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The best new features in iOS 15 and iPadOS 15

If you are getting ready to update to iOS 15 or iPadOS 15, here are the features to look out for.

ios 15 logo on blurred background
Image: KnowTechie

Apple has been beta testing iOS 15 and iPadOS 15 all summer with developers and willing beta testers. Now it’s officially released for those of you who don’t like dealing with beta software, and it’s got a whole bunch of new features that you might find useful.

If your iPhone/iPad isn’t updated already, here’s how to make that happen. All of the same iPhone and iPad models that supported iOS 14 last year are compatible with iOS 15, so if you’re already on iOS 14 you know you can upgrade without issues. That’s every iPhone from the iPhone 6S, and every iPad from the fifth-generation model, just an FYI.

Some features do require a newer iPhone, like Spatial Audio on FaceTime needs an iPhone XS or newer, and some features need an iPhone 12 or 13, but not many.

Now read on to find out what you’re getting.

Here’s what you need to know about iOS 15’s new features

I’ve been using iOS 15 since the early beta stages, and the overall feel is that it’s a welcome, if incremental, upgrade. That said, some of the new features are genuinely helpful, and it’s very worth updating. Here are our picks of the best new features.

FaceTime

facetime on ios 15 showing the new portrait mode
Image: KnowTechie

Apple has overhauled FaceTime for iOS 15 and iPadOS 15, with a bunch of great features since so many of us are living in video conferences. Audio and video quality both have been improved, and you can now do cross-platform calls which is huge.

  • Spatial audio: This makes individual voices sound like they’re coming from their position on the screen, to feel more natural
  • Grid View: Now everyone on your group calls will be in same-size tiles
  • Portrait mode: This new effect blurs your background, so the focus of your video calls is you
  • Invite anyone to FaceTime: Send family or friends a link to talk to you on FaceTime, even if they’re on Android or a Windows PC
  • Mic modes: Switch between Voice Isolation which tunes out your background noise, or Wide Spectrum, which leaves your ambient noise unfiltered

Focus

apple ios 15 focus mode
Image: KnowTechie

If, like me, you’re easily distracted, iOS 15 has new ways to tune out your notifications or other distractions. Focus lets you create custom modes to customize your notifications, tweak your Home screen, share your status automatically in Messages, and more. Think of it as a way to limit the amount of information coming in while you concentrate.

Shared with You

This new feature collates all the content your friends send to you, like photos inside Messages, so it lives in an easily found Shared with You section of the app. It’s being integrated into Photos, Safari, Apple News, Apple Music, Apple Podcasts, and also the Apple TV app.

Safari

ios 15 safari browser bar showing aA button for settings
Image: KnowTechie

Apple usually leaves Safari alone, but this year it’s getting an overhaul. The default place for the address bar is the bottom of your screen, so you don’t have to stretch to use it. If you prefer, Apple lets you put it back at the top, because many testers over the summer complained.

Safari in iOS 15 now also has the Tab Bar from iPadOS, for ease of use. A new Tab Groups feature lets you group tabs for better organization, which also syncs across all the devices you use Safari on.

Weather

the new weather app in ios 15
Image: KnowTechie

The all-new Weather app has been redesigned to give you the info you need, without searching. It’s got real-time notifications, animated backgrounds that represent the weather at your location, and a new design that automatically rearranges its layout depending on your local weather.

Live Text

iphone ios 15 live text
Image: KnowTechie

iOS 15 and iPadOS 15 bring the ability to interact with text inside images. Yes, any text inside images can be tapped on, and either copied, searched on the web, or instantly put into the Mail or Phone apps. Everything from handwritten text to printed text can be picked up by feature, and the Camera app can recognize text from its live preview.

Photos

The biggest update to Photos is an update to Spotlight that makes it able to search by location, people, scenes, or objects. It can also search using Live Text so you can search inside your pictures. It’s also getting a customizable Memories feature so you can “personalize the look and feel of your story with a song and vibe to match.”

Privacy

Privacy measures are also a big focus for iOS 15 and iPadOS 15. Apple is adding its own authenticator, which can also autofill the codes used for two-factor authentication with many services. Mail Privacy Protection stops email senders from knowing if you’ve opened their email, and also hides your IP address so they can’t link you to your other online activity or location.

Secure Paste lets developers set things up so you can paste content into other apps, without them seeing what’s in your clipboard before you’ve granted access. A new one-time Share Current Location feature allows a one-time sharing, so developers don’t get access to your location forever, and third-party apps can offer shorter selection workflows when you grant limited Photos library access.

If you’re an iCloud+ subscriber, you also get four super handy privacy features. iCloud Private Relay is an automatic VPN-like service that routes your web traffic around, so nobody, even Apple, can see what you’re doing online. You also get Hide My Email, which creates randomized email addresses that forward to your actual email, so you don’t have to expose your email address to services.

You can also customize your iCloud.com email addresses to custom domain names you own. The last feature is HomeKit Secure Video, which stores encrypted video footage inside iCloud, for your home security system.

Some iPadOS specifics, and all the widgets you could shake a Pencil at

Image: KnowTechie

iPadOS 15 finally brings widgets to your Home screen, after a year of iPhone users lording it over you. The App Library is also coming to iPadOS 15, so you’ll get curated categories with all your installed apps. A new Multitasking menu at the top of apps lets you easily enter Split View, Slide Over, fullscreen or center window, so no more fumbling at gesture controls.

Split View now shows the Home screen when you enter it from inside another app, giving you access to any app you want. Shelf shows you all the open apps, so you can multitask quicker, and a whole list of new keyboard shortcuts is included from multitasking and contextual menus.

iOS 15 also brings tons of new widgets: Find My, Contacts, Game Center, App Store, Sleep, and Mail. Apple also says that once you upgrade to iOS 15, you’ll see some Smart Stack widgets on your Home screen, created from your most-used apps. Nifty.

What’s to come

Some of iOS 15’s announced features won’t be coming to the operating system just yet. It’s another year of delays, which should be expected to be honest.

SharePlay, ID cards in the Wallet app, App Privacy Report, CarPlay navigation improvements, Legacy Contacts, Find My AirPods, and Universal Control is all coming later. We’ll update you once we find out when they are available.

Have any thoughts on this? Let us know down below in the comments or carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.

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