Every Fall, Apple throws old iPhone owners a bone. In addition to releasing its newest line of pricey smartphones, the company rolls out a new version of the iOS software that runs on existing devices. This gives your phone a free little makeover, with new features, tricks, and a fresh look.
Apple’s iOS 16 is now available to anyone with an iPhone 8 or later. We’ve been testing it out for a few months, and have rounded up the biggest and most interesting new additions. Let’s dive in!
When should you update your iOS
You can update right now but that doesn’t mean you should. Developers and early adopters have been testing the public beta for months, but bugs are unavoidable. It’s best to hold off a few weeks for the first update to avoid any hiccups, though the risks should be minimal if you can’t wait. (If you have an iPad, you’ll have no choice but to hang back. The iPadOS update for Apple’s tablets isn’t expected until October.)
When you’re ready to install it on your iPhone, first make sure you have backed up your device. You can do an iCloud backup or connect it to a computer and back it up there. Next, go to Settings → General → Software Update. For best results, make sure it’s on a WiFi network and plugged in. Once the update is downloaded, you’ll have to wait a bit for the device to restart, so pick a time when you will be OK without access to your iPhone.
Delete and edit (some) text messages
Who among us hasn’t fired off a text message with an embarrassing typo? In my friend group, I’ve become notorious for sending messages that leave out full (and usually important) words.
Rather than live with that shame, the new iOS allows you to both edit and “unsend” — a.k.a. delete — messages you’ve sent via iMessage within 15 minutes. (In other words, you can’t claw back a standard SMS text message you’ve sent to, say, Android users.)
Fans of rival messaging services like WhatsApp and Telegram will crow that these features have been common for years, and they’re right. Still, these tools can be undeniably helpful when you’re constantly sending — and sometimes flubbing — messages to certain people.
Your deeds probably won’t go unnoticed, though, since messages you’ve tweaked after sending are labeled and you can see a full edit history. There’s one more catch to keep in mind: You can’t take back messages you’ve sent to people who aren’t using the new iOS yet. Those folks will see the new, edited message as a follow-up to the original, mucked-up one in their text threads.
Customize your lock screen with widgets
The time. Your notifications. Those little WiFi and cell reception icons. For years, apart from the photos you’ve chosen to set as wallpapers, your iPhone’s lock screen has looked pretty much just like mine. Not anymore.
With iOS 16, you can festoon your lock screen with widgets showing you the day's weather, your wireless headphones' battery life, a company's current stock price and more. Ideally, that plus a view of your notifications means you can stay up-to-date without having to unlock and spend more time on your phone.
Maybe more important is the sheer level of depth with which you can make your phone’s lock screen feel like your own. Want to tessellate a series of poo emoji for your background? Or change the font for the clock, and tuck the time behind a mountain found in one of your favorite photos? You can even set custom lock screens for specific situations, like a widget-filled one for work or a black-and-white version for around bedtime.
Turn any photo into a sticker
OK, it’s not the most revolutionary new iOS feature but it’s probably one you’ll use nonstop until your friends yell at you to cut it out. Long-press a person or an object in one of your photos, and iOS will automatically separate it from its background. From there, you can (among other things) copy and paste it into a messaging app to send as a picture-perfect reaction.
Protect yourself against abusers and hackers
There are a number of safety features built into iOS that address different security concerns. For anyone dealing with an abusive relationship or similar situation, there’s a new Safety Check option in Settings → Privacy & Security that lets you cut people off who have access to your phone, like shared albums, your location, the Home app or notes. If you want, you can even stop all sharing at once. The Emergency Reset option will go a step further, stopping all sharing, changing your Apple ID passwords, and reviewing your emergency contacts.
If you’re dealing with a serious outside threat, there’s a new option called Lockdown Mode. It gives potential targets of government hacking an easy way to make their iPhones safer. Once engaged, Lockdown Mode will block most types of attachments on messages and prevent the phone from previewing Web links, which are frequently used to transmit spyware. Locking a phone will disable wired connections to computers and accessories that are used to take control of devices that have been seized by police or stolen by spies. Found in Settings → Privacy & Security, this mode warns that is it an extreme option meant only for people who may be targeted by a “highly sophisticated cyberattack.”
There’s even more security for your photos. Hidden and Recently Deleted albums in the Photos app are set to verify your identity before you can open them by default.
Other interesting things
For many, the most fun and frustrating part of using a new operating system is figuring out the little details that have changed. For example, when you take a screenshot there’s now an option to Copy & Delete (fun). In Spotlight, the search bar has moved to the bottom half of the screen (possibly frustrating).
Apple’s Health app also now comes with a tool that reminds you when to take your medications. Fire up the app, and from there, you’ll be able to manually add the drug you need to take, or scan the label on your bottle. Then you can add your dosage, and set custom reminders for the days and times you have to take those meds.
There’s a new keyboard haptics option. Android phones have had this forever, but you can now turn on haptic feedback for typing. That way, you’ll feel a satisfying clickety-click as well as hear it when you’re texting.
The Mail app has an option to undo send or send an email later or at a scheduled time, so nobody can tell you’re the workaholic forwarding things at 11 p.m.
In the Weather app, you can see even more detailed looks at the hourly temperature.
Tell us your favorite new tweak in the comments or by emailing us at email@example.com.
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