Apple iOS 15 features big upgrades to Facetime, Notifications, Maps, Safari and more.

    As expected, Apple announce iOS 15 overnight, during the keynote for WWDC21. iOS 15 is expected to drop around September with new hardware, but those developers looking to test their apps and leverage the new features, can get the beta version now.

    New in this release is a massive upgrade to Facetime, Memoji, Notifications, Maps, Safari and more, a lot more in fact, after reflecting on the changes, this definitely looks to be one of the biggest iOS upgrades in years.


    Apple is expanding FaceTime in a number of meaningful ways. In iOS15, you can watch TV shows and movies, listen to music, or share your screen with SharePlay. It’s an entirely new way to have experiences with family and friends, a great option for those who find them separated from loved ones.

    Watch together
    Stream movies and TV shows while on a FaceTime call with friends. With synced playback and controls, you’ll see everyone laugh, jump, and react to the same moments at the same time. And the volume automatically adjusts, so you can keep talking while you watch.

    Listen together
    Get together and listen to an album with friends. The whole group can see what’s next and add songs to a shared queue with synced playback and easy-to-use controls.

    Share your screen
    Share your screen with everyone in your FaceTime call. Browse apartment listings, swipe through a photo album, or plan your next vacation as a group, all while seeing and talking to one another.

    Facetime on Android and the web

    Finally after making the commitment to bring Facetime to platforms outside iOS, Apple will make good on that promise. Apple will enable Facetime links to be sent to send friends, family or colleagues, to connect on FaceTime. This means those on Windows or Android can also join in, while its still end-to-end encrypted, so your call is as private and secure as any other FaceTime call.

    This becomes a challenger in the video conference space, to services like Microsoft Teams and Zoom. In an ideal world, Apple would have had this in place before Covid-19, as these competing services seen massive user growth in 2020, so it’ll be interesting to see what marketshare Apple can claim back.

    You can also create a unique FaceTime web link to schedule a call later, or share the link with a group. Share it with your friends in Messages, Mail, or third‑party apps like WhatsApp. You can also generate a link for an event in Calendar, so everyone will know exactly where and when to meet.

    Spatial audio

    This one is really fun and an idea other platforms should copy. When you’re on a call, iOS15 will perform some magic to make individual voices sound like they’re coming from the direction in which each person is positioned on your screen, helping conversations flow more naturally.

    We’ll have to use this to understand how well it really works, but for those phones with stereo speakers, it’d be fairly easy to shift the output balance left or right, based on which side of the screen the speaker is on.

    Grid view
    Grid view shows people on your FaceTime call in the same-size tiles, so you can have better conversations with a large group. The speaker is automatically highlighted so you always know who’s talking.

    Portrait mode
    Inspired by Portrait mode in Camera, this new video effect puts the focus on you, not what’s behind you.

    Mic modes
    Voice Isolation minimizes background noise and puts your voice front and center. When the music or sounds around you are as important as what you have to say, Wide Spectrum leaves the ambient sound unfiltered.

    Messages and Memoji

    While the event invite featured Memoji, the updates are fairly subtle, it’s the messages update that really shines in iOS15.

    Shared with You
    Now the links, images, and other content shared with you in Messages are featured in a new Shared with You section in the corresponding app. You can even reply right from the app you’re enjoying it in — without going back to Messages.

    Shared with You in apps
    Shared with You is built into Photos, Safari, Apple News, Apple Music, Apple Podcasts, and the Apple TV app.

    New Memoji
    Now you can choose outfits for your Memoji and express yourself with new stickers. Represent your look and style with multicolor headwear. And accessibility customizations now include cochlear implants, oxygen tubes, and soft helmets.

    Photo collections
    Multiple photos in Messages now appear as a collage or an elegant stack of images that you can swipe through. Tap to view them all as a grid or add a quick Tapback. And save them to your library with just a few taps.


    By now, we’re very familiar with putting our phone on silent, but there’s really been a void between the brute force options of on or off when it comes to notifications. There’s different vibration pattens etc, but what you really want is to configure profiles for notifications, which allows for the important apps to get your attention, but for others to be quiet.

    Choose a Focus
    Focus helps you stay in the moment when you need to concentrate or step away. 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. Pick from a list of suggested Focus options or create your own.

    Signal your status
    Stepping away is easier if others know you’re busy. So when you’re using Focus, your status will be automatically displayed in Messages. And for truly urgent messages, there’s still a way for people to notify you.


    Redesigned notifications
    Notifications have a new look, including contact photos and larger app icons to make them easier to identify.

    Notification summary
    Quickly catch up with a helpful collection of your notifications delivered daily, based on a schedule you set. The summary is intelligently ordered by priority, with the most relevant notifications at the top.


    All-new city experience
    Explore cities with unprecedented detail for roads, neighborhoods, trees, buildings, and more. Visit amazing 3D landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge in both the day and dark mode maps.

    New driving features
    Maps now offers drivers incredible road details like turn lanes, crosswalks, and bike lanes; street-level perspectives as you approach complex interchanges; and a new dedicated driving map that helps you see current incidents and traffic conditions at a glance.

    Immersive walking instructions
    Get where you’re going with step-by-step directions you can view in augmented reality.

    New transit features
    Public transit integration shows nearby stations and transit times and lets you pin favorite routes to the top.


    New tab bar design
    Reimagined for the way we browse today, the new tab bar maximizes your screen space 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.

    Tab groups
    Save and organize your tabs in the way that works best for you and switch between them easily. Tab groups sync across devices so you have access to your tabs from anywhere.

    Voice search
    Voice search in Safari is an incredibly convenient way to search the web hands-free. Simply tap the microphone in the tab bar and speak.

    Now you can install Safari extensions on your iPhone. And just like on Mac, you can choose when the extensions will be active.


    ID cards
    Add your driver’s license or state ID to Wallet for use when you travel and, in the future, at retailers and venues.

    Keys for your everyday
    Now your iPhone can unlock your home, your garage, your hotel room, and even your workplace.

    Live Text

    Live Text in photos
    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.

    Live Text in Camera
    Live Text also works in the Camera app, so you can point your iPhone camera at text on the go and quickly take action on useful information.

    Live Text translation
    Live Text understands seven different languages: English, Chinese, French, Italian, German, Portuguese, and Spanish. And with system-wide translation, you can simply tap and translate.

    Visual Look Up

    Discover more in photos
    Learn more about the objects in your photos. Visual Look Up highlights objects and scenes it recognizes so you can get more information about them.

    Learn more with a tap
    With Visual Look Up, you can quickly learn more about art, landmarks, nature, books, and pets simply by tapping a photo on your device or on the web.


    Rich results and photos search
    Spotlight shows you more information at a glance with new rich search results for artists, entertainers, TV shows and movies, as well as your contacts. And you can now search your photos in Spotlight and even search based on text in your photos by using Live Text.


    Health app updates
    Updates to the Health app give you new ways to share data with your loved ones and healthcare team, a metric to assess your risk of falling, and trend analysis to help you understand changes in your health.


    Great features should not have to come at the expense of your privacy. iOS 15 provides increased visibility into how apps access your data, protects you from unwanted data collection, and gives you more control over what you choose to share.

    App Privacy Report
    See how apps are using the permissions you’ve granted them, which third-party domains they contact,7 and how recently they made contact.

    You can get more information at or watch the WWDC21 keynote below.

    Jason Cartwright
    Jason Cartwright
    Creator of techAU, Jason has spent the dozen+ years covering technology in Australia and around the world. Bringing a background in multimedia and passion for technology to the job, Cartwright delivers detailed product reviews, event coverage and industry news on a daily basis. Disclaimer: Tesla Shareholder from 20/01/2021

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