Apple introduces a major software update every year. As usual, the company previewed the update and gave us some indication as to what features were coming later this year, during its Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) in June.
For 2021, the software update is iOS 15. Here are all the features Apple announced during WWDC 21 that are coming with iOS 15. You'll also find any rumours relating to the software at the bottom, coupled with our continued wishlist.
iOS 15 release date
- Previewed June 2021
- September 2021
The iOS 15 update is expected to be released alongside the next iPhone - rumoured to be the iPhone 13. Previous to 2020, the iPhone was revealed in the first week of September - normally on a Tuesday - and made available that Friday, which is when the new software would also be available, sometimes the day before.
If Apple returns to its usual pre-2020 pattern, it could be that the iPhone 13 models are revealed on 7 September, which would put the iOS 15 release date around the 9 or 10 September. There have also been rumours of an event on 14 September, which would push the iOS 15 release date to 15 or 16 September.
Of course, nothing official is known yet. Apple has only said the software would be available in the "Fall".
A developer beta of iOS 15 was made available from 7 June and the public beta has been available since July.
iOS 15 features
Here are all the features Apple announced that are coming to iOS 15.
FaceTime is getting some big improvements with iOS 15. Apple's Spatial Audio is coming to the iOS video messaging service, with the aim to make calls more natural.
There are also a couple of other new features to help make calls better, including Voice Isolation that will block out the ambient noise to place more focus on your voice, offering clearer audio, and Wide Spectrum, which includes the ambient noise. You will be able to switch between the two at the tap of a button.
Additionally, Apple is adding a Grid view and Portrait mode to FaceTime, along with FaceTime Links. FaceTime Links allow you to create a link and share it through Messages, Calendar, Mail or third party apps to allow anyone to join a FaceTime call from the web browser on an Android or Windows device.
There will also be a feature called SharePlay that will enable users to share experiences, such as listening to Songs together through Apple Music, watching a TV show or movie in sync or sharing their screens to see apps together.
The Find My app gets some new capabilities in iOS 15, including users being able to locate a device that has been turned off or erased, along with Separation Alerts that notify you if you leave an AirTag, Apple device or Find My network accessory behind in an unfamiliar location. AirPods Pro and AirPods Max will also get Find My network support and there will be a new Find My widget too.
Additionally, iOS 15 will bring live-streaming locations for family and friends that share their location with each other.
For Translate, iOS 15 will bring a Live Translate feature, enabling conversation to flow between two languages. The software will also bring systemwide translation to text anywhere on iPhone.
A new feature for iOS 15 called Focus has been designed to reduce distraction by filtering notifications and apps based on what you tell your iPhone you are focusing on. There are four standard options: Do Not Disturb, Personal, Work and Sleep.
The four standard options use on-device intelligence - like your working hours - to suggest which apps and people you might want to allow you to notify you, as well allow you to create Home Screen pages with only particular apps and widgets. If you chose a Focus on one of your Apple devices, it will be set on any other Apple devices you have.
You can also create a custom focus to filter notifications, automatically let friends know you're not available (like Do Not Disturb While Driving does) and hide distractions without missing key notifications. For example, the Work Focus option, you could set to only have messages from work collegues come through, along with emails, while setting all other notifications to off until you change to the Personal Focus.
Shared with You
A new Shared with You feature - mentioned breifly in the Photos section above - will work across the system in iOS 15 to find any articles, music, TV shows, photos and anything else shared with you through Message conversations.
These will then appear in a Shared with You section in apps like Photos, Safari, Apple News, Music, Podcasts and the Apple TV app to help you quickly access the information shared in context.
Changes to Siri include the ability for the assistant to not only announce messages and incoming callers when wearing AirPods, but notifications too. You'll be able to ask Siri to share what is on your screen when wearing the wireless headphones.
Notifications are being redesigned for iOS 15, with the introduction of a Notifications Summary that collects non-time-critical notifications and organises them by priority with the most relevant at the top. This summary will then be delivered at a better time, like the morning or the evening rather than in the middle of your working day.
The Notifications Summary uses artificial intelligence to organise the notifications based on your interactions with apps, while urgent messages, missed calls and so forth, are delivered immediately so you don't miss them.
Notifications will also have contact photos for people in iOS 15 and larger icons for apps to make them easier to identify.
Updates to the Photos app includes the introduction of a Shared With You section, along with a big update to the Memories feature. Apple Music will be integrated into Memories in iOS 15, and there is a more interactive interface too.
The integration with Apple Music will use on-device intelligence to personalise song suggestions too that aim to bring the memories to life and the memory reels will see the music adjust to the tone and beat.
iOS 15 is bringing some new features to iCloud, including Hide My Email, expanded HomeKit Secure Video support and a new internet privacy service called iCloud Private Relay.
iOS 15 will bring a feature called Live Text that uses on-device intelligence to recognise text in a photo. It will allow you to take a photo of a phone number on a picture for example, and then call the number, or a snap a shot of the Wi-Fi password in a cafe and copy it directly into the box when requested.
There's also a visual look up feature that lets you take a photo of a flower and look up what kind it is, or a dog and discover what breed it is, for example.
Spotlight Search is also being enhanced in iOS 15, using intelligence to search photos by location, people, scenes, or objects. It can also use the Live Text feature to find text and handwriting in photos, whilst also offering web image search and better results for actors, muscians, TV shows and movies.
When searching for a contact, you'll also see recent conversations, shared photos and even their location if you share on Find My.
Support for additional types of keys is coming to Apple Wallet, joining digital car keys, with iOS 15. Users in participating states in the US will be able to add their driver's license or state IDs to the Wallet app, and there is also support coming for your iPhone to be able to unlock your home, office and hotel room.
The Transportation Security Administration is working to enable airport security checkpoints as the first place that will accept a digital ID card, while Hyatt is the first hotel group to be working on their customers being able to use their iPhone to unlock their rooms.
Maps has had an overhaul in iOS 15 too, with enhanced details in cities for neighbourhoods, commercial districts, elevation, buildings and custom-designed landmarks. There will be a night-time mode with a "moonlit glow" and there are also new road colours and labels.
Additionally, iOS 15 will bring a three-dimensional city-driving experience when you're navigating using your iPhone or CarPlay, with more road details, like bus lanes and pedistrian crossings. There's also augmented reality on board Maps in iOS 15 when you hold up your iPhone, offering a highly acurate position and detailed walking instructions.
Those using Apple Maps for public transit will be anle to follow a selected train route, getting notifications when it is time to get off.
Safari is getting a new tab bar in iOS 15 that appears at the bottom of the screen so you can switch between tabs - though there will be the choice to keep it at the top. There's also Tab Groups that let you save tabs and access them across iPhone, iPad and Mac.
Other features coming to Safari with iOS 15 include a customisable start page and web extentions on iOS.
The Weather app is being redesigned for iOS 15, highlighting a much deeper integration with Dark Sky. The weather app will see more graphical displays of weather data, along with full-screen maps, dynamic layouts that change based on the weather and redesigned animated background that reflect the conditions.
You will also be alerted with notifications when rain or snow starts and stops.
iOS 15 is bringing more privacy controls, as rumoured. There's on-device speech recognition to allow audio of Siri requests to be entirely processed on your iPhone by default.
Mail Privacy Protection stops senders being able to tell if you have opened their email, whilst also hiding an IP address so senders aren't able to learn your location or use it to build a profile on you.
Additionally, an App Privacy Report will give you an overview of how apps use the access granted to your location, photos, camera, microphone and contacts in the previous seven days and which other domains have been contacted during that time by the app.
The Health app gets a few new features with iOS 15, including a sharing tab that allows users to share their health data with family, carers or a care team. It's also introducing Trends to give you a focus on meaningful changes to your health metrics, like a higher resting heart rate for example.
A health metric called Walking Steadiness is also coming with the new software, helping you manage your fall risk.
The Notes app sees user-created tags added in iOS 15, allowing you to categorise notes quickly. You'll also be able to mention members of shared notes to notify each other of important updates. There is also an Activity view coming in iOS 15 that will show the recent history of the changes to a shared note.
A small update here, but an update nonetheless. The Apple TV app will see a new row called "For All of You" in iOS 15, offering up a collection of shows and movies based on everyone in the household.
A couple of new setup options will appear with iOS 15, including the option for existing iPhone users to temporarily back up data to iCloud, even without a subscription. For those moving to iPhone for the first time, there will be an improved "Move to iOS" option for easy transfer of photo albums, files, folders, and Accessibility settings.
In terms of Accessibility, iOS 15 offers new features for VoiceOver, along with new background sounds to help minimise distractions, and Made for iPhone support for bidirectional hearing aids.
You'll also be able to customise display and text size on an app-by-app basis, and support for recognising imported audiograms is also coming to Headphone Accommodations.
iOS 15 what else we want to see
Sometimes with software, you don't know what you want or need until you get it and then you wonder how you ever lived without it.
There are a few things that haven't been previewed as yet that we would still like to see on iOS 15 later this year:
- Ability to edit App Library categories
- Choice to have App Library as default view
- Enhancements to lock screen
- Always on display
- Apple Watch to unlock iPhone without mask (Touch ID users)
- Third party app stores
- Better support for third party smartwatches (unlikely, we know)
iOS 15 compatibility: Will my iPhone support iOS 15?
Apple has said iOS 15 will be supported on the iPhone 6S and later, despite some rumours previously claiming this wouldn't be the case. The list of iPhones that will support the new software are therefore as follows:
- iPhone 12 Pro Max
- iPhone 12 Pro
- iPhone 12
- iPhone 12 Mini
- iPhone SE (2020)
- iPhone 11 Pro Max
- iPhone 11 Pro
- iPhone 11
- iPhone XR
- iPhone XS Max
- iPhone XS
- iPhone X
- iPhone 8 Plus
- iPhone 8
- iPhone 7 Plus
- iPhone 7
- iPhone SE (2016)
- iPhone 6S Plus
- iPhone 6S