iOS 15 is here

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All That’s New From Apple

In the third week of SeptemberApple released iOS 15 – its big annual update. While iOS users receive updates throughout the year, this one is perhaps the most exciting for all Apple users. Packed with loads of of new and much needed features, the most buzzworthy changes are perhaps in the FaceTime and Focus modes, but once delved into further, one can also see the nifty changes within the Messages, Maps, Safari and Photos apps, which were already pretty great to begin with, but the changes are definitely there. Their reception has mostly been positive, despite a few misses here and there.
To answer the most common question first about how to get it – users can upgrade their devices to iOS 15 the straightforward way – by heading into the ‘General’ section of the device settings, and downloading and installing. It is good to remember to plug-in the device through this process. The update is supported on a wide range of devices, starting from phones as old as the iPhone 6s to the very latest models. Even the 7th generation iPod Touch and the original iPhone SE support this update to their software, and iPads also get their own version of it in the form of the PadOS 15.
Let’s have an in-depth look at all that’s new in iOS 15.

FaceTime and SharePlay: A Welcome Change

Let’s start with the most prominent change to iOS 15 – FaceTime. After having spent most of the past year and a half on audio and video calls, it is probably not a surprise that the list of these video messaging tools did not include Apple’s native app. FaceTime’s previous group calling feature seemed to be a bit all over the place, with windows that would highlight the individual talking in haphazard ways. The new update addresses this issue in multiple ways, firstly with a grid layout, and secondly with spatial audio which simulates the relative position of the voice with the position of the owner’s image or video on the display. This might not seem like much, but it brings a whole new level of realism to voice calls, and is probably the first implementation of such a feature in the market. Speaking of work and connecting better over FaceTime, links to meetings can now be created in either the app itself, or even directly from the Calendar app, making it possible for meetings to be pre-scheduled. It is now also possible to use FaceTime on Android and Windows, albeit in its browser-based form, and not in custom apps built for the platforms.
FaceTime now also has SharePlay, a feature that is surely going to be welcomed among iOS users. This feature allows the user to stream audio and video during a FaceTime call, perfectly syncing playback audio and video for everyone on the call. This also finally allows the sharing of screen content straight from the iPhone, making it possible to watch content together or provide remote assistance. Apple has promised that the number of streaming platforms to support SharePlay will be steadily on the rise, with Apple TV+ leading the way. However, there is still a massive limitation to this feature – the individual on the receiving end of the video call/SharePlay also needs to be subscribed to the same platform, which can severely cripple its potential.

Focus Mode

For those who use the ‘Do not disturb’ mode on their phones regularly, Focus Mode is a great addition for productivity and, as its name suggests, focus. Starting off, there are three profiles: Work, Bedtime and Personal. To set each one up, users need to select contacts and apps to allow notifications from. This blocks out all other notifications from apps and people not on this whitelist. While Focus Mode is enabled, users are restricted to a home screen consisting only of the whitelisted apps, and other iOS users trying to reach them would be able to see that their recipients are using Focus Mode, making their unavailability very clear, and discouraging them from knocking again. While our minds are likely to associate this with work most of the time, it can be used for any purpose, from some much needed me-time, to gaming, to stopping procrastinating and finally finishing that report.

Better Notifications

The world is full of two kinds of iOS users – those who believe Apple devices are intuitive, and those who don’t. When it comes to the brand taking another go at their notifications, the first group is probably going to agree that the notifications are now inherently better and vastly more user-friendly. Living in a time when phones are constantly bombarded by notifications all day, minute modifications like making the notifying app’s logo bigger in the notification panel, and highlighting the contact photo (if assigned in Contacts) of the sender make for a much bigger impact than initially realized. This helps the recipient quickly and easily determine if a notification is worth their time. The notification system itself has received a heavy overhaul, giving the user much more control over them and their appearances.

This also finally allows the sharing of screen content straight from the iPhone, making it possible to watch content together or provide remote assistance.

The biggest change made to the notification system is the new notification summary option that is now available inside the Settings app. This feature allows users to control when notifications from apps are delivered to them based on their importance. It is quite convenient to go through notifications of relevant apps at predetermined intervals, as opposed to having them delivered in real time and serving as annoying distractions, which can often cause the recipient to miss out on items of interest. For example, imagine getting notified by a shopping portal about new sales and exciting offers in the middle of a serious meeting. This is the kind of notification that a user is the most likely to forget about, simply because of the unsuitable moment of its arrival. The same notification being allowed to pop up at a more convenient time of the day would help the user to go ahead and check it out at a more leisurely pace and give it the attention it requires. Time-sensitive notifications are delivered right away, though, so users don’t have to worry about not getting notified when their food delivery is at the door.

A Better-Looking Safari?

Sporting a new look, Safari’s tab bar is now spread across the bottom of the screen, which makes for a superior and smoother browsing experience, at least according to Apple. Well, it certainly makes reaching the tab bar easier for users who have not blessed with hands large enough to wield modern smartphones comfortably. The bar conveniently disappears while scrolling, but quickly reappears once the bottom of the screen is tapped on. The new grid view is also great for peeking at overviews of open tabs, with an additional grouping option for related tabs.

Live Text and Visual Look Up: Apple’s Answer to Google Lens

Apple has ditched the first mover strategy ages ago – not just about major products and features, but also about smaller and simpler matters. They have been steadily focusing on perfecting the features touted by their competitors by putting their own twist on them, and more often than not, they have been succeeding at it as well. The same philosophy can be seen in the case of Live Text. With Google Lens being around for what seems like ages now, Apple finally released Live Text as a feature of iOS 15, their own version of the technology. This scans any photo for text content, and turns it into actual text in near-real time for translation, editing or any other purpose of relevance.

The Photos app has made it easier to flex your creative muscles with photos and videos. Music can now be added to photos straight from Apple Music, in addition to the filters, really enabling personalization of the photos to the users’ liking. More details can also be found about the photos, with technical details like shutter speed and lens info made available for easier viewing. Smaller tweaks in the Gallery include a new ability to hide certain photos as determined by the user.
There are many other small changes here and there that users will notice as they burrow deeper into the update, but iOS 15 seems like a worthwhile evolution of the venerable platform that is definitely ready to take the Apple experience to newer heights for all iDevice users.

Photos: Incremental Improvements

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