iOS 15: Everything you need to know about Apple’s latest update for the iPhone

iOS 15: Everything you need to know about Apple’s latest update for the iPhone

WWDC is Apple’s annual event with a major emphasis on showcasing its software advancements. What this means is every year at WWDC, we get our first glimpse of the new versions of iOS, macOS, watchOS, and all of Apple’s apps and services. This year, Apple announced iOS 15 and iPadOS 15 along with macOS Monterey and watchOS 8. This article should give you a comprehensive overview of iOS 15 right from how you can install it on your iPhone to what the new features and improvements are on Apple’s latest smartphone OS.

iOS 15 on iPhone 12 Pro Max

Navigate this article:

Will my iPhone get iOS 15?

This is the most common question you may have as a consumer. If you have an iPhone and are wondering if your device will get the iOS 15 update or not, here’s a list of all iPhone devices that are slated to get the iOS 15 update:

  • iPhone 13
  • iPhone 13 Mini
  • iPhone 13 Pro
  • iPhone 13 Pro Max
  • iPhone 12
  • iPhone 12 mini
  • iPhone 12 Pro
  • iPhone 12 Pro Max
  • iPhone SE (2nd Generation)
  • iPhone 11
  • iPhone 11 Pro
  • iPhone 11 Pro Max
  • iPhone Xs
  • iPhone Xs Max
  • iPhone XR
  • iPhone X
  • iPhone 8
  • iPhone 8 Plus
  • iPhone 7
  • iPhone 7 Plus
  • iPhone SE (1st Generation)
  • iPhone 6s
  • iPhone 6s Plus

iOS 15 beta
Apart from the iPhone, even the iPod Touch 7th Generation will get the iOS 15 update. As far as the iPad is concerned, here’s the list of supported devices for iPadOS 15, which is an extension of the iOS update but for iPads:

  • iPad Mini (4th to 6th Generation)
  • iPad (5th Generation to 9th Generation)
  • iPad Air (2nd Generation to 4th Generation)
  • iPad Pro (All Generations and sizes)

iPad with iOS 15

It’s commendable Apple is providing software support to iPhone devices that are almost 6 years old, something Android OEMs, including Google themselves, should learn and implement.

When will iOS 15 be available to Download?

After three months of beta testing, Apple has finally made iOS 15 available to the public as a stable release. Starting today, September 20th, if you have a supported iPhone, you should be able to receive and install the update.

How to Install iOS 15 on my iPhone

We’ve prepared an extensive XDA Basics Guide that will explain the installation process for iOS 15. They’re easy-to-follow, bite-sized steps that will get you updating your iPhone in no time!

What’s new with iOS 15?

iOS 15 and features available

Apple announced a few new features with iOS 15 but largely, iOS 15 is more of an iterative update with not a lot of changes or differences. The UI remains identical to iOS 14 in terms of visuals but there are a few nifty additions across the board that improve the overall user experience. As with almost every iOS update, iOS 15 has gotten closer to Android in terms of some features it has to offer and we’ll go over all of it in detail.

iOS 15: All the New Features

Slightly revamped Settings app

iOS 15 Settings app

While there aren’t a lot of visual changes in iOS 15, we noticed a slight change in the way the Settings app looks on the iPhone 12 Pro Max. The entire Settings UI seems to have shrunk slightly and now looks more compact. Apart from that, everything else looks the same as iOS 14. The notifications also look slightly different but we’ll take more in detail about that in a separate section.

All-new FaceTime that even works with Android!

FaceTime Link
One of the biggest changes in iOS 15 is the all-new FaceTime app that brings a lot of new features including the ability to ask Android users to join your FaceTime call. Apple is calling this FaceTime Link. It lets you create a new FaceTime call from your iPhone and share the link with your friends on Android and they can use that link to hop onto the call.
There are some visual changes to FaceTime too like a new grid view during calls along with support for Spatial Audio with a supported pair of headphones like the AirPods Pro or the AirPods Max.

Apple WWDC 2021 Facetime Links

The biggest new feature though (yes, even bigger than Android support in our opinion) is SharePlay — not included in iOS 15.0, coming later this fall. This essentially turns your FaceTime call into a watch party with your friends and family. You can share your screen and watch TV shows and movies together, or just chill with synced music playback. This is extremely convenient and eliminates the need for other third-party apps and extensions to perform this task. You can also add a portrait mode effect now to your video on FaceTime.

Different Mic Modes: Voice Isolation and Wide Spectrum

Voice Modes in iOS 15
While this was initially thought to be restricted to FaceTime, going by Apple’s keynote, the feature is present throughout iOS 15 in every app that uses your microphone. You can now choose between three options for the type of audio captured by the mic — Standard, Voice Isolation, and Wide Spectrum.

Standard is, well, standard quality while Voice Isolation cuts out any sort of background noise in your environment and improves the quality of your audio. Wide Spectrum does the exact reverse and allows sounds from your background to be heard better. This is currently not completely functional and glitches out from time to time which is understandable given it’s a beta release. It’s a really interesting feature to look forward to though.

Sharing gets easier through iMessage on iOS 15

Shared with You
When someone sends you multiple pictures via iMessage, you’ll be able to swipe through the different images in a stack or as a collage which makes it more convenient and the message thread also looks cleaner this way. Also, there’s a new Shared with You feature across different first-party apps on iOS that shows you quick access links that someone shared with you via iMessage.
If someone sent you a link, it would show up when you open Safari. If someone sent you a Music track, it would show up when you open Apple Music. This makes accessing those shared constants easier and you can even continue the conversation from there.

Revamped Notifications (sort of)

iOS 15 Notifications

The way iOS displays notifications has always been inferior compared to Android. While it’s still the same, there are some notable improvements like larger app icons for app notifications and larger faces for notifications from people that allow those notifications to stand out.
Notification Summary is also a new feature that can display notifications in a grouped cluster from specific apps that you can set or the iPhone learns during your usage. The notifications will be delivered at a specific time and frequency that the user can choose.

Focus Modes for better Work-life Balance

Focus Modes

Focus Modes are an extended version of the DND feature that has been on iOS for a long time. It gives you different options to choose from depending on what you’re doing and changes a few settings on your phone, notification settings specifically, to match that mode.

You can have a personal mode where all your personal notifications will be delivered, while switching to work mode will ensure only notifications from work-related apps will be delivered to you. There’s also a Focus Mode for sleep and Apple also says iOS 15 will learn the usage patterns of users and suggest Focus Modes based on location or activities, such as when you’re working out.

Live Text is Google Lens but a few years late

Live Text on iOS 15
There’s not much to describe here other than the fact you can now point your iPhone at text and directly copy it to your clipboard, search for it online, or if it’s a phone number, place a call directly from the dialer. All of this was already offered by Google Lens but the difference here is Live Text processes information on-device which means it’s more secure and works even without an internet connection. Not just text, but you can also scan animals or objects and look them up.

Drag and Drop across apps on iOS 15

This is one of the best features in our opinion on iOS 15. Just as the title suggests, you can now drag and drop text or images from one app to the other on iOS 15 seamlessly. This is a handy way to attach images to your messages or emails or if you want to quickly transfer large chunks of text from one app to the other.
This also works with the Live Text feature we mentioned in the previous point.

Rich Results in Spotlight Search

Rich Results in Spotlight Search

Spotlight Search is one of the core features of both iOS and macOS. It lets you search for just about anything locally as well as online. Spotlight Search on iOS 15 will give you improved results with richer information.

If you search for a contact, it will give you details from all apps on your phone. If you search for a celebrity, it will give you details about them with deeper insights about their work. If you search for a term, it will even find photos related to it apart from searching your phone and online.

Big changes in Safari

Screenshot showing Safari redesigned URL bar and custom website tinting in iOS 15
After FaceTime, Safari is the app that has received the maximum number of changes. For starters, the UI looks entirely different and the address bar has been moved from the top to the bottom of the screen. The tab switching interface has also changed quite a bit and has a translucent background now. There’s support for voice search on Safari which is handy.

The biggest change however is the ability to install extensions on Safari which isn’t possible on some other popular mobile browsers like Google Chrome.

Safari Extensions

Apple Wallet can now actually let you leave your wallet at home

Scanning an ID into the Apple Wallet on iOS 15
While the Wallet app on the iPhone could already store a digital key for your car, it can now do much more including unlocking your house door or even storing access cards to unlock your office doors and even your hotel room when you’re on vacation. Apple’s aim is to completely eliminate the need for a separate wallet and allow you to have everything you need on your iPhone.

If you’re a frequent traveler, there’s good news for you too. Apple is working with the TSA to allow storing IDs in the Apple Wallet which can be then scanned at the airport to make the process a lot more seamless and convenient.

New Weather animations: Dark Sky acquisition finally pays off

Weather app on iOS 15

The default Weather app on iOS 15 has undergone a host of new changes. Apple acquired the popular weather information app Dark Sky last year and it looks like they’ve been implementing UI changes from it onto the Weather app.
The way the weather data is displayed has changed and is now accompanied by beautiful, realistic animations in the background. The graphics are more intuitive and accurately display the weather conditions in your location. Weather maps have also been added to represent the temperature, air quality, etc.

Miscellaneous Changes in iOS 15: Photos, Siri, and Privacy Reports

Privacy Reports

The Photos app has gotten a new feature where, if you have similar pictures or pictures shot on a trip or a special occasion, it will automatically create a slideshow for you consisting of those pictures with a music track added to the background. Apple is calling this Memories. As with Siri, most of the processing now happens on-device so there’s better offline functionality and better contextual conversations.

Privacy Reports just emphasize Apple’s inclination towards privacy. It gives you a detailed report about which apps have asked for permission to access the camera, microphone, contacts, etc. on your iPhone.

Full Changelog

iOS 15 Official Release Notes. Click to expand.

iOS 15 brings audio and video enhancements to FaceTime, including spatial audio and Portrait mode. Shared with You resurfaces the articles, photos, and other shared content from your Messages conversations in the corresponding app. Focus helps you reduce distractions by filtering out notifications based on what you are currently doing. Notifications have been redesigned and a new notification summary delivers a collection of notifications so you can catch up on your own time. Maps delivers a beautiful redesign with a new three-dimensional city experience and augmented reality walking directions. Live Text uses on-device intelligence to recognize text in photos across the entire system and on the web. New privacy controls in Siri, Mail, and more provide transparency and give you more control over your data.

For information on the security content of Apple software updates, please visit this website.

Feature Changelog:

  • FaceTime
    • Spatial audio makes people’s voices sound like they’re coming from the direction in which they’re positioned on the screen on Group FaceTime calls (iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, iPhone XR and later)
    • Voice Isolation blocks background noises so your voice is crystal clear (iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, iPhone XR and later)
    • Wide Spectrum brings all background noises into your call (iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, iPhone XR and later)
    • Portrait mode blurs your background and puts the focus on you (iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, iPhone XR and later)
    • Grid view displays up to six people at a time in Group FaceTime calls in the same-size tiles and highlights the current speaker
    • FaceTime links allow you to invite your friends into a FaceTime call, even friends on Android or Windows devices can join from their browser
  • Messages and Memoji
    • Shared with You shows content sent to you by friends in Messages conversations in a new section in Photos, Safari, Apple News, Apple Music, Apple Podcasts, or the Apple TV app
    • Pinned content elevates the shared content you choose and makes it more prominent in Shared with You, Messages search, and the Details view of the conversation
    • Multiple photos sent in Messages are displayed as a glanceable collage or a swipeable stack
    • Over 40 Memoji outfit choices and up to three different colors to customize your Memoji stickers’s clothing and headwear
  • Focus
    • Focus lets you automatically filter notifications based on what you’re currently doing, such as fitness, sleep, gaming, reading, driving, work, or personal time
    • Focus uses on-device intelligence during set up to suggest apps and people you want to allow notifications from in a Focus
    • Home Screen pages can be customized to match your apps and widgets to a specific Focus
    • Contextual suggestions intelligently suggest a Focus based on your context, using signals like location or time of day
    • Status appears to your contacts in Messages conversations, indicating your notifications are silenced with Focus
  • Notifications
    • A new look displays contact photos for people and larger icons for apps
    • Notification summary delivers a helpful collection of your notifications daily, based on a schedule you set
    • Notifications can be muted from any app or messaging thread for the next hour or for the day
  • Maps
    • Detailed city maps display elevation, trees, buildings, landmarks, crosswalks and turn lanes, and 3D views to navigate complex interchanges, and more in San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, New York, and London, with more cities coming in the future (iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, iPhone XR and later)
    • New driving features include a new map that highlights details like traffic and incidents, and a route planner that lets you view your upcoming journey by choosing a future departure or arrival time
    • Immersive walking directions show step-by-step directions in augmented reality (iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, iPhone XR and later)
    • Updated transit experience provides one-tap access to departures near you, makes it easy to see and interact with your route using one hand, and notifies you when approaching your stop
    • Interactive 3D globe shows enhanced details for mountain ranges, deserts, forests, oceans, and more (iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, iPhone XR and later)
    • Redesigned place cards make it easy to learn about and interact with places, and a new home for Guides editorially curates the best recommendations for places you’ll love
  • Safari
    • Bottom tab bar is easier to reach and helps you move between tabs by swiping left or right
    • Tab Groups help you save and organize your tabs and easily access them across devices
    • Tab overview grid view displays your open tabs
    • Start page can be customized with a background image and new sections like Privacy Report, Siri Suggestions, and Shared With You
    • Web extensions on iOS help you personalize your browsing and can be downloaded through the App Store
    • Voice search lets you search the web using your voice
  • Wallet
    • Home keys let you tap to unlock a supported home or apartment door lock (iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, iPhone XR and later)
    • Hotel keys allow you to tap to unlock your room at participating hotels
    • Office keys allow you to tap to unlock your office doors for participating corporate offices
    • Car keys with Ultra Wideband help you unlock, lock, and start your supported car without having to take your iPhone out of your bag or pocket (iPhone 11 and iPhone 12 models)
    • Remote keyless entry functions on your car keys allow you to lock, unlock, honk your horn, preheat your car, or open your trunk on your supported vehicle
  • Live Text
    • Live Text makes text interactive in your photos so you can copy and paste, look up, and translate in Photos, Screenshot, Quick Look, Safari, and live previews with Camera (iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, iPhone XR and later)
    • Data detectors for Live Text recognize phone numbers, emails, dates, street addresses, and more in photos so you can take action on them
    • Live Text is available from the keyboard letting you insert text directly from the camera viewfinder into any text field
  • Spotlight
    • Rich results brings together all the information you’re looking for on contacts, actors, musicians, movies, and TV shows
    • Photos can be searched from your photo library by locations, people, scenes, text in the photos or other things in the photos, like a dog or a car
    • Web image search allows you to search for images of people, animals, monuments, and more
  • Photos
    • New look for Memories with a new interactive interface, animated cards with smart, adaptive titles, new animation and transition styles, and multiple image collages
    • Apple Music can be added to your Memories for Apple Music subscribers, and personalized song suggestions combine expert recommendations with your music tastes and what’s in your photos and videos
    • Memory mixes let you set the mood by selecting from different songs and a Memory look to match
    • New memory types include additional international holidays, child-focused memories, trends over time, and improved pet memories
    • Info pane now displays rich information about the photo like which camera and lens, shutter speed, file size, and more
    • Visual Look Up recognizes art, landmarks around the world, plants and flowers, books, and dog and cat breeds in your photos so you can learn more about them
  • Health
    • Sharing lets you choose health data, alerts, and trends to share with people important to you or those who are caring for you, including your healthcare provider
    • Trends lets you see how a given health metric is progressing over time and can notify you when a new trend has been detected
    • Walking Steadiness is a new metric that can assess your risk of falling and notify you if your walking steadiness is low (iPhone 8 and later)
    • Verifiable health records enable you to download and store verifiable versions of COVID-19 vaccines and lab results
    • Lab results can now be pinned for quick access and include highlights that show how your labs have changed over time
  • Weather
    • A new design shows the most important weather information for that location and includes new maps modules
    • Weather maps can be viewed in full-screen and show precipitation, temperature and air quality in supported countries
    • Next-hour precipitation notifications alert you when rain or snow is about to start or stop in Ireland, U.K., and US
    • New animated backgrounds more accurately represent the sun position, clouds, and precipitation (iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, iPhone XR and later)
  • Siri
    • On-device processing means audio of your requests does not leave your device by default, and means Siri is able to process many requests while offline (iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, iPhone XR and later)
    • Share items with Siri lets you send on screen items like photos, web pages and Maps locations to any of your contacts
    • Onscreen context can be used by Siri to refer to contacts on screen to send them a message or place a call
    • On-device personalization allows Siri speech recognition and understanding to improve privately (iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, iPhone XR and later)
  • Privacy
    • Mail Privacy Protection protects your privacy by preventing email senders from learning about your Mail activity, your IP address or whether you’ve opened their email
    • Safari Intelligent Tracking Prevention now also prevents known trackers from profiling you using your IP address
  • iCloud+
    • iCloud+ is a cloud subscription service that gives you premium features and additional iCloud storage
    • iCloud Private Relay (beta) sends your requests through two separate internet relays and encrypts the internet traffic leaving your device so you can browse Safari in a more secure and private way
    • Hide My Email lets you create unique, random email addresses that forward to your personal inbox so you can send and receive email without having to share your real email address
    • HomeKit Secure Video supports connecting more security cameras without using your iCloud storage quota
    • Custom email domain personalizes your iCloud Mail address and allows you to invite family members to use the same domain
  • Accessibility
    • Image exploration with VoiceOver allows you to get even more details about people and objects, and learn about text and table data in photos
    • VoiceOver image descriptions in Markup let you add your own image descriptions that can be read by VoiceOver
    • Per-app settings allow you to customize display and text size settings only for the apps you want
    • Background sounds play balanced, bright, or dark noise, ocean, rain, and stream sounds continuously in the background to mask unwanted environmental or external noise
    • Sound actions for Switch Control enable you to control your iPhone with simple mouth sounds
    • Audiograms can be imported in Settings so you can customize Headphone Accommodations based on your hearing test results
    • New Voice Control languages include Mandarin Chinese (China mainland), Cantonese (Hong Kong), French (France), and German (Germany)
    • Memoji options including a cochlear implant, oxygen tubes, or a soft helmet
  • This release also includes other features and improvements:
    • Tags in Notes and Reminders help you quickly categorize your items to make them easy to find, and you can use custom Smart Folders and Smart Lists to automatically collect your notes and reminders based on rules you can define
    • Mentions in Notes enable you to notify others of important updates in shared notes, and an all-new Activity view displays all the recent changes in a note in a single list
    • Spatial audio with dynamic head tracking in Apple Music brings an even more immersive experience to Dolby Atmos music with AirPods Pro and AirPods Max
    • System-wide translation lets you select text throughout the system and translate it with a tap, even in photos
    • New widgets include Find My, Contacts, App Store, Sleep, Game Center, and Mail
    • Cross-app drag and drop function lets you pick up images, documents, and files from one app to another
    • Keyboard magnification loupe magnifies the text when moving the cursor
    • Apple ID Account Recovery Contacts lets you to choose one or more people you trust to help you reset your password and regain access to your account
    • Temporary iCloud storage grants you as much iCloud storage as you need to create a temporary backup of your data, free of charge, for up to three weeks when you buy a new device
    • Find My separation alerts notify you if you leave a supported device or item behind and Find My will give you directions to your item
    • Game highlights of up to the last 15 seconds of gameplay can be saved using game controllers like the Xbox Series X|S Wireless Controller or Sony PS5 DualSense™ Wireless Controller
    • App Store in-app events help you discover timely events within apps and games such as a game competition, a new movie premiere, or a livestreamed experience

These are all the new features and changes from iOS 14 that we observed on iOS 15. What do you think of iOS 15? Are there more features that iOS needs to borrow from Android? Or would you like to see any of these features making their way to Android? Let us know in the comments below!

About author

Mahmoud Itani
Mahmoud Itani

Mahmoud is an Istanbul-based Beiruti who has always sought freedom through writing. His hobbies include keeping up with tech news, writing articles about Apple devices & services, crocheting, meditating, and composing poetry. You’ll likely find him jogging at a park, swimming in open water, brainstorming at a coffeehouse, or merely lost in nature. He can be reached via [email protected] or the provided social links.