These Are iOS 15 ’s Coolest New Features
Apple’s iOS 15 could be the iPhone operating system’s most subtle update in years. It’s also potentially the most impactful, making significant and much-needed changes to web browsing, mapping, notifications, and intelligence-aided search.
Here’s the stuff I’m jazzed about.
Let’s start from the outside in. On the current Apple Maps, the furthest you can zoom out is to a grade school wall map view of the world. With iOS 15 you’ll be able to pinch and zoom until you’re looking at a fully rotatable globe view of the earth. It’s not the same look as Google Earth — maybe a little less realistic — but has the potential to be no less useful and maybe a little more fun (“Look at me, I’m a god who can rotate the Earth with his fingertips!”).
The rest of maps is also undergoing a massive redesign, especially at a city view level where redefined buildings and landmarks will give it a new look and feel. There will be an updated Explore with more topographical detail, and a new Driving Map that should make navigation significantly clearer.
I haven’t been to New York City in a while, but I do have vivid memories of existing a subway and have no idea which way to head. Usually, I’d walk in one direction for a few minutes until I could see on Maps that I was moving away from my destination. I cannot wait to try the new Maps with its transit exit way-finder capability.
I know Apple made a big deal about Apple Music integration in Memories, but, it’s the little things in Photos that excite me.
The iOS 15 Photo app will add, for example, a little “i” info icon below each photo (next to Favorite). Selecting it will give you, for the first time, EXIF data for most images. This might tell you, for instance, that a photo was shot with an iPhone X’s back dual camera at 100 ISO, 1/6 of a second, in HEIF or JPEG format, and other details. Photographers like me are gonna love this.
Live Text and more
It’s impossible to talk about iOS 15 Photos without mentioning Live Text. The great thing about this Google Goggle-like feature is that it will work on your existing library of photos.
Apple, apparently, isn’t introducing a Live Text app to open. When iOS 15 launches, you’ll just open an image with text in it (printed or written), long press the text area, and then have options like “translate,” and “share.”
It’s not clear if Apple is including Live Text-discovered text in Spotlight or Siri searches, which would require indexing all the photo information
iOS 15 will also analyze photos for image context. This will let you use Spotlight search to, for instance, search for “dogs” and see a grid of dog results from your photos. Inside Photos, iOS 15 will add a paw on top of dog images. That’s how you’ll access detailed information about the breed from Siri.
Speaking of Siri, moving some voice queries local should help eliminate those annoying pauses (Pardon me while I send this question to space and back) you get while asking for something as simple as, “Set a Timer.” That, for me, is progress.
All of this is an illustration of how Apple plans to leverage the local AI and machine-learning power of its A14 Bionic chip to make every part of iOS smarter. It’s the kind of under-the-hood, transformative change I alluded to above. Powerful, local intelligence that will work with little-to-no intervention from you.
Apple’s finally fixing Safari. Design-wise, Safari in iOS 15 may represent some of Apple’s most aggressive — and I think welcome — work. The new floating address bar, which will appear a few millimeters from the bottom of the screen anytime you drag down on the website looks so clean in the images and animations I’ve seen. All that space taken up by the old address bar will be returned to the website. (Now might be a good time for Apple to introduce a phone without the notch to give us back all of the screen).
The sliding carousel of tabs will also be a major upgrade from the current Rolodex format.
Safari will be a place where you should see the fruits of Apple’s new Shared with You capabilities. If someone texts you a web link, that information could automatically appear in your open tabs. I like the concept because I can think of more than one time when someone has sent me a link and I forgot about it because it’s trapped in messages.
Mail’s most significant iOS 15 change is one that could have a huge impact on your inbox experience. The new Mail Privacy Protection will be able to hide your IP address from senders.
Put simply, Mail that goes out from your iPhone might no longer feature an IP address that helps identify you (your IP is not randomized) and your location. Without this information newsletter and spam mail providers could lack critical targeting information. I can hear email marketers crying already.
Notifications in iOS 15 will be a bit better organized but it’s the integration with the new Focus modes that should have the most noticeable impact on your ever-interrupting iPhone.
Focus Modes will basically chunk up Do Not Disturb into categories of activities (or non-activity) like Personal, Sleep, Driving, Work, Do Not Disturb and ones that you can define.
This is the kind of feature that could pay dividends if you take the time to ensure that family members can break through the Do Not Disturb barrier and, I’m guessing, if you spend enough time defining the other Focus Mode categories.
Thanks to pigeon-toed feet when I was young, I have a pretty wacky walk (the running is worse) and am especially interested in the new Walking Steadiness measurement under Mobility.
While I assumed that Apple Watch would be my motion overseer, it’s the iPhone’s central location (near my waist and hips) that makes it the best tool for measuring Walking Steadiness.
I’m really curious to see what iOS 15 and the Walking Mobility can learn about my gait. Is it as messy as I assume? I don't think I’m particularly unsteady on my feet, but this seems like useful information.
It’s the kind of information that I hope to eventually share with my doctor. I know some people are concerned about what the iPhone already knows about us, but I want to get these details out of Health and into the hands of my doctor who can actually tell me something about it.
Apple iOS 15 won’t ship until we get new iPhones in the fall, but a public beta could arrive as early as July. At that point, I’ll get a hands-on and dig into more of the changes in privacy, FaceTime, Wallet, Weather, and more.
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