At the end of Apple’s annual WWDC conference, we’ve got an entire week of developer sessions and press conferences to review, plus a few bullet points on Apple’s various feature pages to browse.
The result? There are some interesting features coming to iPhones in iOS 15 that Apple didn’t bring up at its public keynote event on Monday.
We’re not going to list them all because there are way too many minor changes in the upcoming software updates. If you want to check out the full list, Apple has published detailed feature pages on its site.
But we’ll highlight some features below that we thought were particularly interesting.
Some changes in Safari
There are many small tweaks in Safari that can add up to more than the sum of its parts.
In addition to the tab group feature discussed at length during Monday’s keynote presentation, the tab bar is getting a major overhaul. It takes up less space and is placed in a place that Apple says is easier to reach. It also “goes out of the way seamlessly as you scroll and reappears with a tap.”
You can also quickly switch between tabs by swiping left or right on the tab bar. Swiping all the way to the right will open a new tab.
You can now use a pull-to-refresh gesture in Safari, as you see in the Chrome iOS app or Apple’s own Mail app. You can set a background image for the homepage and there are new sections, such as Privacy Report or Shared with you, that you can add or remove.
Similar to Safari on macOS, Safari on iOS now automatically upgrades sites “known to support HTTPS from insecure HTTP”.
And as mentioned in the keynote, the iOS version of Safari is getting support for web extensions.
Spotlight becomes more useful
Perhaps the most notable change to Spotlight, iOS’s system-wide search, is that it can now be accessed from the lock screen and notification center. Previously, you could only reach it from the home screen or widgets panel.
Apple showed some of this action in screenshots during the presentation, but if you missed it, there are a number of improvements to the results Spotlight shows in response to your searches.
Maps results with associated app clips (such as major restaurant chains) now show “action buttons” for menus, tickets, orders, or reservations. Likewise, App Store results shown in response to your searches now have a button you can tap to quickly install those apps without having to switch to the App Store app.
Lots of new widgets
We were a little surprised at how few widgets there were for Apple-made apps when home screen widgets first arrived on the iPhone last year, but Apple has expanded the list quite a bit with iOS (and iPadOS) 15.
A new sleep widget shows your sleep schedule and sleep quality data. Another for Mail shows your most recent messages in a selected inbox.
With a Contacts widget, you can text, call, or email to family or friends from the home screen. There is a similar widget for the “Find My” app, which allows you to check for devices or important personal contacts that share location information with you.
Game Center is getting a widget that shows recently played titles and games your friends are playing. And an App Store widget lifts stories, events, and collections from the Today tab of the App Store to the home screen.
This list isn’t exhaustive, but here’s a grab bag of other interesting changes that didn’t fit into the above categories:
- Voice Memos let you quickly skip silent parts of recordings
- New home screen widgets for apps including Sleep, Mail, People, Find My, Game Center and the App Store
- Find My, Game Center, App Store Today, Sleep, Mail and People get integration with Family Sharing
- You can now ask Siri to share what you’re watching
- You can now zoom with the rear camera on iPhone when showing people the view from that camera during FaceTime calls
- FaceTime notifies you if it detects you trying to talk while muted
- Your phone can now send you alerts if you accidentally leave something you track with Find My, like another device or AirTag
- There’s a new way to get iOS security updates, even if you want to wait to update to the latest major release
- Apple overhauled the print panel in iOS 15 and added new options
- You can now receive push notifications to let you know in advance if it’s going to rain in your area
- You can now manually adjust the time and data associated with an image in Photos
- You can now drag and drop a file from one app to another using the app switcher
List image by Samuel Axon