personal mode, for example.
There’s also a “Do Not Disturb” mode to silence everything, and when you have one of these modes turned on, a status screen in apps like Messaging will let your contacts know you won’t respond right away. These modes also apply to devices such as iPhones, iPads, MacBooks and Apple Watch.
Federighi also introduced something called Live Text, which looks very similar to Google’s Lens feature. It will scan the things you are pointing the camera at and highlight the things it recognizes as words. If you’re pointing your viewfinder at a whiteboard, for example, Active Text will highlight what’s written there, and you can tap the selection to copy it as text that you can paste elsewhere on your phone. This also works for images (or screenshots) that are already in your device’s gallery.
Much like Google’s system, Live Text can also identify things like locations in an image or the breed of a dog you saw on Reddit and display links to open your browser to a relevant website.
Fotos is also getting easier to use with the new search integration. Your Spotlight search for everything on your device will now return images in your photo albums as well. You can search for specific people or scenes on your home screen and even find images by typing the text that was on them. In another update reminiscent of a popular Google feature, Apple is bringing Memories to your photo album and will organize and merge your photos and videos into artificial intelligence-generated home movies.
But unlike Google’s offering, iOS 15 will also bring the ability to put music on these clips, setting some empathetic background music to add to the experience. Apple will also add animated title cards to these videos. You can customize the memories to choose a different song or add and remove images, and the system will add filters and time the transitions and slideshow speed with the music.
Over the course of iOS 15, Apple also made some small changes. It’s enriching results for contacts, letting you see conversations with them and their location, as well as their calls, text messages, facetime and email.
After adding credit cards, store loyalty cards, and theme park or transit passes to Wallet, Apple continues to add more features. The app already supported car keys for select vehicles, and with iOS 15, you can get hotel room keys starting this fall at more than 1,000 Hyatt properties globally. Apple is also bringing ID cards to Wallet. In states in America that already allow it, you can scan your driver’s license in the app. Data is securely encrypted and stored on the equipment itself. Apple is also working with the TSA to use IDs at airports.
The Weather app is also being updated. It will display full-screen, high-resolution weather maps showing air quality and precipitation data. These layouts and displayed information may change depending on conditions such as “wind and rain or harmful air quality”. It will also show details on wind speed, UV index and barometric pressure.
Meanwhile, Apple Maps is expanding into Spain and Portugal today, as well as Australia and Italy later this year. The company has added a globe view to Maps, and you can zoom in on cities to see more details, such as new custom landmarks. Unlike Google’s Street View, this is not a photorealistic rendering, but drawings of the area, with prints including crosswalks, lanes, trees, and superimposed highways. A night mode makes buildings appear to be moonlit too.
Navigations are also getting updates – you can pin your favorite public transport routes at the top of the results. Apple is also introducing an AR-based feature in select cities like London, San Francisco and New York to allow you to point your iPhone at buildings to find out more information.
Federighi closed the iOS 15 section of WWDC 2021 saying there’s more to come, including voice search, drag-and-drop cross-app support and new emoji clothing options as well. The beta version of iOS 15 is now available, so more information about the new version of the operating system will come out in the near future.
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