As Apple’s annual WWDC conference wraps up, we have a whole week of developer sessions and press briefings to look back on, plus a bunch of bullet points on Apple’s various feature pages to sort through.
The result? There are a bunch of interesting features coming to iPhones in iOS 15 that Apple didn’t highlight during its public-facing keynote event on Monday.
We’re not going to list them all, as there are far too many little changes in the upcoming software updates. If you want to review the complete list, Apple has published detailed feature pages on its site.
But we’ll highlight some features below that we thought were particularly interesting.
Some changes to Safari
There are many tiny adjustments in Safari that may add up to be more than the sum of their parts.
In addition to the tab groups feature talked about at length during Monday’s keynote presentation, the tab bar is getting a major overhaul. It takes up less space and is placed in what Apple thinks will be an easier-to-reach spot. It also “seamlessly moves out of the way as you scroll and appears again with a tap.”
You can also move quickly between tabs by swiping left or right on the tab bar. Swiping all the way to the right opens a new tab.
You can now use a pull-to-refresh gesture in Safari, like the one seen in the Chrome iOS app or Apple’s own Mail app. You can set a background image for the start page, and there are new sections, like Privacy Report or Shared With You, that you can add or remove.
As with Safari on macOS, Safari on iOS now automatically upgrades sites “known to support HTTPS from insecure HTTP.”
And as was mentioned in the keynote, the iOS version of Safari is getting web extension support.
Spotlight gets more useful
Perhaps the most notable change to Spotlight, iOS’s system-wide search feature, is that it’s now accessible from the lock screen and notification center. Previously, you could reach it only from the home screen or the widgets panel.
Apple showed some of this action in screenshots during the presentation, but if you missed it, there are a number of enhancements to the results that Spotlight shows in response to your searches.
Maps results that have corresponding App Clips (like big chain restaurants) will now show “action buttons” for menus, tickets, ordering, or reservations. Likewise, App Store results that are shown in response to your searches will now have a button you can tap to quickly install those apps without having to switch over to the App Store app.
Many new widgets
We were a little surprised at how few widgets there were for Apple-made apps when home screen widgets first arrived on the iPhone last year, but Apple has expanded the list quite a bit with iOS (and iPadOS) 15.
A new sleep widget shows your sleep schedule and data about your sleep quality. Another for Mail shows your most recent messages in a selected inbox.
A Contacts widget allows you to text, call, or email family or friends from the home screen. There’s a similar widget for the “Find My” app, allowing you to check on devices or important personal contacts who are sharing location data with you.
Game Center is getting a widget that shows recently played titles and games your friends are playing. And an App Store widget elevates stories, events, and collections from the App Store’s Today tab to the home screen.
This list isn’t comprehensive, but here’s a grab bag of other interesting changes that didn’t fit into the categories above:
- Voice Memos will let you quickly skip over silent parts of recordings
- There are new home screen widgets for apps, including Sleep, Mail, People, Find My, Game Center, and the App Store
- Find My, Game Center, App Store Today, Sleep, Mail, and People get Family Sharing integration
- You can now ask Siri to share whatever you’re looking at
- You can now zoom with the rear camera on the iPhone when showing people that camera’s view during FaceTime calls
- FaceTime will warn you if it detects you trying to talk while you’re muted
- Your phone can now send you alerts if you accidentally leave behind something you are tracking with Find My, like another device or AirTag
- There’s a new way to get iOS security updates, even if you want to hold off on updating to the latest major release
- Apple has overhauled the print panel in iOS 15 and added new options
- You can now receive push notifications to let you know in advance if it’s about to rain in your area
- You can now manually adjust the time and data associated with a picture in Photos
- You can now drag and drop a file from one app to another using the app switcher
Listing image by Samuel Axon