Apple in June 2021 introduced the latest version of its iOS operating system, iOS 15, which was released on September 20, 2021. iOS 15 introduces new features for FaceTime calls, tools to reduce distractions, a new notifications experience, added privacy features, complete redesigns for Safari, Weather, and Maps, and more.
Notifications have been redesigned in iOS 15, adding contact photos for people and larger icons for apps. To reduce distraction, a notification summary collects notifications together for delivery at an appropriate time and arranges notifications by priority.
Focus is a new feature that can filter notifications and apps based on what a user wishes to focus on at a certain time. When a user’s Focus is blocking incoming notifications, their status will be displayed to others in Messages. iOS will suggest a Focus for different occasions, such as work hours or winding down for bed, using on-device intelligence, but users can also create a custom Focus. When a Focus is set on one Apple device, it automatically applies to other Apple devices.
Safari features a completely new design. Controls are now easier to reach with one hand and give more focus to a webpage’s content. There is a new, compact tab bar that floats at the bottom of the screen so users can easily swipe between tabs. Tab Groups allow users to save tabs and easily access them at any time across devices. There is also a customizable start page and web extensions for the first time.
The Maps app now offers a new 3D view in cities with significantly enhanced details, showing buildings, pedestrian crosswalks, bike lanes, and more. There is a new city-driving experience with added road details and improved Transit features, such as pinned favorite lines, notifications to disembark, and AR walking directions.
iOS 15 brings voice isolation and Spatial Audio to FaceTime calls so that voices sound as if they are coming from where the person is located on the screen. FaceTime also supports Portrait mode and offers a new grid view to see more faces at the same time. SharePlay is a new feature that allows users to share media together in sync during a FaceTime call. Users can also generate shareable links to a scheduled FaceTime call, which can also be opened on Android and Windows devices.
The Weather app has been redesigned in iOS 15, showing more graphical displays of weather data, full-screen maps, and dynamic layouts that change based on weather conditions. Totally new animated backgrounds can now more accurately reflect the sun’s position and current precipitation, and there are notifications to highlight when rain or snow starts and stops.
The Wallet app adds support for new key types in iOS 15, such as homes, offices, or hotel rooms. In 2022, customers in participating U.S. states will be able to add a driver’s license or state ID to the Wallet app.
The Photos app features a major update to Memories with a new design and an interactive interface. Memories now supports integration with Apple Music, using on-device intelligence to offer song suggestions for personalized Memories.
Live Text is a new feature that uses on-device intelligence to recognize text in a photo that users can search for, highlight, and copy. Spotlight can now search for photos by location, people, scenes, objects, and text. Spotlight also offers web image search and richer results for actors, musicians, TV shows, and movies. Enhanced results for contacts show recent conversations, shared photos, and location if it is shared through Find My.
iOS 15 also introduces new privacy measures, such as processing Siri requests directly on the iPhone, which has the added benefit of better responsiveness, Mail Privacy Protection to stop senders knowing if an email has been opened and detecting a recipient’s IP address, and an App Privacy Report view to show how often apps use the permissions they have been granted.
There are dozens of tweaks and changes for other apps, such as user-created tags, mentions, and an Activity view in the Notes app, Trends, Walking Steadiness, and a new sharing tab in the Health app, a systemwide Shared with You feature for highlighting content that has been shared in Messages conversations, and a new For All of You row in the TV app to recommend entertainment for the whole household.
iOS 15 is compatible with the iPhone 6s and later, which means it runs on all devices that are able to run iOS 14, and it was released on September 20, 2021.
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iOS 15 is available to all users with compatible devices now, and it is possible to update in the Software Update section of the Settings app.
Questions or issues can be directed to our iOS 15 forum where readers are discussing the release.
The current version of iOS is iOS 15.4.1, which was released to the public on Thursday, March 31, rectifying a battery drain issue alongside other minor bug fixes. iOS 15.4 adds new emojis, support for third-party apps to implement 120Hz animations on ProMotion displays, EU vaccine certificates in the Wallet app, the ability to use Face ID while wearing a mask with an iPhone 12 or newer, the ability to turn off notifications for Shortcuts automations, an Apple Card widget, iCloud Keychain notes, improvements to saving passwords, custom email domains, SharePlay in the share sheet, anti-stalking improvements for AirTags, a new Siri voice, the ability to restore a nearby Apple Watch, a range of other security improvements and bug fixes, and more.
A previous update, iOS 15.2, introduced a large number of new features, including the ability to scan for nearby AirTags and Find My-enabled devices, App Privacy Report, a Macro Mode toggle in the Camera app, playlist search in Apple Music, Hide My Email, Emergency SOS improvements, Communication Safety for kids, Digital Legacy, a redesigned notification summary, the Apple Music Voice Plan, and more.
Apple has seeded three beta versions of iOS 15.6 to developers and public beta testers. The update features references to Apple Classical, Apple Pay Cash improvements, SportsKit improvements, rebranding of iTunes Pass to “Apple Balance,” support for outside payment options and linking to external websites for purchases in reader apps, and more.
iOS 15 introduces completely redesigned notifications. Notifications will now display contact photos for people and larger icons for apps to make them easier to identify.
There is an all-new personalized notification summary that collects non-urgent notifications together to be delivered at a more appropriate time, such as in the morning or evening. Notifications in the summary are arranged by priority using on-device intelligence that analyzes the user’s interactions with apps, with the most important and relevant notifications rising to the top. Urgent messages and time-sensitive notifications will still be delivered immediately.
There is now the option to mute any app or messaging thread’s notifications temporarily, and iOS 15 will suggest muting a thread if it is unusually active but you are not engaging with it.
There is also a new notification API for developers, allowing them to send Time Sensitive notifications and adopt the new look for notifications coming from people.
iOS 15 features a new tool to help users reduce distraction called Focus. A Focus can filter notifications and Home Screen pages based on what a users wishes to focus on at a particular time, while still allowing urgent notifications through. When a user’s Focus is currently blocking incoming notifications, their status is automatically displayed to other people in Messages, showing that a user is not currently available unless it is urgent.
iOS will automatically suggest Focuses to users using on-device intelligence to determine which people and apps should notify them at certain times. Focus suggestions are based on users’ contexts, such as work hours, personal time, or winding down for bed. Users can also create a custom Focus to only show certain notifications and Home Screen pages, select allowed interruptions for the most important notifications and apps, and set up auto-replies for Messages during a Focus.
When a user sets a Focus, it syncs across Apple devices. Developers can implement a new Status API for third-party messaging apps to reflect a Focus status.
Spotlight can now use intelligence to search for photos by location, people, scenes, or objects, and using the new Live Text feature, Spotlight can find text and handwriting in photos.
Spotlight also supports web image searches and significantly richer results for actors, musicians, TV shows, and movies. Enhanced results for contact cards show recent conversations, shared photos, and location if it is shared through Find My.
It is also possible to access Spotlight from the Lock Screen and quickly install apps from the App Store without leaving Spotlight. For businesses that support App Clips, there is an action button on the Maps result in Spotlight.
In iOS 15, FaceTime offers Spatial Audio so that voices in a video call sound as if they are coming from where the person is located on the screen. There are also new microphone modes to separate a user’s voice from background noise or introduce background noise in Wide Spectrum mode if desired.
FaceTime now features Portrait mode for video calls, so users are able to blur out their background and put themselves in focus, and mute alerts so it is clearer when you are speaking on mute. There is also a new grid view for group FaceTime calls, enabling participants to see more faces at the same time, and an optical zoom control for the back camera.
SharePlay is a new feature that allows users to share experiences with each other during FaceTime calls, including media like Apple Music songs, TV shows, or movies. Media is played in sync for all participants and there are shared playback controls, so anyone in a SharePlay session can play, pause, or skip content, as well as add to a shared queue. SharePlay also gives users the ability to share their screens to view apps together in a FaceTime call.
Third-party apps such as Disney+, ESPN+, HBO Max, Hulu, MasterClass, Paramount+, Pluto TV, TikTok, Twitch, and others have committed to integrating SharePlay.
SharePlay extends to the iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple TV, so users can watch shows or movies on a bigger screen while connecting over FaceTime. Smart volume control dynamically and automatically adjusts audio so you can hear your friends even when shared content is playing loudly. SharePlay also features in-app Messages controls.
Users can now create a link to a FaceTime call and share it through Messages, Calendar, Mail, or third-party apps.
FaceTime links can be opened to use the FaceTime app on Apple devices, but they can also be opened through a web browser, bringing FaceTime to Android and Windows for the first time. FaceTime calls on the web remain end-to-end encrypted to guarantee privacy.
The Photos app contains a considerable update to Memories, which now features a new design, integration with Apple Music, a more interactive interface, and Memory looks.
Memories will suggest songs based on your Apple Music listening history that synchronize with videos and photos for a more personalized experience. Users can customize memories by swiping through Memory mixes, which let you audition different songs with a different pace and atmosphere.
There are 12 Memory looks that add mood by analyzing each photo and video and applying the correct amount of contrast and color adjustment for a consistent look. There are also new Memory types, including additional international holidays, child-focused memories, trends over time, and improved pet memories, including the ability to recognize individual dogs and cats.
It is also possible to view and edit all of the content from a Memory in a bird’s-eye view, and a Watch Next section suggests related memories to watch.
People identification features improved recognition for individuals, and it is easier to correct naming mistakes in the People album. There is an option to Feature Less to let Photos know that you would prefer to see less of a specific date, place, holiday, or person across Featured Photos, the Photos widget, Memories, and highlighted in the Library tab.
In iOS 15, Photos features a richer Info pane to view information about the photo, such as the camera, lens, and shutter speed, the file size, or who sent a Shared with You photo in Messages. You can also edit the date taken or location, add a caption, and learn about items detected by Visual Look Up.
The Photos image picker, including in the Messages app, now allows you to select photos in a specific order for sharing. Third-party apps can also offer simpler selection workflows when you grant access to specific content in the Photos library.
Apple also says that the initial sync of iCloud Photos on a new device is faster in iOS 15.
Maps now features an interactive globe view and significantly enhanced details in a new 3D view for cities. Neighborhoods, commercial districts, elevation, buildings, and more are now displayed in detail, alongside new road colors and labels, custom-designed landmarks, and a new “moonlit” night-time mode.
The Maps app also offers a new 3D city-driving experience with road details such as turn lanes, medians, bike lanes, and pedestrian crosswalks, that works both on the iPhone and in Apple CarPlay.
Transit navigation has been redesigned and travelers can now find nearby stations more easily and pin their favorite lines. Maps will automatically follow along a selected transit route, notifying users when it is almost time to disembark.
There is also a new walking directions view that uses augmented reality. Users simply hold up their iPhone, and the Maps app will generate an accurate position to deliver detailed walking directions using the camera.
Redesigned place cards make it easier to find and interact with information about businesses, locations, and physical features. There is a new Guides Home that features editorially curated information about new places.
When searching for a new location, there are new options to filter results by criteria like cuisine or opening times. Maps will also automatically update search results when moving around and the most-used settings are now located in one, simpler location.
The Wallet app supports additional types of keys in iOS 15, such as home, office, corporate, or hotel room key cards.
The Wallet app is also expanding its support of car keys, now using Ultra Wideband to unlock, lock, and start your car without having to take your iPhone out of your pocket. Ultra Wideband also gives precise spatial awareness, meaning that iOS will stop you from locking your car while your iPhone is inside or start your vehicle when your iPhone is outside.
Wallet now supports remote keyless entry controls, allowing you to lock or unlock your car, honk your horn, preheat your car, or open your trunk.
Starting in early 2022, customers in participating states in the U.S. will be able to add their driver’s license or state IDs to the Wallet app. According to Apple, the Transportation Security Administration is working to enable airport security checkpoints as the first place customers can use their digital Identity Card in Wallet.
The Wallet app will also now automatically archive expired boarding passes and event tickets. Safari also supports adding multiple passes to Wallet in one action instead of having to manually add one pass at a time.
iOS 15 brings a completely new design to Safari. Controls are brought to the bottom of the screen so that they are easier to reach with one hand.
There is a new, compact tab bar that floats at the bottom of the screen so that users can easily swipe between tabs, and it also contains a Smart Search field. Tab Groups allow users to save their tabs in a folder and sync across the iPhone, iPad, and Mac. In addition, there is a new tab overview grid view.
Users can simply pull down a web page to refresh it and there is now support for voice search. Safari also gains a customizable start page and mobile web extensions for the first time.
iOS 15 features new Safari privacy protections, including Intelligent Tracking Prevention that prevents trackers from profiling you using your IP address, and Safari will automatically upgrade sites known to support HTTPS from insecure HTTP.
Content sent to you in Messages automatically appears in a new “Shared with You” section in the corresponding app. Shared with You is featured in Photos, Safari, Apple News, Apple Music, Apple Podcasts, and the Apple TV app. Users can pin notable content that has been shared with them so that it is elevated in Shared with You, Messages search, and the Details view of the conversation.
Groups of photos sent in Messages now appear as a glanceable collage or a swipeable stack, depending on how many have been sent. It is also now possible to find images shared through Messages using a contact name.
iOS 15 allows users to seamlessly switch between phone numbers in the middle of an iMessage conversation on an iPhone with Dual SIM support, including the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, iPhone XR, and newer.
Messages also gains some regional improvements in iOS 15, such as unwanted SMS filtering in Brazil and notification options in India and China, allowing users to turn off notifications for types of messages they choose.
The Weather app has been totally redesigned in iOS 15. The Weather app now features more graphical displays for weather data, a full-screen map, and a dynamic layout that changes based on outside conditions.
Apple has redesigned the Weather app’s animated backgrounds to more accurately reflect the sun’s current position and precipitation conditions. There are also notifications to highlight when rain or snow starts and stops.
In iOS 15, the Health app has a new sharing tab that allows users to share their selected health data with family or caregivers. Lab results have been enhanced with descriptions, highlights, and the option to pin results for quick access. Health can now detect Trends, drawing users’ attention to meaningful changes in personal health metrics.
The Health app also adds Walking Steadiness as a new metric to help manage fall risk. COVID-19 immunizations and test results can be stored in the Health app using a QR code from a healthcare provider. Blood glucose highlights now show levels during sleep and exercise, and feature interactive charts.
The Find My app introduces new abilities to help locate a lost device that has been turned off or erased using the Find My network. A family member or friend who chooses to share their location with you will now continuously live-stream their location to provide a sense of direction and speed.
Apple is adding Find My network support to third-generation AirPods, AirPods Pro, and AirPods Max, and there is a new Find My widget for an at-a-glance look at locations. There are also new Separation Alerts to notify a user if they leave an AirTag, Apple device, or Find My accessory network behind in an unfamiliar location.
Notes in iOS 15 features user-created tags to conveniently sort and categorize notes in new ways. There is a Tag Browser to tap combinations of tags and quickly view tagged notes. There are also new custom folders that automatically collect notes based on tags.
For shared notes, it is now possible to mention other users to notify one another of updates, and an all-new Activity view shows the recent edit history.
Reminders now features tags to help with organization, and it is possible to search and filter reminders based on tags. There is a new Tag Browser to tap combinations of tags and quickly view tagged reminders. There are also new custom smart lists that automatically collect reminders together based on tags.
iOS 15 also brings quick-access options to easily delete completed reminders, improved natural language support, and expanded suggested attributes such as tags, flags, priority, and more.
In iOS 15, Siri requests are processed on-device using the Neural Engine, increasing security and significantly boosting responsiveness, while also no longer needing an internet connection.
On-device speech recognition and understanding improve as you use your device. Siri is also able to learn about the contacts you interact with most, new words you type, and topics you read about to provide better responses.
Siri can now share onscreen items such as photos, web pages, content from Apple Music or Apple Podcasts, Apple News stories, Maps locations, and more, in a Message, or even take a screenshot to send. In addition, Siri can now use onscreen context to send a message or place a call.
Siri is now better at maintaining context between requests, so you can conversationally refer to what you previously asked. You can also make requests to control a HomeKit device at a specific time or under certain circumstances, like when you leave home.
Siri is also able to Announce Notifications, such as Reminders, on AirPods and in Apple CarPlay, and users can ask Siri what is on their screen.
Siri offers neural text-to-speech voice in more languages in iOS 15, including Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, and Finnish. There is also Siri language support for Mixed English, Indic, and a mix of Indian English and a native language, including Hindi, Telugu, Kannada, Marathi, Tamil, Bengali, Gujarati, Malayalam, and Punjabi.
Apple has previewed new child safety features that will be coming to its platforms with software updates at an unspecified later date. The company said the features will be available in the U.S. only at launch and will be expanded to other regions over time, including the UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
The Messages app on the iPhone, iPad, and Mac will be getting a new Communication Safety feature to warn children and their parents when receiving or sending sexually explicit photos. Apple has said that the Messages app will use on-device machine learning to analyze image attachments, and if a photo is determined to be sexually explicit, the photo will be automatically blurred and the child will be warned.
When a child attempts to view a photo flagged as sensitive in the Messages app, they will be alerted that the photo may contain private body parts, and that the photo may be hurtful. Depending on the age of the child, there will also be an option for parents to receive a notification if their child proceeds to view the sensitive photo or if they choose to send a sexually explicit photo to another contact after being warned.
The Communication Safety feature will be coming in updates to iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and macOS Monterey for accounts set up as families in iCloud. iMessage conversations will remain protected with end-to-end encryption, meaning that private communications will be unreadable to Apple.
Using a new feature, Apple will be able to detect known Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM) images stored in iCloud Photos, enabling Apple to report these instances to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), a non-profit organization that works in collaboration with U.S. law enforcement agencies.
Apple says the method of detecting known CSAM is designed with user privacy in mind. Instead of scanning images in the cloud, Apple said the system will perform on-device matching against a database of known CSAM image hashes provided by the NCMEC and other child safety organizations. It will transform this database into an unreadable set of hashes that is securely stored on users’ devices.
Before an image is stored in iCloud Photos, an on-device matching process will be performed for that image against the unreadable set of known CSAM hashes. If there is a match, the device creates a cryptographic safety voucher. This voucher is uploaded to iCloud Photos along with the image, and once an undisclosed threshold of matches is exceeded, Apple is able to interpret the contents of the vouchers for CSAM matches.
Apple then manually reviews each report to confirm there is a match, disables the user’s iCloud account, and sends a report to NCMEC. Apple has not shared what its exact threshold is, but it has an “extremely high level of accuracy” to ensure that accounts are not incorrectly flagged.
The hashing technology, called NeuralHash, analyzes an image and converts it to a unique number specific to that image. The underlying technology behind Apple’s system is quite complex and it has published a technical summary with more details.
Apple will expand guidance in Siri and Spotlight Search across devices by providing additional resources to help children and parents stay safe online and get help with unsafe situations. For example, users who ask Siri how they can report CSAM or child exploitation will be pointed to resources for where and how to file a report.
These updates to Siri and Search are coming in an update to iOS 15, iPadOS 15, watchOS 8, and macOS Monterey.
We’ve created in-depth guides that cover all of the major features in iOS 15, and each guide is outfitted with useful how tos. Make sure to check out each one to get a detailed rundown on the new features and how to use them.
iOS 15 is compatible with all of the same iPhones as iOS 13 and iOS 14, including older devices like the original iPhone SE and iPhone 6s. iOS 15 compatible devices are listed below.
iPhone SE (2020)
iPhone 11 Pro Max
iPhone XS Max
iPhone 8 Plus
iPhone 7 Plus
iPhone 6s Plus
iPhone SE (2016)
iPod touch (7th generation)
Apple released iOS 15 on September 20, 2021.
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