Apple headlined this year's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) today with the introduction of iOS 16, the next generation of its mobile operating system for the iPhone. Craig Federighi, Apple's Senior VP of Software Engineering, took the stage to announce the significant new update, adding this year that Apple is focusing on new features related to intelligence, sharing, communication, and personalization to deliver a fresh experience for iPhone users. Continue reading to learn about all the most exciting new features coming to iOS 16!
New, Customizable Lock Screen
Describing it as the biggest update to ever hit the iPhone's front page, Federighi explained that Apple has completely reimagined how the Lock Screen looks and works.
Apple appears to have borrowed some ideas from watchOS, turning the iPhone Lock Screen into a more dynamic Watch Face style of view, complete with widgets, live backgrounds, and multiple lock screens.
Lock Screen wallpapers now include a depth effect that allows portions of an image to appear in front of the clock, similar to the Apple Watch Portrait Face introduced in watchOS 8 last year.
The Lock Screen can also be customized with different fonts for the clock, color filters for the wallpapers, and even smaller, complication-style widgets to show information such as weather, calendar appointments, fitness activity, and much more.
iOS 16 will also provide a gallery of Lock Screens in different themes to help folks get started. Federighi demonstrated swiping through different styles that each include a color filter, background image, and font that complement each other. These can be customized further by tapping on any element to change it up to your own preferences.
The wallpaper gallery also supports dynamic backgrounds for things like weather, changing photo albums, astronomy, and more. These will animate fluidly when swiping up to unlock your iPhone. As with Apple Watch faces, users will be able to set up multiple Lock Screens and swipe between them.
Naturally, third-party developers will also have access to these Lock Screen widgets. Note that these aren't the same as Widgets used on the Home Screen, so developers will have to update their apps before Lock Screen widgets are available.
Federighi announced that Apple is bringing three of the most highly-requested features to its Messages app, including the ability to edit and even retract messages after they've been sent!
With iOS 16, users will be able to edit any message they've just sent to correct embarrassing typos or other info or "Undo Send" to immediately recall a misfired message for up to 15 minutes after it's been sent.
It's not yet clear whether recipients will also need to be using iOS 16 for these features to work on other devices.
The Messages app in iOS 16 will also let you mark any thread as unread to help you avoid forgetting about messages that you didn't get to immediately. You'll also be able to recover deleted messages for up to 30 days.
Apple wants to make sure you don't miss any of that gorgeous new Lock Screen design, so it's rethought notifications so they won't get in the way.
Notifications now roll in from the bottom so they don't block the Lock Screen, and they can also be hidden throughout the day.
Further, to deal with repeated notifications that often come from things like live sporting events, ride-hailing, and delivery apps, Apple is introducing Live Activities.
Instead of repeating notifications, developers can put up a single notification block that gets dynamically updated. For example, a notification could show the current score from a game, or the progress of an Uber ride, all changing in real-time. The Lock Screen Music Player is also being rolled into this new Live Activity design.
Apple is taking its Focus feature further this year by extending it to the new Lock Screen. In addition to choosing your favorite Lock Screen manually, it can also be tied to a particular focus.
For example, you can have a Lock Screen that shows a professional wallpaper with the calendar and task list widgets when you're at work, with a more relaxing Lock Screen for your personal time.
Your Focus Mode can also now carry into your apps with new Focus Filters to remove any distracting content. For instance, Safari can show only certain tab groups depending on your Focus Mode, hiding work-related research when you're downtime. Similarly, Calendar can show only certain events, and Mail and Messages can show only specific conversations.
Naturally, Apple's own first-party apps will support these Focus Filters out of the gate, but Apple is also making an API available so that your Focus Mode can also be extended into third-party apps.
Mail Unsend and More
Apple Mail is gaining several features that have been common for years in web-based apps like Gmail, including undo send, scheduling messages to send later, snoozing messages, and getting follow-up suggestions for emails that you're waiting for a response to.
Mail will also let you know if it looks like you forgot something important in your message, like adding an attachment.
Search in Mail is also getting a massive overhaul so that you'll be able to see recent emails, contacts, documents, and links as soon as you start searching.
Although Apple didn't mention this during the iOS 16 preview, it highlighted them as updates to this year's macOS 13 release, adding that they'll also be extended to the iPhone and iPad.
SharePlay in Messages
SharePlay is expanding to Messages so you'll no longer need to start a FaceTime call just to start watching a movie or listening to music with your friends. Instead, when you find something you want to share, you can kick it off while chatting in Messages, and it will pop up in a picture-in-picture overlay so you can keep on chatting while you're watching together.
Apple is also adding tighter integration within FaceTime so you can jump into SharePlay apps right from inside a FaceTime conversation. That includes those already on your iPhone or even recommended apps from the App Store.
Dictation and Siri
Robby Walker, Apple's Senior Director of Siri and Language Tech, came on stage to announce that iOS 16 will now allow users to fluidly move between voice and typing while using Siri's Dictation feature.
Walker noted that Dictation is used 18 billion times each month, but right now it's a choice: you either use dictation, or you type.
With iOS 16, the keyboard will stay open when you enable Dictation, letting you combine voice and typed text. It will even be possible to select text using touch and then replace the text with your voice.
Dictation will also now intelligently add punctuation to your text, so there will no longer be a need to speak words like "comma" or "period" while dictating a message or email.
This also works when sending messages with Siri, and you'll finally be able to dictate emoji characters by speaking their names, such as "smiley face."
Lastly, Apple is adding a new App Intents API for developers to offer Siri interactions in their apps with zero setup, so new apps will be ready to go with Siri Shortcuts as soon as you install them.
Live Text in Video
Apple is expanding on last year's Live Text feature for photos to also embrace videos. With iOS 16 you'll be able to pause a video on any frame and interact with text just like you can now with a photo.
New Quick Actions are also being added to help you interact with Live Text from both photos and videos. For example, a context menu will offer options for currency and unit conversations, translations, and more.
A Translate Camera feature will also now power Live Text in the Translate app so you can point at text in another language and get an immediate translation.
Visual Look Up Drag and Drop
Visual Look Up already identifies pets, landmarks, and plants and gives you descriptive information about them. However, iOS 16 will take that even further by letting you intelligently extract those objects from your photos to use them elsewhere.
For example, you can touch and hold on an object such as a dog within an image, and then immediately drag and drop only that selected object, without the background, into another app, such as a Messages conversation.
Wallet and Apple Pay
Corey Fugman, Apple's Senior Director of Wallet and Apple Pay shared some exciting improvements coming to Apple's payment technology in and around iOS 16.
While not all of these are specific to Apple's next major iOS release, users will soon be able to securely present Digital IDs to third-party apps requiring identity and age verification. For example, a Maryland or Arizona driver's license could be used to prove that you're 21 when ordering alcohol from Uber Eats. Fugman noted that there are eleven other states actively working on Digital ID deployments.
iOS 16 will also allow the sharing of digital keys for home, office, and more with messaging apps like Mail, Messages, or even WhatsApp, allowing friends to add the keys to their Wallet with a single tap.
Apple is also working on making this kind of key sharing an industry standard, so you'll be able to share your keys even with friends and family members who don't have iPhones.
Fugman also announced that Tap to Pay on iPhone will begin launching to millions of merchants across the U.S. starting this month.
A new Pay Later feature will also let users split the cost of any Apple Pay purchases into four equal payments with zero interest and no fees. Fugman says this will be available everywhere Apple Pay is accepted, both in-app and online, but he didn't mention which countries it would be available in at launch. Like Apple Card and Apple Cash, there's a good chance this one will be U.S.-only, and in fact on its website, Apple notes that it will use the Mastercard network and be "available for qualifying applicants in the United States."
However, merchants and developers don't have to do anything special. This just works using the standard Apple Pay implementation. Upcoming payments can be viewed and managed directly through Apple Wallet.
Apple Pay is also gaining a new Order Tracking feature to allow merchants to deliver receipts and tracking info directly to Wallet. This will require some integration on the part of e-commerce platforms, however, Shopify is already on board to support it with the release of iOS 16.
Multistop Routing in Apple Maps
Meg Frost, Apple's Director of Product Design for Apple Maps, announced that iOS 16 will finally introduce multistop routing to Apple Maps. This will let users plan up to 15 stops in advance.
You'll also be able to access previous routes from your recent trips, so they're easy to get back to, and routes can be planned in the macOS Maps app and sent to the iPhone when you're ready to hit the road.
Naturally, you can also ask Siri to add additional stops to a route while driving so that you can keep your eyes on the road.
Apple Maps will also now include fare information when planning a Transit route, so you'll know how much your journey will cost in advance. Transit cards for supported services can be added to Wallet directly from Maps, and you'll get alerts if your card balance is running low.
Apple is also making the new detailed city experience and Look Around available through its MapKit API so that third-party developers will be able to use these in their third-party apps.
My Sports in News
Ruby Edmondson, the Sports Editorial Manager for Apple News, joined the keynote to talk about new and improved sports coverage in Apple News.
A new My Sports section in Apple News will let you follow your favorite teams and leagues to get stories from the top publishers. This will include highlights, team standings, best plays, and much more, all focused on your preferred teams and seamlessly synced across your devices.
This will be free within the Apple News app, and available in the U.S., the U.K., Canada and Australia. Apple News+ subscribers will get premium sports coverage thanks to the expanded collection of news sources available as part of News+.
Edmondson also added that the new Live Activities feature in iOS 16 will allow the TV app to show scores and other details for ongoing games right on your Lock Screen.
iOS 16 is making it easier to manage accounts for your kids with a new way to set age-appropriate restrictions for apps, media content, and parental controls.
It's also going to get easier to set up a child's iPad. A parent can simply bring their iPhone near a new iPad to take advantage of Quick Start. With just a few taps, the iPad gets set up with all the parental controls already in place.
Screen Time requests from kids will also now be sent via Messages, and a parent can approve them right from there so they'll be harder to miss.
Lastly, a new Family Checklist will provide helpful tips and reminders like updating settings as kids get older and configuring appropriate Screen Time options.
iCloud Shared Photo Library
With iOS 16, Apple is finally providing an easy way for family members to share their photo collections with each other.
Although iCloud has provided a Shared "Family" photo album, images had to be added to this manually, and they weren't shared in full resolution, nor were they fully integrated with recipients' main photo collections.
Now, a separate and shared iCloud Photo Library will be available for everyone in the family to contribute to and collaborate on. The family organizer can choose to share it with the whole family — up to five other people — or only certain family members.
Photos and videos can be shared manually, or participants can set up rules based on a cutoff date, who is in the photos, or where they were taken. It will even be possible to share photos based on groups of family members, such as only sharing photos of yourself when your partner or kids are in the photo with you.
A new switch in the iOS 16 Camera app will also let you automatically direct all photos to the shared library as you take them, which can be useful for taking photos while on vacation or at an event where you know you're going to want to share all of them in advance. You can also just as easily toggle back to your personal library from the Camera app when you're snapping a private photo or something like a gift you're thinking of buying.
You'll also be able to choose to have sharing of new photos enabled automatically whenever other members of your family are nearby. So when you're on a trip or outing together, all your photos can be automatically shared with the group as you take them.
The For You tab will include intelligent sharing suggestions for your family, and content in the shared library will appear in everyone's memories, photo widgets, and other areas where your normal photo library content would be used. All members of the Shared iCloud Photo Library will have equal permissions for editing, sharing, deleting, captioning, or adding keywords, and of course everything syncs across everyone's devices.
Katie Skinner, Apple's Senior Manager of User Privacy Software, came on stage to talk about the steps the company is taking to help those at risk of domestic and partner violence stay safer.
Apple has been working closely with organizations that support victims of such abuse, and has developed a new Safety Check feature that will help iPhone users lock down their privacy quickly and easily.
Safety Check will review and reset access that you've granted to others, including location sharing and privacy permissions in apps, so that those in abusive situations can quickly revoke an abuser's access when they need to get away.
This also includes protecting access to your messages by signing out of iCloud on all other devices, and restricting Messages and FaceTime to the device in your hand.
While Skinner pointedly avoided any mention of AirTags, these changes were undoubtedly inspired by the feedback that Apple has received after advocates against domestic violence spoke up about the weaknesses in AirTags' safety features.
Corey Wang, one of Apple's Producers of Human Interface designs, announced some exciting changes coming to the Home app in iOS 16.
Redesigned from the ground up, the new Home app will provide a single view of all of your favorite accessories and rooms making it easier to see the status of your entire home in a single view.
New categories at the top will help you filter your view to things like lights, climate sensors, thermostats, and air conditioners, locks and doors, water sensors, and more. Tapping on these categories will immediately reduce the list to only the relevant accessories, still organized by room, and showing more detailed status information.
A new multi-camera view will also allow you to see four HomeKit security cameras at once, with the ability to scroll right to see others. Individual tiles have also been redesigned so that different accessories are more recognizable with unique shapes and colors, rather than trying to fit everything into the same square tile design.
For the first time in years, iOS 16 is drawing a line in the sand when it comes to older iPhone models — it will only be available on the 2017 iPhone 8 and later devices.
This drops not only the 2015 iPhone 6s off the list, which we all knew was likely to happen this year, but also the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus.
Not surprisingly, iOS 15 will also be the end of the line for the iPod touch. Apple discontinued the last iPod touch less than a month ago, undoubtedly in anticipation of this very event. Even though the last iPod touch was released in 2019, it still featured the same A10 chip as the iPhone 7, which didn't make the cut this year either.
As usual, Apple is making the first developer beta available to members of the Apple Developer Program today. However, unless you're a paid member of that program, you'll have to wait until the first public beta arrives before you'll be able to try it out for yourself. That will probably arrive sometime in early July.
It's generally a good idea to wait for the public beta anyway. Apple expects developer betas to be installed on devices dedicated for developing apps, and not those intended for daily use. The first couple of betas could have some serious bugs that you probably won't want to deal with. By the time the first public beta lands, it means Apple is comfortable enough with the quality of the software that it's willing to let members of the public take it for a spin.
However, even then you should expect that some things won't work properly. If you don't want to deal with being a guinea pig for iOS 16, it's best to just hold off until the final public release arrives in September.