Here are a bunch of iOS 15 features that Apple didn’t mention earlier

As Apple’s annual WWDC conference wraps up, we have a whole week of developer sessions and press briefings to look back on, plus a bunch of bullet points on Apple’s various feature pages to sort through.

The result? There are a bunch of interesting features coming to iPhones in iOS 15 that Apple didn’t highlight during its public-facing keynote event on Monday.

We’re not going to list them all, as there are far too many little changes in the upcoming software updates. If you want to review the complete list, Apple has published detailed feature pages on its site.

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Dark Sky’s API, iOS app, and web app will all stop working next year

A new blog post from the developers of Apple-owned, hyperlocal weather app Dark Sky has announced that the iOS and web versions of the app, as well as the Dark Sky API, will sunset at the end of 2022.

Here’s the exact wording from the blog post:

Support for the Dark Sky API service for existing customers will continue until the end of 2022. The iOS app and Dark Sky website will also be available until the end of 2022.

Dark Sky’s developers initially said the API would shut down at the end of 2021, but this new end-of-2022 target obviously moves things back a bit. This is the first time we’ve heard about an end date for the iOS app, though.

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Spotlight gets more powerful in iOS 15, even lets you install apps

With the upcoming release of iOS 15 for Apple mobile devices, Apple’s built-in search feature known as Spotlight will become a lot more functional. In what may be one of its bigger updates since it introduced Siri Suggestions, the new version of Spotlight is becoming an alternative to Google for several key queries, including web images and information about actors, musicians, TV shows and movies. It will also now be able to search across your photo library, deliver richer results for contacts, and connect you more directly with apps and the information they contain. It even allows you to install apps from the App Store without leaving Spotlight itself.

Spotlight is also more accessible than ever before.

Years ago, Spotlight moved from its location to the left of the Home screen to become available with a swipe down in the middle of any screen in iOS 7, which helped grow user adoption. Now, it’s available with the same swipe down gesture on the iPhone’s Lock Screen, too.

Apple showed off a few of Spotlight’s improvements during its keynote address at its Worldwide Developer Conference, including the search feature’s new cards for looking up information on actors, movies and shows, as well as musicians. This change alone could redirect a good portion of web searches away from Google or dedicated apps like IMDb.

For years, Google has been offering quick access to common searches through its Knowledge Graph, a knowledge base that allows it to gather information from across sources and then use that to add informational panels above and the side of its standard search results. Panels on actors, musicians, shows and movies are available as part of that effort.

But now, iPhone users can just pull up this info on their home screen.

The new cards include more than the typical Wikipedia bio and background information you may expect — they also showcase links to where you can listen or watch content from the artist or actor or movie or show in question. They include news articles, social media links, official websites, and even direct you to where the searched person or topic may be found inside your own apps. (E.g. a search for “Billie Eilish” may direct you to her tour tickets inside SeatGeek, or a podcast where she’s a guest).

Image Credits: Apple

For web image searches, Spotlight also now allows you to search for people, places, animals, and more from the web — eating into another search vertical Google today provides.

Image Credits: iOS 15 screenshot

Your personal searches have been upgraded with richer results, too, in iOS 15.

When you search for a contact, you’ll be taken to a card that does more than show their name and how to reach them. You’ll also see their current status (thanks to another iOS 15 feature), as well as their location from FindMy, your recent conversations on Messages, your shared photos, calendar appointments, emails, notes, and files. It’s almost like a personal CRM system.

Image Credits: Apple

Personal photo searches have also been improved. Spotlight now uses Siri intelligence to allow you to search your photos by the people, scenes, elements in your photos, as well as by location. And it’s able to leverage the new Live Text feature in iOS 15 to find the text in your photos to return relevant results.

This could make it easier to pull up photos where you’ve screenshot a recipe, a store receipt, or even a handwritten note, Apple said.

Image Credits: Apple

A couple of features related to Spotlight’s integration with apps weren’t mentioned during the keynote.

Spotlight will now display action buttons on the Maps results for businesses that will prompt users to engage with that business’s app. In this case, the feature is leveraging App Clips, which are small parts of a developer’s app that let you quickly perform a task even without downloading or installing the app in question. For example, from Spotlight you may be prompted to pull up a restaurant’s menu, buy tickets, make an appointment, order takeout, join a waitlist, see showtimes, pay for parking, check prices and more.

The feature will require the business to support App Clips in order to work.

Image Credits: iOS 15 screenshot

Another under-the-radar change — but a significant one — is the new ability to install apps from the App Store directly from Spotlight.

This could prompt more app installs, as it reduces the steps from a search to a download, and makes querying the App Store more broadly available across the operating system.

Developers can additionally choose to insert a few lines of code to their app to make data from the app discoverable within Spotlight and customize how it’s presented to users. This means Spotlight can work as a tool for searching content from inside apps — another way Apple is redirecting users away from traditional web searches in favor of apps.

However, unlike Google’s search engine, which relies on crawlers that browse the web to index the data it contains, Spotlight’s in-app search requires developer adoption.

Still, it’s clear Apple sees Spotlight as a potential rival to web search engines, including Google’s.

“Spotlight is the universal place to start all your searches,” said Apple SVP of Software Engineering Craig Federighi during the keynote event.

Spotlight, of course, can’t handle “all” your searches just yet, but it appears to be steadily working towards that goal.

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Apple refines iOS 15 notifications with Focus, Summary features

As part of the update to iOS 15, Apple will allow iPhone users to better customize how they want to be notified about incoming calls, texts or updates from apps based on their current status. With the new Focus feature instead of just silencing calls and notifications through Do Not Disturb, you’ll be able to set different types of notification preferences based on your status — like whether you’re driving, working, sleeping or through the use of custom categories of your own choosing.

The system also uses on-board AI to help determine what your status is at a given time. For example, the phone might suggest you turn off notifications when you’re arriving at the gym.

The feature somewhat recalls the smart launchers that had been popular on Android devices many years ago, like Aviate or EverythingMe, among others, which customized your device based on what you were doing, the time of day, and other factors. These apps never took off on iOS because Apple doesn’t allow third-party apps to deeply integrate with its mobile operating system or reconfigure the device’s homescreen and the trend later fizzled out.

Also new is Notification Summary, which bundles and prioritizes incoming notifications, based on things like time of day. Do Not Disturb has also been integrated directly into iMessages, so other users will know when you don’t want to be bothered by incoming notes. The system can also be set up to send you a briefing as a big chunk during a time of day, making the lock screen notification a more interactive experience than in previous iOS versions.

 

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Apple unveils iOS 15 with new features for FaceTime and better notifications

During the virtual keynote of WWDC, Apple shared the first details about iOS 14, the next major version of iOS that is going to be released later this year. There are four pillars with this year’s release: staying connected, focusing without distraction, using intelligence and exploring the world.

“For many of us, our iPhones have become indispensable,” SVP of Software Engineering Craig Federighi said. “Our new release is iOS 15. It’s packed with features that make the iOS experience adapt to and complement the way you use iPhone, whether it’s staying connected with those who matter to you most. Finding the space to focus without distraction, using intelligence to discover the information you need, or exploring the world around you.”

FaceTime gets a bunch of new features

Apple is adding spatial audio to FaceTime. Now the voices are spread out depending on the position of your friends on the screen. For instance, if someone appears on the left, it’ll sound like they’re on the left in your ears. In other FaceTime news, iOS now detects background noise and tries to suppress it so that you can hear your friends and family members more easily. That’s an optional feature, which means that you can disable it in case you’re showing a concert during a FaceTime call for instance.

Another FaceTime feature is ‘Portrait mode’. Behind this term, Apple means that it can automatically blurs the background, like in ‘Portrait mode’ photos. In case you want to use FaceTime for work conferences, you can now generate FaceTime links and add it to a calendar invite. FaceTime will also work in a web browser, which means that people without an Apple device can join a FaceTime call.

FaceTime is a big focus as Apple is also introducing SharePlay. With this feature, you can listen together to a music album. Press play in Apple Music and the music will start for everyone on the call. The queue is shared with everyone else, which means anyone can add songs, skip to the next track, etc.

SharePlay also lets you watch movies and TV shows together. Someone on the call starts a video and it starts on your friend’s phone or tablet. It is also compatible with AirPlay, picture-in-picture and everything you’d expect from videos on iOS.

This isn’t just compatible with Apple TV videos. Apple said there will be an API to make videos compatible with SharePlay. Partners include Disney+, Hulu, HBO Max, Twitch, TikTok and more. Here’s a screenshot of the initial partners:

Now let’s switch to Messages. The app is getting better integration with other Apple apps like News, Photos and Music. With items shared via Messages showing up in there. In other words, Messages (and iMessage) is acting as the social layer on top of Apple’s apps.

A new notification summary

Apple is going to use on-device intelligence to create summaries of your notifications. Instead of being sorted by apps and by date, it is sorted by priority. For instance, notifications from friends will be closer to the top.

When you silence notifications, your iMessage contacts will see that you have activated ‘Do not disturb’. It works a bit like ‘Do not disturb’ in Slack. But there are new settings. Apple calls this Focus mode. You can choose apps and people you want notifications from and change your focus depending on what you’re doing.

For instance, if you’re at work, you can silence personal apps and personal calls and messages. If it’s the weekend, you can silence your work emails. Your settings sync across your iCloud account if you have multiple Apple devices. And it’ll even affect your home screen by showing and hiding apps and widgets.

New smart features

Apple is going to scan your photos for text. Called Live Text, this feature lets you highlight, copy and paste text in photos. It could be a nice accessibility feature as well. iOS is going to leverage that info for Spotlight. You can search from text in your photos directly in Spotlight. These features are handled on device directly.

With iOS 15, memories are getting an upgrade. “These new memories are built on the fly. They are interactive and alive,” Chelsea Burnette, Senior Manager, Photos Engineering. Memories are those interactive movies that you can watch in the Photos app. Now, you can tap with your finger to pause the movie. While music still plays in the background, your photo montage resumes when you lift your finger.

You can now search for a specific song to pair with a memory. It’s going to be interesting to see in details what’s new for the Photos app.

Wallet, Weather and Maps

This is a developing story…

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Apple announces iOS 15 and iPadOS 15

As expected, Apple revealed numerous details about its upcoming iOS 15 operating systems for iPhones and iPads today. Due later this year, the software updates will introduce major new features to notifications and other parts of the experience.

In the age of Coronavirus, naturally FaceTime is getting a few new features for more natural conversations. A new spatial audio feature will make it sound like “people are in the same room.” Callers’ voices will come from the same direction as their thumbnails. Machine learning powered voice isolation that will block out background sounds, or a “wide spectrum” mode will pick up everything in the room.

Grid view will let you view FaceTime calls just like Zoom. Portrait mode will blur out your background, just like a camera mode. You can also generate a link for a FaceTime call, making it work, again, just like joining Zoom. Facetime is even coming to Android, sort of, via a browser. A new feature called “Shareplay” will let you share media or your device screen over the video call.

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What to expect from WWDC 2021

All things considered, Apple put together a pretty slick all-virtual WWDC last year. Where other companies like Microsoft and Google have opted for a more live (or live-style) experience, the company was parading its execs through a series of smooth drone shots and slick transitions. And with the first year under its belt, it will be fun to see how the company outdoes itself.

As far as news goes, the WWDC keynote kickoff is always packed — and this year is no different. In fact, there’s a good chance that we could see even more. In addition to the standard developer-focused updates to iOS/iPadOS, watchOS, macOS, tvOS and the like, we could well see some new hardware dropping at the event.

As ever, we’ll be breaking the news live, and this time out, we’re bringing back the liveblog. So, you know, lots of different ways to follow along live. The event kicks off at 10AM PT/1PM ET on Monday, June 7.

Speaking of, you can also check out the YouTube livestream here:

As usual, iOS is the tentpole attraction here — if nothing else, because Apple sells more iPhones than anything else. That was certainly the case last year, when the company’s latest 5G devices provided much needed relief in an otherwise flagging mobile market.

At least right off the bat, iOS 15 doesn’t look like as radical an update as the latest version of Android. But a lot can happen between today and Monday morning. The top line issue (at least for now) seems to be updates to notifications. According to reports, the new version of the mobile operating system will offer customizable notifications based on status — meaning things like sleeping, working and driving.

The operating system is also believed to be getting a whole slew of new accessibility features.

Apple 2021 iPad Pro overview

Image Credits: Apple

Perhaps even bigger news is a long-awaited update to iPadOS 15. The dated software was a sticking point in our latest iPad Pro review, and it seems the company is finally making some key strides to further distance its tablet operating system from the mobile one. For most intents and purposes, the current execution is effectively a scaled-up version of iOS for the tablet.

Not a ton of details yet, but the home screen is reportedly set to get some major updates, including widgets. One imagines the company will be pushing to make better use of all that added real estate. It should also be getting some of the new iOS updates, including those new notifications and a big overhaul for iMessage.

a new iPhone 12 package on top of a MacBook Pro package.

YOKOHAMA, KANAGAWA, JAPAN – 2020/10/31: In this photo illustration a new iPhone 12 package on top of a MacBook Pro package. (Photo Illustration by Stanislav Kogiku/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

After the big overhaul that was Big Sur, we’re expecting smaller waves from macOS 12. The big news here may be hardware. Rumors surround an update to Apple’s blazing-fast M1 chip. The M1X (as it’s currently being called) could well arrive alongside brand new 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pros, which would finally put a little sunlight between the high and low end of Apple’s laptop line.

Apple Watch Series 5

Image Credits: Brian Heater

Also, watchOS seems due for a big update, even if information is pretty scant so far. New health features are always a sure bet — especially now that Apple is competing with the newly combined Google and Fitbit (not to mention that recently announced assist from Samsung).

Then there’s homeOS, the most intriguing mystery of the bunch. Job listings have pointed to the mysterious operating system — that could have just been a typo (later changed to “HomePod” in the listing).

Image Credits: Apple

This being a rumor roundup, we’ll point the compelling possibility that it might be something larger — perhaps a more unifying home operating system designed to work with existing and forthcoming Apple home products. Perhaps something that integrates a bit more closely with tvOS. A longstanding rumor centers around a new Apple TV device, but so far we’ve not seen a lot of confirmation on that front.

Other rumors involve a new Mac Mini (though we just saw a refresh late last year). Rumors around Beats Studio Buds are enticing as well. After all, when LeBron is seen sporting your unannounced hardware, people are going to talk. Traditionally, however, Apple has opted to let the Beats team do its own announcements, saving these big events for its own self-branded audio products like AirPods.

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WWDC 2021: What to expect from Apple’s next keynote

Apple kicks off its annual developer conference, WWDC, with a keynote presentation on Monday. As was the case last year, WWDC will be an online-only affair, but don’t let that fool you: We think this is going to be an eventful keynote. Expect multiple interesting announcements for users living in or following Apple’s ecosystem of hardware, software, and services.

The focus of WWDC is almost always on Apple’s software, and rightly so. This is an event primarily meant to engage with developers and encourage them to create new software experiences for Apple’s various platforms.

For that reason, we should, of course, expect detailed information about the new versions of iOS, iPadOS, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS.

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iOS and iPadOS 15 will feature major changes to notifications, home screen

A blue iPhone 12 lying flat on a table

Enlarge / The iPhone 12. (credit: Samuel Axon)

Yet another report from Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman has emerged with details of Apple’s future product plans. Citing “people with knowledge of the matter,” the article broadly describes some of the key upcoming features in iOS 15 for iPhones and iPadOS 15 for iPads.

Apple is likely to reveal iOS 15 and iPadOS 15 at its annual developer conference, WWDC, which kicks off on June 7 in an online-only format this year. Typically, Apple then releases these updates in September or thereabouts—timed closely with the annual release of new flagship iPhones. Something close to that same timeline is likely again this year.

Bloomberg’s sources say the upcoming OS updates will allow users to set different notification rules based on their status—”status,” in this case, means some predefined buckets like working, sleeping, or driving, as well as custom statuses that users can define themselves.

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