This fall, iOS 16 will once again change the way a billion people use their iPhones. Apple gave the world its first look at the new update at WWDC on Monday, and developers will be able to download and begin working with a beta version today. In a few weeks, a public beta will let you test it as well–though you should expect some bugs and missing features, so proceed with caution.
There are dozens of new features and changes coming in iOS 16, but these are the big-ticket items that have us excited the most.
Lock Screen customization
The breakout new feature of iOS 16 has got to be the new lock screen, which lets you customize the look and information in a way you never could before. Images automatically get a depth effect that allows subjects to overlap the time and other info. You can customize the font and color for the date and time, and add information widgets such as your calendar, activity rings, and widgets.
Apple’s also added special dynamic wallpapers, like a weather wallpaper with animations that change with the current conditions, and you can set up multiple different lock screens and simply swipe between them to change them.
Notifications and Focus enhancements
Of course, your fancy new custom lock screen isn’t worth much if it’s covered by a flood of notifications, so Apple has changed the way alerts come in. Now you’ll see a stack of rolling notifications from the bottom of the screen that updates as new notifications come in.
But it’s the Live Activities API for developers that should make the biggest difference. Instead of getting a new notification every time the information from an app changes (like tracking a sports score, food delivery, or Uber ride), developers can make a single notification that dynamically updates during live events or breaking news.
Focus mode is getting a big expansion too, expanding throughout your iPhone experience. Your custom lock screen, including photos and widgets, can be matched to a specific Focus mode. Focus mode can also change your Home screen, showing you the apps and widgets that match the mode you’re in. Even apps like Siri, Messages, and Calendar can be matched to your Focus mode to show only the things you need to see at the moment.
An all-new dictation mode
Dictation is an incredible way to “type” quickly on iPhone by saying the text you wish to type, but it has its limitations. With iOS 16, it’s getting a huge boost.
To start with, the new dictation mode keeps the keyboard open, so you can fluidly switch between typing and speaking. You can even use touch to select text and then speak to replace it. What’s more, automatic punctuation will help you with multiple sentences without making you say things like “period” and “exclamation point” all the time. And you can dictate emojis, too!
If you don’t use dictation regularly, this might be the update that changes your mind about it.
Enhanced sharing features
Apple is once again going big on sharing. We got important new sharing features in iOS 15, and those are being expanded in iOS 16.
Perhaps the most appreciated change is the new iCloud Shared Photo Library. It’s a whole new, separate photo library that anyone in your family sharing group can have access to. Everyone can choose which of their own photos to add to it, and everyone in the group has the same permission to add, delete, and edit photos. You can choose to automatically add images to this shared library whenever you’re near other people in the shared group, and the camera app will have an easy toggle to send images right there.
Apple’s also making it easier to set up accounts for kids. There’s a simple interface for adjusting all the parental controls and permissions at once based on age, with reminders over time for things like adjusting these permissions. You can set up a new device for a child account by bringing your iPhone near it and choosing who the device is for, and the device will be set up for them with all the parental controls already in place.
SharePlay is coming to Messages, too. That means you don’t have to use FaceTime to watch a video or listen to music together with someone–you can type to each other in Messages instead, while the SharePlay content sits in a floating window.
Messages gets great editing features
Don’t you hate it when you send an iMessage and realize you made a dumb typo? Instead of sending another message to correct yourself, Messages in iOS 16 will allow you to edit recently sent messages. Or if you think maybe you shouldn’t have said anything at all, you can delete it entirely.
You’ll be able to mark a message thread as unread as well, so you’ll remember to go back to it later. That’s useful for those who read their messages as they come in, but want to reply when they have more time.