Apple iOS 15: Everything you need to know

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Every year, Apple breathes new life into the iPhone with an update to iOS, the phone’s operating system. Last year, iOS 14 brought a relatively major update, with features like home screen widgets and the App Library. Recently, however, Apple announced iOS 15, and it’s set to make just as much of an impact.

iOS 15 is now available as part of a public beta, and that basically means that the operating system is still being tested and tweaked before a wide release. But, you can download it and install it on your iPhone if you wish. That doesn’t mean you should though. In fact, we’ve installed it on our devices so that you don’t have to.

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Excited for iOS 15? If so, here’s everything you need to know about the next-gen iPhone operating system.

The best new features in iOS 15

iOS 15 is set to get a ton of major improvements, and we’ve listed them here. That said, it’s important to note that many of the updates aren’t technically updates to iOS, but more to services like Maps, FaceTime, and so on. That means that the new features will be available on iPhones with iOS 15, but they’ll also be available on Mac computers running macOS Monterey and iPads running iPadOS 15.

Focus

The iPhone is finally getting user profiles. These profiles, called Focuses allow you to choose which notifications are let through based on your activity. For example, you could have a Sleep Focus that only lets through a call from close family members. Alternatively, you could have a Work Focus that only lets through work emails and messages from your colleagues. And so on. Users can also create custom Focuses.

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Your iPhone will intelligently suggest new Focuses, and Focuses will sync across all of your Apple devices — which means that they’ll apply to your Mac just as much as your iPhone. Developers can hook into Focuses too — so third-party apps will work with them as well.

Revamped notifications

Notifications seem to get revamped every time a new version of iOS or Android is released, and this year is no exception. For iOS 15, notifications have gotten a design refresh, with more rounded corners and things like contact photos for people that have messaged you.

Notifications can be never-ending, however, Apple is attempting to fix that in iOS 15. In the update, you’ll get a personalized notification summary, and that can include a summary of less-important notifications at a time of the day that the user specifies. Not only that, but users can now easily mute notifications from an app or messaging thread for a selected period of time.

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Smarter Spotlight

Search on iOS 15 is getting better too. On iOS 15, Spotlight can leverage information from your photos, including text from within photos. Users can also search photos from the web, and get rich search results for information about things like TV shows, actors, and so on. You’ll even get rich information about contacts, which includes location information if they have shared it, and recent conversations.

FaceTime

FaceTime is also getting some pretty serious improvements. In fact, so much so, that it could negate the need for other video chat services, like Zoom. That’s because Apple is introducing FaceTime Links, which allows you to send links to FaceTime chats to friends and family, so you can schedule conversations to happen. It’s not limited to Apple users either — FaceTime Links can be sent to non-Apple users, and they’ll be able to join FaceTime conversations through the web. Yep, that means users could join a FaceTime chat on an Android device.

FaceTime is also getting Portrait Mode. That means that you can get the same background-blur effect on your FaceTime calls that you get in Portrait Mode video calls.

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Last but not least is SharePlay. SharePlay makes FaceTime calls a little more social. Through SharePlay, you can sync video and audio with other participants on your video calls, meaning that it’s easier to, for example, virtually watch movies with your friends and family. Playback controls are given to all participants, and users can AirPlay content to their TV, if they want to. Many third-party apps have adopted the tech too, including apps like Disney+.

Apple Maps

Apple Maps has been getting a lot better over the past few years, and with updates to iOS 15 and macOS Monterey, Apple is making it even better. Notably, the service is getting an enhanced 3D view, which continues with driving, walking, and biking directions. When driving, you’ll get things like details about lanes, pedestrian crosswalks, and bike lanes. It’s pretty cool.

Apple is also taking a page out of Google’s book, with new augmented reality directions for walking. Transit commuters will also get better information about nearby stations, and there are redesigned cards for businesses and other locations.

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Apple Wallet

Even Apple Wallet is getting some upgrades. Notably, the Apple Wallet app will support more key cards, including key cards for your HomeKit lock, hotel doors, and more. Apple Wallet will also get more remote car functionality, allowing users to honk the horn, open the trunk, and more, on compatible cars.

The other major addition to Apple Wallet is the ability to add driver’s licenses and state IDs, in supporting states. This will roll out in late 2021, and only in certain states. It should roll out to other states over time.

Safari

Safari is getting some major overhauls. Those overhauls start with the Mac, but some of them are also available on iOS and iPadOS devices. Safari on the iPhone, for example, will get a new search bar/URL bar that resides at the bottom of the display instead of the top — making it easier to access with one hand. Safari also has new support for voice search, and the ability to swipe down to refresh the page.

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iOS 15 will support Safari’s new privacy protections as well. That means users will get access to Intelligent Tracking Prevention, which prevents trackers from using your IP address to track you. And, users with a compatible iCloud plan will get access to Private Relay, which is essentially a VPN.

Apple Health

Apple Health is getting a few new features that make it more useful for those in families with elderly people and/or children. After the update, those people in your life will be able to share their health data with you, including things like lab test results. And, Apple Health will show the new walking steadiness metric, which is tracked by your Apple Watch.

Siri

Even Siri is getting some improvements. Apple is bringing on-device processing to Siri, which will help make it faster and more helpful when you don’t have an internet connection. And, Siri will be able to announce notifications other than messages, including Reminders.

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Should I install iOS 15?

Currently, iOS 15 is in a public beta. That basically means that the operating system is still being tested and refined, so that it will be ready for a wide, public release later in the year, likely alongside the next iPhone. That also means that there are bugs. That’s completely normal — the beta process should allow Apple to iron out those bugs over the next few months.

The term “public beta” means that the operating system is available for anyone to download, but considering the fact that there are bugs, not anyone should. Only tech-savvy users should download the public beta, and really only on a secondary device. We don’t recommend downloading iOS 15 on your main iPhone, as the bugs could render it unusable for basic tasks.

Which iPhones support iOS 15?

Apple iPhone 12 Pro MainImage source: Christian de Looper for BGR

Apple has long offered software updates on old phones, and this year is no different. Here’s the full list of devices that support iOS 15.

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  • iPhone 6s
  • iPhone 6s Plus
  • iPhone SE (original model)
  • iPod Touch (seventh-generation)
  • iPhone 7
  • iPhone 7 Plus
  • iPhone 8
  • iPhone 8 Plus
  • iPhone X
  • iPhone XR
  • iPhone Xs
  • iPhone Xs Max
  • iPhone 11
  • iPhone 11 Pro
  • iPhone 11 Pro Max
  • iPhone SE (2020)
  • iPhone 12 Mini
  • iPhone 12
  • iPhone 12 Pro
  • iPhone 12 Pro Max

When will iOS 15 be released?

We don’t yet have a specific release date for iOS 15, but based on previous years, it will likely be released around September or October. After all, iOS 14 was released on September 16, 2020, and iOS 15 should come out around the same time.

Of course, before that, we’ll get a number of beta releases, each one offering a more refined look at iOS 15 than the previous version. As we get closer to the public release date, iOS 15 will look and act more and more like a consumer-ready operating system because of the fact that it will have fewer and fewer bugs.

How to install iOS 15

Don’t mind the fact that the iOS 15 beta will come with bugs, or have a second iPhone that you can use to check out the iOS 15 beta? If so, maybe installing the beta is a good idea for you.

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Before we run down how to install the beta, we have to reiterate that only tech-savvy users with a secondary iPhone should install the public beta. In fact, doing so could cause bugs that would render your phone useless. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

  1. Back up your phone, either through iCloud or by plugging it into your computer. If your phone does end up getting bricked, you’ll want a backup.
  2. Then, head to the Apple Beta Software Program website.
  3. Tap the “Sign In” button under the list of beta programs.
  4. After that, log in to your Apple ID.
  5. Under the “Get Started” section, tap “enroll your device.”
  6. Follow the instructions to archive your data and files.
  7. Scroll down, then tap the “Download profile” button. Tap “Allow” when prompted.
  8. Head to the Settings app, then tap “Profile Downloaded.”
  9. Tap the “Install” button on the top right of the screen. Enter your PIN code. Once again, hit the “Install” button on the top right, and again when prompted.
  10. Press “Restart.” The profile will then be installed when your phone restarts.
  11. Open the Settings app, then head to General > Software Update. Then, your phone will find an update to iOS 15.
  12. Your device will then download the update. Once it has been downloaded, tap “Install Now.”

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