Apple has released its new software update, iOS 15, today, complete with a generous array of tweaks to Maps, Safari, FaceTime and more.
The new update, which was revealed back in June, includes the ability to FaceTime with Androids and a new Live Text tool that can recognise handwriting from photos.
Notifications also have a new look, including contact photos and larger app icons to make them easier to identify.
Today’s release of iOS 15, as well as iPadOS 15 and WatchOS 8 for tablets and smartwatches, comes ahead of the release of iPhone 13 this Friday.
Apple’s latest flagship phone was revealed by the tech giant last week.
Rather than being restricted to the new device, iOS 15 runs on all Apple phones from 2015’s iPhone 6S and newer.
iOS 15 includes the ability to FaceTime with Androids, a new Live Text tool that can recognise handwriting from photos and a redesigned Safari experience
iPhone users can install the update by heading to the Settings app on their device, before tapping on General and then Software Update.
Here’s MailOnline’s look at some of the most exciting updates that come with the new OS.
FaceTime gets largest upgrade with Apple’s new iOS 15
Apple’s iOS 15 brings the largest update to FaceTime.
It includes 3D audio, which is like surround sound but multiplied.
Portrait mode is coming that blurs the background so the user stands out.
SharePlay will let users watch movies, listen to music or search the web together via FaceTime.
The update also adds features that pits FaceTime against Zoom.
Users can now send video conference links with a schedule and access number.
Chat boxes are also organized as grids for better viewing.
Most notably, iOS 15 is revamping FaceTime with new features that aim to better connect users.
Improvements include 3D audio, portrait mode that blurs backgrounds to make the subject of a call more prominent and a grid view, which shows people on FaceTime calls in tiles of the same size.
Users can also watch and listen to the same movies and music with friends through a new update called SharePlay.
SharePlay allows users to enjoy the same movie or music using just their iPhone or iPad over FaceTime.
The feature is compatible with Apple TV and Apple Music, along with content from Disney+, Hulu, HBO Max, Twitch, TikTok and more.
‘Keep FaceTime conversations going as you watch TV shows and movies, listen to music or share your screen with SharePlay,’ Apple says.
‘It’s an entirely new way to have experiences with family and friends, no matter the distance.’
Also with iOS 15, FaceTime is supported on Windows and Android devices through a browser, providing the first time Apple’s proprietary video call platform is available on other platforms.
In other words, FaceTime users with an iPhone can send friends and family a link to connect on FaceTime even if they’re using Windows or Android.
Another new feature called Live Text is pretty impressive – it’s capable of identifying and scanning text that’s captured in photos.
This lets users turn handwritten notes into emails, for example, as well as copy the text and search for it online.
Apple says: ‘Live Text intelligently unlocks rich and useful information in images, so you can make a call, send an email or look up directions with just a tap on the highlighted text in a photo’
Apple says the feature is enabled using ‘deep neural networks’ and ‘on-device intelligence’.
‘Text is now completely interactive in all your photos, so you can use functions like copy and paste, lookup, and translate,’ Apple says.
‘Live Text works in Photos, Screenshot, Quick Look, and Safari and in live previews with Camera.’
Apple has also equipped iOS 15 with a new feature called Focus, which hides apps that typically distract users.
Focus lets users decide how notifications appear on their device and automatically filter notifications based on what they’re doing.
Notifications will also look a little different following the download of iOS 15 – they will have photos and larger icons. This is part of Apple’s new Focus feature that lets users decide how notifications appear on their iPhone or iPad
This includes timing when certain notifications will pop up, such as snoozing them while working or allowing them when on a walk.
Apple describes a single ‘Focus’ as a category that users can choose to receive notifications about. If they chose the ‘Fitness’ Focus, for example, they’ll receive updates from their fitness-themed apps.
‘Focus helps you stay in the moment when you need to concentrate or step away,’ Apple says.
‘Choose a Focus that allows only the notifications you want – you can get work done while you’re in the zone or enjoy a distraction‑free dinner.’
Maps in iOS 15 guides you to your destination you reach where you’re going with step-by-step directions you can view in augmented reality
Apple also seems to be hoping to win back some iPhone users who have started using Google Maps.
A revamped Apple Maps for iOS 15 includes what it calls ‘incredible new details’ for roads, neighbourhoods, trees, buildings and more.
There’s new details like filter lanes, crossings and bike lanes, as well as street-level perspectives on the approach to complex interchanges.
A new dedicated driving map, meanwhile, helps users see current incidents and traffic conditions at a glance.
Lastly, step-by-step directions can be viewed in augmented reality. In other words, holding up an iPhone with Maps open will indicate the road you want to head down when following directions.
A redesigned Safari experience, meanwhile, includes a new tab bar at the bottom of the screen that lets users switch between pages.
The long horizonal bar features the name of the webpage the user is currently on and ‘and stays out of the way as you scroll and explore’.
‘It’s easily reachable at the bottom, so you can navigate and jump between tabs with just your thumb,’ Apple says.
The Safari redesign also lets iPhone users search the web using just their voice.
‘Voice search in Safari is an incredibly convenient way to search the web hands-free,’ Apple says. ‘Simply tap the microphone in the tab bar and speak.’
iOS 15 also includes a Messages redesign that transforms message photos into galleries.
Shared with You in Messages lets iPhone users browse photos and links that others have sent
It means links, images and other content shared in the messaging app are featured in a new section called ‘Shared with You’.
‘Multiple photos in Messages now appear as a collage or an elegant stack of images that you can swipe through,’ Apple says.
Apple also previewed operating systems for its other devices including iPadOS 15 that aims to help users be more productive by revamping the Split View and Slide Over features.
watchOS 8 provides more features for staying healthy, active and connected, along with new apps to help you breathe a little easier.
Apple’s AirPods are also getting improvements with the new iOS 15, which will boost the sounds of people talking to you, improve Find My support and improved range of notifications.
Apple first gave users the first look at its new iOS 15 at the tech giant’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) on June 7.
‘We’re excited to make the iPad experience even better with iPadOS 15,’ said Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering, said at the time.
Apple previously said: ‘We want to help protect children from predators who use communication tools to recruit and exploit them, and limit the spread of Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM)’
‘With more intuitive multitasking, a new Home Screen design with integrated widgets and the App Library, systemwide note taking with Quick Note, Translate designed for iPad, SharePlay, a redesigned Safari experience, new tools to stay focused, and more, users can now be even more productive.’
Apple revealed earlier in September that iOS 15 won’t include the ability to scan iPhones for child abuse images as intended, due to a furious backlash from iPhone users.
The contentious plans involve scanning iPhones for child abuse images and reporting ‘flagged’ owners to the police.
It had planned to rollout the feature for iPhones, iPads, and Mac with software updates later this year in the US.
But Apple said September 3 that it would take more time to collect feedback and improve the proposed features, after the criticism of the system on privacy and other grounds both inside and outside the company.
Key areas for concern about Apple’s new plan to scan iPhones for child abuse images
The system will look for matches, securely on the device, based on a database of ‘hashes’ – a type of digital fingerprint – of known CSAM images provided by child safety organizations.
These fingerprints do not search for identical child abuse images because paedophiles would only have to crop it differently, rotate it or change colours to avoid detection.
As a result the technology used to stop child abuse images will be less rigid, making it more likely flag perfectly innocent files.
In the worst cases the police could be called in and disrupt the life or job of the person falsely accused just, perhaps, for sending a picture of their own child.
The program currently only looks at photos and videos, but there are concerns that the tech could be used to scan usually encrypted messages
Misuse by governments
There are major concerns that the digital loophole could be adapted by an authoritarian government to enforce other crimes and infringe human rights.
For example, in countries where homosexuality is illegal, private photos could be used against an individiual them in court, experts warn.
Expansion into texts
This new Apple policy will be looking at photos and videos, but there are concerns that the technology could be used to allow companies to see usually encrypted messages such as iMessage or WhatsApp.
There are concerns that somebody could send someone a perfectly innocent photograph to someone – knowing it will get them in trouble,
If the person, or government, has a knowledge of the algorithm or ‘fingerprint’ being used, they could use it to fit someone up for a crime.
Backdoor through privacy laws
If the policy is rolled out worldwide, privacy campaigners fear that the tech giants will soon be allowed unfettered access to files via this backdoor.