We finally have our first look at iOS 16 and iPadOS 16, the latest software updates for the iPhone and iPad. There are some revolutions here, like a totally revamped Lock Screen on the iPhone, and macOS window management on iPad, in conjunction with smaller, useful changes, like the ability to edit and undo messages (thank goodness). Here’s our list of the best new iOS and iPadOS features, both big and small.
Apple announced iOS 16 and iPadOS 16 today, Monday, June 6, but it isn’t available to the general public yet. The official update will likely drop sometime this fall. If you’re an Apple developer (or if you enroll in the Apple developer program), you can try out the iOS 16 and iPadOS 16 betas right now. You can also wait for the public betas to drop next month (that is, of course, assuming you have a device compatible with the new updates).
Because the iPad is still, in many ways, an oversized iPhone, many of these features are shared across both iOS and iPadOS. I’ll mark features that only apply to one particular platform.
New lock screen (iOS 16)
The biggest change you’ll see on your iPhone, in my view, is the new customisable Lock Screen. You’re now able to change the colour and font of your Lock Screen, to match both your personal style and the style of the wallpaper you choose. Speaking of wallpaper, there’s a new wallpaper gallery, which offers tons of wallpaper options, plus customisation options. The depth effect with photos separates the text on the Lock Screen from your wallpaper, while “Photo Shuffle” shuffles photos throughout the day. There are preset options, such as the Weather wallpaper, which sports live weather conditions on the Lock Screen, as well as the Astronomy collection, which includes animated space themes.
My favourite change here is the addition of widgets and complications. The widgets Apple introduced with iOS 14 are available on your Lock Screen, as are Apple Watch-like complications: These are like tiny widgets, giving you useful information about your favourite apps and metrics without taking up much space. The Now Playing widget can now take up the whole Lock Screen, as well.
Customising your Lock Screen is easy: Just press and hold on the screen to launch the customizer. You’ll also find the widget gallery, which lets you choose from such options as calendar, temperature, activity, battery, and more.
Notifications (iOS 16)
Another big change comes with Notifications: They’re at bottom of the Lock Screen now! This change makes notifications simpler to manage, as well as easier to interact with when using larger iPhones with one hand. You can also quickly hide all notifications in a minimized text field at the bottom of the display.
One of my favourite new iOS 16 features is Live Activities: Instead of receiving a ton of real-time notifications from the same app, you can now see updates in a widget. For example, instead of receiving live updates from a sports game, you can see live updates in a widget, including scores and time elapsed.
After customising all those new Lock Screens, you don’t need to switch between them manually. Lock Screens can now be tied to specific Focuses on iPhone, so your wallpapers and widgets can adjust accordingly. For example, when in a work Focus, you can have a specific Lock Screen focused on work widgets and notifications, as well as professional wallpaper; when switching to your personal focus, perhaps the wallpaper changes to something funny, or to a personal photo, with widgets of the personal apps you care about.
There’s also Focus Filters for iPhone and iPad. With these filters, certain app data automatically hides to keep things, erm, focused. During your work Focus, Safari tabs only show work related tabs — same with Messages, Mail, and Calendar.
CarPlay (iOS 16)
The CarPlay update today might’ve been one of the coolest software announcements Apple has ever made. And we won’t be able to see it in action for a long time. Bummer.
Here’s the deal: Apple is working with automakers to design what they call the “next generation” of CarPlay. What that seems to mean is screens. Lots of screens. Automakers are placing screens all over the cabin of their cars, including behind the wheels, that totally transform when CarPlay is in effect. Sure, the main info screen will display your usual CarPlay information, but other screens house car-specific information: Behind your wheel, you can customise your speedometer, tachometer, overlay map data, and fuel economy, as well as iOS widgets like Calendar, Weather, Clock, Home, and more. By customise, I mean customise, giving these data points any style you want. You’ll even be able to control your car with CarPlay, such as temperature controls or tuning the radio.
Obviously, the “next generation” of CarPlay needs to be built into each car it’s made for, so you won’t be able to use most (or any) of these features on your current CarPlay setup. Apple says the first announcements about vehicles with these features built in will be coming late next year, so, while this is technically an iOS 16 feature, it’s a bit of a tease.
Finally. You can now edit and undo messages on your iPhone and iPad. This feature is one we’ve seen in many chat apps before, but hey, better late than never. In addition, you can mark messages as unread, so you don’t have to worry about forgetting to respond to a message after opening it.
When you open a FaceTime call with this new update, you can now see all the available SharePlay apps, so you know all the options you have on hand to share with friends and family. SharePlay is also now available in Messages, so you don’t need to be on a video call in order to do things like watch movies together.
You’ll also be able to play games with friends via Game Centre with SharePlay later this year.
When you currently use Dictation to type with your voice, the keyboard disappears. With iOS and iPadOS 16, however, you can use Dictation while also having access to the keyboard. That lets you make quick edits or type things Dictation has trouble with, without having to leave Dictation mode. You can also select text and replace it with your voice. Dictation even adds punctation automatically to long messages.
Live Text is a great feature that lets you select text from photos. Now, you can pause videos to select text from individual frames. There’s now a camera view in the Translate app, as well, which lets you select and translate text in the real world without having to leave the app.
There’s also a new feature that lets you touch and hold a subject in an image to instantly cut and copy it. Seriously. Tap and hold on a photo of your dog, and your device will cut it out of the photo and let you drop it in another app. Apple showed this feature off so casually, but it’s going to be viral on TikTok when iOS 16 and iPadOS 16 launch in the fall.
Apple’s digital ID, which works with two states with more on the way, will soon work with iOS apps, as well. Think an app like Drizzly, which might ask to verify your age with an ID. With this feature, you don’t have to show anyone your driver’s licence — just scan Face ID to let the app confirm you’re of age.
iOS 16 will also expand digital key sharing in messaging apps like Mail and WhatsApp, making it easier to let trusted contacts gain entry to your car or house door.
Apple is also introducing Apple Pay Later for iPhone and iPad, which split costs into four equal payments over 6 weeks, without any interest or fees. This feature is available everywhere Apple Pay is, allowing you to split payments on just about anything. You’ll also find order tracking and detailed receipt info in the new Wallet update.
Apple’s redesigned map is coming to 11 new countries (it’s already available in the U.S.). However, the company is adding Las Vegas plus six new cities to its new “map view,” which offers a detailed 3D view of a city in the style of Apple Maps.
What might be more useful, however, is multi-stop routing, which lets you plan up to 15 stops in advance. You can even plan these stops on your iPad or Mac, then send the directions to your iPhone. You can also ask Siri to add new stops to your route while driving.
For transit riders, you’ll be able to see fares, add transit cards, and reload cards from the app (when available, of course).
Apple also made time to announce an update to Sports in Apple News. It’s called “My Sports,” and it features scores, schedules, standings, and highlights from your favourite teams and games. This information is synced across devices, so you’ll find it in the News app on iPhone, iPad, and Mac.
Apple wants you and your family to have access to all of the photos you all want to see: For example, at family events, you probably have some photos you took on your iPhone, while other family members have other photos. You all want to see all of these photos, but unless you’re very coordinated, you’re likely missing out on some great shots.
Apple’s solution is iCloud Shared Photo Library. This new feature is an intelligent shared photos library that lets you connect with up to five other people. You can choose to share everything in your photo library (yikes), or choose what to include based on start date, or even particular people. You can manually move photos to the library, or choose “Shared Library” from a setting in your camera to automatically add new shots. You’ll also have the option to add photos via location: If you’re hanging out with family members, your iPhone will know, and will add your photos and videos to the shared library.
There are some other fun Photos updates, as well. You can copy edits from one photo and paste them to another, and you can lock your Hidden and Recently Deleted albums for addition privacy.
Apple’s all about its privacy features, and this year is no different. The company is introducing Personal Safety, an easy way to cut off permissions from contacts and apps to certain parts of your iPhone. If you need to stop sharing your location with a contact, whether because you simply don’t want to, or for safety concerns, this feature lets you easily break ties. You can also reset permissions for all apps, so they must request access for everything from camera use to location info.
The feature also lets you sign out of iCloud on all devices, and restricts FaceTime calls to the one device you want to use. It’s your one-stop shop for all of your permissions.
During the Home segment, Apple touted Matter, a new smart home standard it helped develop with the intention of making all smart devices work well together. At this time, over 130 products are committed to support Matter, so hopefully this new standard makes creating a smart home a simpler practice.
In addition, the Home app is brand new, with a design that should be easier to use. Categories at the top of the screen show all relevant accessories and status information. You’ll find new widgets on Lock Screen, too.
Personalised Spatial Audio
Spatial Audio allows music and movies to sound like they’re surrounding you. While the effect has been the same for everyone up until now, with the new update, you can use the True Depth camera to create personalised Spatial Audio based on your real-life surroundings.
Mail, like Messages, is getting some overdue quality-of-life features, such as undo send, schedule send, and remind me. These features have been available on other mail apps and services for a long time now, but, again, better late than never.
Apple is introducing shared Safari tabs with its new software updates. You’ll now be able to designate a group of tabs to share with others. If you choose to collaborate with those tabs, you’ll be able to see who is viewing which tab.
Apple went a little light on the details here, but, in short, they’re rolling out a new version of passwords called Passkeys. Passkeys, unlike passwords, cannot be phished or leaked — you also don’t need to remember anything. When setting up a passkey, you can use Touch ID or Face ID to authenticate yourself, and will do so whenever logging in in the future. That’s it. Anytime you’re not on your trusted Apple device, you can sign into an account via QR code.
Like I said, light on the details. It’s not clear exactly how Passkeys work, or how many accounts support this method yet. But, if Apple’s marketing is to be believed, it’s a cool development.
Let’s talk FaceTime. Apple is now letting you handoff a FaceTime call to other devices. If you pick up a call on your iPhone, for example, but want to continue it on your Mac, you can quickly switch devices.
Speaking of which, you can now use your iPhone as your Mac’s webcam, in a feature called Continuity Camera. If you have a stand for your iPhone that connects to the top of your Mac, you can automatically use your iPhone’s camera as the webcam for video calls on your computer. Because it’s using your iPhone’s ultra-wide camera, you’ll be able to use Centre Stage, even if your particular Mac didn’t support the feature with its own webcam.
There’s also something called “Desk View,” which takes the ultra-wide camera and shows off a bird’s eye view of your desk while still also focusing on your face. If this feature works as well as it did in the demo, it could be a game-changer.
You can now launch a collaboration from the share sheet, which makes it easy to jump into a shared document or Safari tabs. The new collaboration icon that appears in-app lets you quickly chat or call with collaborators, as well.
Speaking of collaboration, Apple teased a new feature called Freeform, which is essentially a shared digital whiteboard. Live cursors show you where others are working, so you can quickly jump to their point in the Freeform to collab. This appears to be arriving after iOS 16 and iPadOS 16 officially launches.
Apple is adding Quick Note to iOS. With it, you’ll be able to quickly start up a note that’s tied to a specific app on your device. The feature was previously only available on iPad and Mac.
Apple is trying to make Family Sharing easier, including a new way to set age appropriate restrictions, a quick setup for parental controls, and a new option to setup a child’s new iPhone. You’ll also be able to respond to Screen Time requests directly in Messages, rather than jumping into the Settings app.
You’ll also find a new feature called Family Checklist, which gives you tips on improving Family Sharing. These tips include updating your child’s settings as they grow up, as well as turning on location-sharing.
Reminders gets some new features as well this year. You can make templates if you often create similar lists; you can pin lists; Today and Scheduled are now sorted by time and date; and you can see all completed reminders in Completed List, included what time you completed them.
Rapid Security Response
Apple didn’t highlight this feature much during the presentation, but I think it’s a great development. “Rapid Security Response” will allow you to install critical security updates that pop up for iPhone, without needing to wait for the next big software update. I cover security vulnerabilities often, so I hope this feature gets some use the next time a major exploit is discovered between updates.
Other fun features
- The Fitness app is now available to all iPhone users! Certain metrics can be tracked without an Apple Watch.
- Spotlight search is now on the bottom of your iPhone.
- You can hang up a call with Siri on iPhone or iPad. (“Hey Siri, hang up.”)
- Siri can send a message on iPhone or iPad without needing to confirm it first (a risky bet, if you ask me).
- New memoji customisations, including headwear, noses, hairstyles, and sticker options.
Let’s take a look at some of the iPadOS specific changes this year. Right out of the gate, your iPad now has an official Apple Weather app. It may have taken 12 years, but, say it with me, better late than never.
It’s the pro-features that steal the show this year, though. We get a real undo and redo experience across apps, including Files, Photos, and Calendar; we now have customisable toolbars for quick access to important functions; a consistent search field across apps; multi-select context menus that let you apply changes to multiple items at once; new toolbar buttons; updated context menus with actions like close, save, and duplicate; a revamped find-and-replace that’s more like it is on Mac; copy or drag contacts to Mail; hover text; and the ability to sort contacts into lists.
Not all iPads support all “pro” features, however:
M1 only iPads
Apple has developed some features specific to the M1 iPads, which use the same Apple silicon chip found in the Mac. If you only need to know about one of these features, it’s Stage Manager, the same window management tool Apple developed for macOS Ventura. With it, you can now resize your open app windows, with previously opened windows minimising as previews to the left of the screen when you need them. Best of all, you can now work with overlapping windows, which really makes the iPad feel more like a computer. When you connect your iPad to an external display, there’s even more room, so much so you might mistake iPadOS for macOS. Between the two screens, you can have up to eight apps running on screen at a time.
Another cool M1-exclusive is virtual memory swap: iPadOS will use some of your iPad’s storage as virtual memory, expanding your RAM to up to 16 GB for the most demanding apps. I don’t want to get my hopes up, but it sounds like Apple is setting the stage for apps like Final Cut Pro to arrive on iPad in the near future, but we’ve been burned on this front before.
You can increase the pixel density of your M1 iPad for the first time, which gives you more screen real estate. This move is perfect for split view, so you can see more of each app at once. You can also use your 12.9-inch iPad Pro’s Liquid Retina XDR display as reference colour for video.
Device compatibility with iOS 16 and iPadOS 16
With iOS 16, Apple unfortunately dropped support for a handful of older iPhones for the first time in a while. Not only are the iPhone 6S, 6S Plus, and SE (first generation) not compatible, neither are the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. If you have one of these iPhones, it will, sadly, remain on iOS 15. Otherwise, here is the list of iPhones that can update:
- iPhone 13
- iPhone 13 mini
- iPhone 13 Pro
- iPhone 13 Pro Max
- iPhone SE (third generation)
- iPhone 12
- iPhone 12 mini
- iPhone 12 Pro
- iPhone 12 Pro Max
- iPhone 11
- iPhone 11 Pro
- iPhone 11 Pro Max
- iPhone SE (second generation)
- iPhone XS
- iPhone XS Max
- iPhone XR
- iPhone X
- iPhone 8
- iPhone 8 Plus
The list looks shorter on the iPad side, but only because Apple can neatly sort its tablets by “generation:”
- iPad Pro (all models)
- iPad Air (3rd generation and later)
- iPad (5th generation and later)
- iPad mini (5th generation and later)