We’re around 13 weeks away from the launch of the iPhone 14, if Apple sticks to its customary schedule. But every June, Apple announces the upgrades coming to the iOS software that powers the iPhone. While there will be features announced later which are exclusive to this year’s new iPhone, there’s an awful lot that will be added as free improvements to current iPhones.
Here are the biggest new features so far announced, together with which iPhones they’ll work with (hint: if your iPhone is the original iPhone SE, iPhone 7 or older, you’re out of luck).
When’s the new software coming?
It’s available to developers right now, when they enrol their test devices. Next month, as usual, iOS 16 will go to public beta, so anyone with a compatible iPhone will be able to try it out. Apple points out (and, oh boy, I really agree) that it is sheer folly to put this public beta on a mission-critical device as it will have bugs aplenty and some apps won’t work until app developers update their creations. If you want to jump on board the public beta (or, indeed, off again if you find it’s not for you) check out the brilliant guides from fellow contributor Anthony Karcz which will appear when the public beta goes live.
Then, the general release will follow in the fall, usually around the second week of September.
Which iPhones will handle iOS 16?
The last three versions of iOS, iOS 13, iOS 14 and iOS 15 have, remarkably, worked on all the same iPhones. Not a single phone was left behind for three years. So, perhaps it’s not surprising that there’s a change coming this year and some users will be disappointed this time around. Three iPhones will lose support when iOS 16 rolls around: iPhone SE 1st generation, released in March 2016, and iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, which went on sale in September 2016. Of course, these phones will continue to work exactly as they do today, they just won’t get the iOS 16 innovations.
So, the models that will suddenly become better from this fall with new features added, are iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone X from fall 2017 and every single iPhone released since then. That means that by the time iOS 17 hoves into view in late 2023, some phones will have had a full six years’ support, which is pretty much unheard of in the world of Android phones.
- All-new lockscreen
This is an attention-grabbing, head-turning development. Of course, your lockscreen can have your favorite photo right now. But the other elements (time and date, torch and camera) were the only other things you could show. With iOS 16, you can customize the font for the time (though, dear Apple, I’d still like an analog clock option here) and the other information you can display, such as next appointments, alarm, weather and battery level. This last is a real bonus seeing as how the iPhone display only has the battery image, not the percentage.
You can also, and this is superbly cool, choose a favorite photo and let the software cut around the subject to lift it from the background for a layered effect. Even better, and this was not made very clear at the keynote, it doesn’t even need to be a portrait photo for this effect.
You can have multiple lock screens to choose from, just as lots of Watch faces are possible for Apple Watch.
This is very exciting. You know how you go to a website and you can’t remember which password (or password variation) you used? I mean, it’s a daily occurrence for me. Obviously, if iCloud Keychain has saved it then this isn’t too much of an issue, except that websites are hackable and so passwords may not be as private as they should be.
Passkeys are part of Safari and are unique digital keys which stay on device, not on a web server so can’t be tricked out of you by a phishing expedition or stolen in a data breach. You use Touch ID or Face ID instead of entering a password and yes, you can still use Passkeys even if you’re logging into a website on a PC or Android phone. You use a QR code and your iPhone instead. I literally can’t wait for this.
- Live Text enhancements
Also very cool, Live Text is already on iPhones with a recent enough processor, and can translate text it spots through the camera viewfinder. With iOS 16, I’ll let you pause a video and interact with the text there. It can also convert currency values and more.
There’s also a series of updates to Visual Look Up so that, by tapping on a subject in a photo (it needs to be a well-defined subject), it can lift it from the background to put it in Messages. And it will now recognize statues, birds and insects, which it couldn’t before.
- Apple Pay Later
This will be U.S.-only when it arrives but allows you to buy something through Apple Pay and split the cost over four equal payments over six weeks. There’s a $50 minimum for these purchases and will work through Apple Wallet. It will come with order tracking so you get a detailed receipt and order tracking information from participating retailers.
- Apple Maps improvements
Add extra stops on your routes with Maps in iOS 16—up to 15 stops. Which must be enough, right, I mean, what are you, a bus driver? Transit information will also show the cost of a journey.
Significant improvements to dictation are coming so you can easily swap from speaking to typing on the go. Automatic punctuation is promised, too. If Apple would add transcription to Voice Notes, that would be even better.
Truth is, I could have made this post the 10 Best Innovations, or 15 Best. But for simplicity’s sake, here are a few of the other cool new items, rounded up in one place.
Personalized Spatial Audio means that by the use of the front-facing True Depth camera on Face ID iPhones, you can create a personal profile for Spatial Audio so music sounds even better.
Accessibility updates will help those with low vision to navigate by showing Door Detection and other helping features.