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whether you are gettingor holding a 6-year-old handjob Is to your phone. The new version of iOS was in public beta for several months, going through a variety of changes leading up to the final release. I’ve been testing out the new features of iOS 15, and everything from big additions like Small changes like pinning conversations to the top of the Messages app have improved my iPhone without disrupting my daily status.
Overall, iOS 15 Feels Like a Continuity, which felt like a continuation of iOS 13. These three updates are like a movie trilogy, but unlike The Lord of the Rings, Sauron doesn’t have an ominous eye on your every move, just Siri. Following in the smart footsteps of iOS 13 and 14, iOS 15 lets you decide how much you want to change your iPhone experience. For example, the tab bar in Safari can be moved to the bottom of your phone’s screen to make it easier to reach with one hand. If you want the tab bar to return to the top where it is from 2007, you can tap Come button and select show top address bar.
Visually, iOS 15 doesn’t change the way your phone looks, or at least not in a big way. It doesn’t sound like the kind of drastic change I’ve seen going on. Beyond that, iOS 15 isn’t defined by some huge attractive features. Instead, it is made up of hundreds of small and medium additions that add up to something more substantial. From more ways to personalize your Memojis to major visual improvements to Maps, iOS 15 is a big change to your phone. But instead of trumpeting its changes like a parade of elephants, Apple has quietly tip-toed in improvements to help you improve your phone without upsetting your current preferences and workflow.
When it comes to device support, Apple’s iOS is simply unmatched. If you have an iPhone 6S or the original iPhone SE, iOS 15 will work on your phone. You might not get all the new additions. Compare this to an Android phone. I can’t think of 2015 phones from Google, Samsung or Huawei that would be able to run Android 12.
With all that said, let’s get into some of my favorite features.
Focus Mode in iOS 15 is Transformational
Out of everything in iOS 15, Focus Mode had the most impact on me. Many coworkers describe it as “do not disturb mode on steroids”. Focus lets you filter notifications based on what you’re currently doing, and organize the app and widget pages on your iPhone’s home screen to match your activity and state of mind.
With Focus Mode enabled, your status is automatically displayed in Messages for friends to view. It’s kind of like setting an away status on Slack, but to remind others not to interrupt you. The difference is that the focus position works widely across your iPhone, Mac, and other devices. You also have the ability to turn off your focus state so it doesn’t get shared.
Third-party app developers can include focus status in their messaging apps if they wish. This makes it likely that your Focus Status may work with WhatsApp, Signal or others in the future. Slack will support focus state when iOS 15 is released.
Setting or editing the focus is easily done in Settings. I’ve set a handful of focuses, including the default ones for work and fitness. I created some custom focuses for cooking and cycling. You can name the Focus anything you like, so please don’t judge my monotonous naming scheme for cooking and cycling. You can schedule Focus to start and end at a certain time or be triggered when you reach a location, or you can use Control Center to turn it on and off as you wish.
You can choose who can notify you when you set the focus. To focus on my work, I limit contact with my boss and coworkers. Like in Do Not Disturb mode, you’ll still receive all your messages and calls, but you’ll only be alerted to the contacts you specify. Contacts I didn’t specify who is trying to reach me when I’m using focus are alerted above the text field in Messages that my notifications are silent. There is an option for them to “notify anyway” which will alert me.
You can customize which app pages are displayed from your Home screen when you have specific focus. I created an app page that was just for the apps I use at work. There are apps on it like Slack, Filmic Pro, Voice Memos and a teleprompter app. I quit apps that I knew would distract me, like Instagram and Twitter.
When I turn on my task focus, my usual four pages of home screen apps move to the apps I choose. Since iOS lets you duplicate an app multiple times on different pages on your home screen, you have endless possibilities for customization. If I want Slack to be on the apps page with work apps, and another app page to visit, I can do that. It’s also worth remembering that Focus doesn’t remove or disable apps you’re not using. If I’m focused on my work and want to get on Twitter, I can still access it through the app library with every app on my iPhone.
The focus took a while to set up and was properly tweaked. And if you have a Mac running macOS Monterey, you may have more cleverness to do to make Focus work for you. Focus Mode has improved how I use my phone. I feel more purposeful.
Portrait Mode Looks Great for FaceTime Calls
Portrait mode is no longer just for your photos. iOS 15 lets you turn on Portrait Mode for your FaceTime calls, bringing with you the ability to have an artistic blurred background behind you. Zoom, Skype and other video chat apps allow you to have a blurriness around you, but Apple’s implementation looks so much better and more natural. Instead of being a wall of blur, Portrait mode mimics the natural out-of-focus falloff that you get using a mirrorless camera and a faster lens. FaceTime Portrait Mode lacks the jagged cutout or a weird halo I often see on Zoom. When I tested the feature, a friend asked if I would get a new phone because the effect looked so cool.
When you combine portrait mode with the spatial audio feature in FaceTime, video calls become even more engaging. Spatial audio bases the location of the audio source relative to you. Obviously all callers are on your phone, but spatial audio stretches them out so they feel like they’re talking to you on your left and right as well as in the middle. It’s a really neat effect. I found it worked best on calls with four or more people.
Notification Summary removes the noise from your iPhone
Notification Summary is like your own personalized dossier filled with curated information that is not timely or urgent. App notifications can be overwhelming. Until now, managing your notifications has largely been an all-or-nothing affair. But iOS 15 allows you to gather useful notifications in one place where you can view them of your choosing.
For me, instead of being constantly interrupted or distracted even for a moment, Notification Summary collects notifications from apps that interest me but aren’t urgent. Then it provides me a collection of notifications when I want to.
Notification Summary is great for handling notifications you want but don’t necessarily need to see right away. A good example would be a notification from a game letting you know about an upgrade or, in my case, the New York Times crossword app alerting me to a new puzzle (well, that can be considered instant).
Notification summary has really changed my relationship with my iPhone. I myself have now allowed notifications from apps that I had previously selected because now I can manage them better.
LiveText is a great way to input text, numbers and websites
When Live Text first came out, I was like, “Oh, that’s Apple’s version of Google Lens.” Yes, they live on the same spectrum but are different. Google Lens is like Live Text and iOS Spotlight combined. You can use Live Text in real time with your camera or photos to identify text. It automatically detects whether the text exists or not and makes it relevant. And it works with both printed text and handwriting.
If there is a phone number, you can tap on it to dial the number. If there is a Spanish word, you can translate it into English. If you have a photo, tap the Live Text icon in the bottom right to interact with any text in the frame. The interface looks clean and is easy to use. one of my…