iOS 15 Developer Beta 1 Hands-On: SharePlay, Better Notifications, Focus Modes, and more!
Apple has announced iOS 15 at WWDC 2021 alongside iPad OS 15, WatchOS 8, macOS Monterey, and a host of new features and changes to its apps and services. While the final release of iOS 15 will happen later this year with the iPhone 13 announcement, you can now download the iOS 15 Beta to experience it on your iPhone. However, since this is a beta release, we wouldn’t recommend you to install it on your daily driver as you may encounter issues and bugs on a regular basis. Instead, you can go through our detailed hands-on of iOS 15 Beta 1 to know what’s new.
Visual Changes with iOS 15
The first thing that you notice when looking at any UI is the visuals and from iOS 14.6 to iOS 15 Beta 1, it doesn’t seem like a lot has changed. The home screen and lock screen remain largely similar except for the way notifications are displayed.
The Settings app seems slightly redesigned with all the elements just looking a little more compact on the iPhone 12 Pro Max. We don’t know if this is a bug or if it’s just meant to be that way.
Major Changes to FaceTime: Spatial Audio, Facetime Link, and SharePlay
Facetime, Apple’s in-house video calling service has received a major overhaul in terms of features. Not only is it more useful now, but it also emphasizes call quality, and it now lets you invite Android users to join your call, something that wasn’t possible before. FaceTime now competes directly with the likes of Zoom and Google Duo and even one-ups them in a few departments.
- Spatial Audio: It was introduced last year with iOS 14 and allowed users to experience an immersive audio experience. Now, Spatial Audio has made its way to FaceTime as well. When there are multiple people speaking on a FaceTime call, users with the AirPods Pro or AirPods Max will actually be able to hear their voices coming from different areas simulating a meeting with people sitting in different parts of a room.
- FaceTime Link: This is one of the biggest changes to FaceTime and the reason we say this is because FaceTime Link basically lets you add participants on Android and Windows as well onto your FaceTime call. This is a huge deal since your friends and family who are on Android no longer have to be excluded.
- SharePlay: If you ever wanted to watch a movie or a TV show with your friends, SharePlay makes it easier than ever. All you have to do is call your friends on FaceTime and as soon as you head over to a video streaming app like Apple TV+, you will see a prompt that will allow you to share the content over FaceTime. This even applies to sharing your screen for a presentation or for just listening to some music.
Other new features include voice isolation for clearer audio, grid view for a better view of all participants on a call, and portrait mode to blur your background.
iMessage gets New Sharing Options
When you share multiple images with people on iMessage, your contacts will now be able to view them as a stack or a collage which can be easily swiped through to navigate between pictures. There’s a new Shared with you tab across iOS 15 that lets you easily access content shared by someone with you on iMessage. If someone sent you a link to an album, you will now be able to see it under the Shared with you option within the Apple Music app. The same applies to Photos, Safari, Apple TV+, and Podcasts.
Notifications (finally) get a Revamp with iOS 15
If there’s one thing that iOS users have been complaining about for years, it’s the way the iPhone manages notifications. With iOS 15, Apple has tried to make things tidier in your notification drawer by introducing a number of changes. The most notable ones include larger app icons to easily identify the app that sent you a particular notification and also bigger faces of people on your personal notifications. This will help you decide which notifications are important to you and need a quick response and which ones can be dealt with later.
Notification Summary is another new feature that will deliver a collection of notifications chosen by you and the on-device AI based on your usage in a cluster to differentiate it from more important notifications such as messages for the people you know. Notification Summary can be scheduled to be delivered at any time of the day as chosen by the user.
Manage your Work-Life Balance with Focus
While this is an extension of the revamped notification settings, it also involves a little more personalization based on what you choose to focus on – Personal life, Work, Sleep, etc. These are various modes that you can choose from based on which you can alter your home screen settings, enable or disable notifications from select apps and contacts, etc. It essentially allows you to focus on what you want to while cutting out distractions. There are context-based Focus suggestions as well based on your location, time of the day, and the activity you’re performing. You can also set Do Not Disturb modes now with the ability to let a sender on iMessage know that DND is currently activated on your iPhone.
Live Text: Google Lens for iOS
Live Text is a neat little feature that lets you scan text from photos and either search for it in your browser or copy it to the clipboard to be pasted somewhere else. If the text you copied is a phone number, you also get options like dialing it directly from your phone. Not just text, but this feature also lets you identify animals and other elements that are a part of nature. If you’ve ever used Google Lens before, Live Text does exactly that but it is now baked into iOS 15.
Spotlight, Photo Memories, and Safari
Spotlight Search will now let you search for photos, text in photos, and even your handwritten notes which can be really helpful. It will also show you richer results for searches like contacts wherein all the information about the contact along with their live location if shared via Find My will be shown. Rich results will also be shown for searches involving actors, celebrities, TV shows, etc.
As with Photo Memories, it just creates a new album consisting of your recent images and plays a slideshow with music running in the background.
Safari is another app that has received a big overhaul. The address bar has moved to the bottom of the screen for better one-handed use. The tab view has also changed slightly and now has a translucent background. Voice search has also made its way to Safari. Another big addition to Safari is the support for browser extensions, something that even Chrome does not provide as of now on mobile. Swiping across the address bar at the bottom also lets you switch between tabs.
Apple Wallet can now hold your ID Cards
Apple introduced Car Keys to Apple Wallet last year and they’ve taken it a step further this year on iOS 15. While more cars will be getting support for UWB, the highlighting feature is that Apple will now let you add your house keys as well to your Apple Wallet. You can also add your office’s access cards so that you can go completely digital and your iPhone can unlock everything from your house door to your car. Apple is also working with hotels all over the world to allow guests to unlock their rooms with Apple Wallet. One of the biggest changes, though, is that Apple Wallet will even allow you to store your ID cards and Apple is even working with TSA to approve the use of digital IDs at airports.
Weather, Siri, and Privacy Reports on iOS 15
Apple’s default Weather app has been redesigned to show data in a better way. The background is more intuitive and the graphics change more accurately depending on the weather conditions. There are new animated backgrounds as well as full-screen weather maps.
As with Siri, most of the queries now stay on the device which means a lot of the offline recognition and processing have also gotten better. Siri also understands contextual questions better now meaning you can ask consecutive questions without repeating your first question and Siri will still understand what you’re trying to say.
App Privacy Reports is a new feature that shows you how apps on your iPhone track you and the history of data usage by apps. You can also track which apps have requested what permissions in the past few days and how many times an app has requested access to things like the camera, microphone, contacts, etc. This is surely a great feature that should give you an overview of how apps are using the data on your phone.
These were some of the notable changes and new features that we observed in iOS 15 during our brief time with it. Note that since this is just the first beta, a few features may be missing or a lot of things may be broken and unstable. With time, the OS will get more mature and stable and Apple will add more features by the time iOS 15 is ready for official rollout.
What are your thoughts on the new iOS 15 update for Apple devices? Do you like the changes? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!