Apple WWDC21: Apple Announces iOS 15, Everything That’s New Coming to the OS.

Apple announced iOS 15 during the keynote address that launched the annual Worldwide Developers Conference. FaceTime will now add spatial audio in iOS 15, which brings more clarity to voices in a FaceTime call. There’s also new microphone modes to separate the user’s voice from background noise and Portrait mode is will now be available for FaceTime and designed specifically for video calls, so users can blur their background and put themselves in focus. While using Group FaceTime, a new grid view enables participants to see more faces at the same time.

Portrait Mode is now optimized for video calls on Facetime. Credit: Apple

The other feature is SharePlay. When connecting with friends on FaceTime, SharePlay includes listening to songs together with Apple Music, watching a TV show or movie in sync, or sharing their screen to view apps together. SharePlay works across iPhone, iPad, and Mac, and with shared playback controls, anyone in a SharePlay session can play, pause, or jump ahead. SharePlay even extends to Apple TV, so users can watch shows or movies on a big screen while connecting over FaceTime, while keeping everyone’s playback in sync.

With SharePlay, users can share experiences while connecting on Facetime to make it easy to stream content together. Credit: Apple

FaceTime calls will also extend beyond Apple devices with the ability to create a link from iPhone, iPad, or Mac, and share it through Messages, Calendar, Mail, or third-party apps, so anyone can join a FaceTime call from their web browser on Android and Windows devices. Apple says FaceTime calls on the web remain end-to-end encrypted, so privacy is not compromised.

Focus will now be included in iOS 15. Focus filters notifications and apps based on what a user wants to focus on. Users can create a custom Focus or selecting a suggested Focus, which uses on-device intelligence to suggest which people and apps are allowed to notify them. Focus suggestions are based on users’ context, like during their work hours or while they’re winding down for bed, and when Focus is set on one Apple device, it automatically applies to their other Apple devices. Users can create Home Screen pages with apps and widgets that apply to moments of focus to only display relevant apps. When a user’s Focus is blocking incoming notifications, their status is automatically displayed to others in Messages, reflecting that a user is not currently reachable.

Focus helps users filter notifications and reduce distractions. Credit: Apple

And of course, it is not WWDC without the mention of privacy. iOS 15 will include more privacy controls to help protect user information. With on-device speech recognition, audio of Siri requests is now processed entirely on iPhone by default, improving the performance. Mail Privacy Protection stops senders from learning whether an email has been opened, and hides IP addresses so senders can’t learn a user’s location or use it to build a profile on them. App Privacy Report offers an overview of how apps use the access that has been granted to location, photos, camera, microphone, and contacts in the last seven days, and which other domains are contacted.

App Privacy Report provides more details on how apps use access that has been granted to them. Credit: Apple

Also coming to iOS 15 is Live Text. For Android users, this may be familiar. Live Text uses on-device intelligence to recognize text in a photo and allow users to take action, like search for and locate the picture of a handwritten family recipe, or capture a phone number from a storefront with the option to place a call. Live Text works a lot like Google Lens on Android. With the Apple Neural Engine, the Camera app can also quickly recognize and copy text in the moment, such as the Wi-Fi password displayed at a local coffee shop. With Visual Look Up, users can learn more about popular art and landmarks around the world, plants and flowers found in nature, breeds of pets, and even find books.
Spotlight now uses intelligence to search photos by location, people, scenes, or objects, and using Live Text, Spotlight can find text and handwriting in photos. Spotlight now offers web image search and all-new rich results for actors, musicians, TV shows, and movies. Enhanced results for contacts show recent conversations, shared photos, and even their location if shared through Find My.

Live Text identifies text on photos. Credit: Apple

The Weather App has been redesigned in iOS 15. Weather includes more graphical displays of weather data, full-screen maps, and dynamic layouts that change based on conditions. Redesigned animated backgrounds more accurately reflect the sun’s position and precipitation, and notifications highlight when rain or snow starts and stops. The Notes app has also undergone changes. Notes adds user-created tags that make it easy to quickly categorize notes, and mentions allow members of shared notes to notify one another of important updates. An all-new Activity view shows the recent history of a shared note.

The redesigned Notes App. Credit: Apple

Additional Features
Siri adds Announce Notifications on AirPods, the ability for users to share what’s on their screen just by asking.
Shared with You works across the system to find the articles, music, TV shows, photos, and more that are shared in Messages conversations, and conveniently surfaces them in apps like Photos, Safari, Apple News, Music, Podcasts, and the Apple TV app, making it easy to quickly access the information in context.
iCloud+ combines iCloud with new premium features, including Hide My Email and an innovative new internet privacy service, iCloud Private Relay, at no additional cost. Current iCloud subscribers will be upgraded to iCloud+ automatically later this year. All iCloud+ plans can be shared with people in the same Family Sharing group.
The Health app gets a new sharing tab that lets users share their health data with family, caregivers, or a care team, Trends gives users a way to focus attention on meaningful changes in personal health metrics, and Walking Steadiness is a new metric that empowers people to proactively manage their fall risk.
Find My introduces new capabilities to help locate a device that has been turned off or erased, as well as live-streaming locations for family and friends who choose to share their location. Separation Alerts notify a user if they leave an AirTag, Apple device, or Find My network accessory behind in an unfamiliar location, and the Find My network now supports AirPods Pro and AirPods Max.
Translate adds a new Live Translate feature that makes conversation flow naturally across languages. Systemwide translation allows users to translate text anywhere on iPhone.
New iPhone setup makes it more seamless than ever to get started with iPhone. Existing iPhone users can temporarily back up data to iCloud — even without a subscription — to easily transfer their data to a new iPhone. For those moving to iPhone for the first time, an improved “Move to iOS” experience easily transfers photo albums, files, folders, and Accessibility settings.

Music shared with users in Messages will now appear in a Shared With You tab in Apple Music. Credit: Apple

Availability. The developer preview of iOS 15 is available to Apple Developer Program members starting today, and a public beta will be available to iOS users next month. New software features will be available later this year around September as a free software update for iPhone 6s and later.

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Eddy Ndungu
Eddy Ndungu

Just another papercut survivor.

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