Apple previews iOS 15 at WWDC 2021

As expected, Apple offered a preview of iOS 15 at today’s WWDC 2021 keynote, highlighting some changes coming to FaceTime and notifications, as well as more privacy controls.

FaceTime gets some major updates, with spatial audio that reflects the speaker’s location on-screen, and voice isolation to help reduce distracting background noise. Portrait mode’s blurred backgrounds can also be used in FaceTime, and users can also share music and videos during calls. It’s also possible now to include Android users on FaceTime with a shareable link that opens the call in a browser.

Notifications get a new look, with contact photos on text notifications and bigger app icons, and they will get new filter modes in iOS 15, called Focus. This allows you to customize which notifications appear during different activities, like while you’re working, and sync across all devices. You can set a custom home screen page with widgets and apps appropriate for your chosen Focus mode. There’s also an option to batch certain notifications and receive them as a digest at certain times of day as a summary.

Messages gets a few updates, too. iOS 15 makes it possible for others to see when you’ve enabled Do Not Disturb mode by way of an automatic status update in Messages. It’s also possible to override Do Not Disturb for urgent messages. Photos shared in messages are automatically grouped into collages or stacks and will appear in other places like your photo gallery and memories.

Updated privacy controls in iOS 15 include a move to bring all Siri request processing on-device by default. Users will also get an App Privacy Report with a seven-day summary of how often apps accessed location information and your phone’s microphone or camera. Mail will also block tracking pixels commonly used in marketing emails to determine whether an email was opened and read.

Other updates include the ability to search text in photos courtesy of a new feature called LiveText, including the ability to search photos in Spotlight, AirPods audio updates, and the ability to locate AirPods Pro and AirPods Max using Find My.

Apple Wallet will support a wider range of items, like hotel room keys and relevant identification information for TSA. Memories get more customization options with different music track and transition options to change the feel of your video clips, and the weather app will display more information with new full-screen maps and a wider range of animated backgrounds. Maps gets some attention too, with “significantly enhanced details in cities” and a three-dimensional city driving view when using navigation on the phone or on CarPlay.

Changes are coming to Safari are coming across the Apple ecosystem, including on iOS. It will offer a simpler tab bar design as well as support for grouped tabs that sync across all devices. Safari on iOS will also support browser extensions.

Apple says iOS 15 will arrive to the public this fall for iPhone 6s and newer, with a developer beta arriving today and a public beta next month.


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