Australian technology news, reviews, and guides to help you
Australian technology news, reviews, and guides to help you
Apple iOS 15, launched at WWDC.

iOS 15 can scan text in images, share music with friends

We’re not sure if there’s a central theme in Apple’s next iOS update, iOS 15, but “doing more” might just about cover it.

It’s the middle of the year and the first day of Apple’s Worldwide Developer’s Conference, and you know what that means: updates are coming.

You can almost say it in a Game of Thrones dark voice warning of the big and brooding updates later in the year, though these come with a preview of the good things they’ll detail, even if they are a few months off for most people, particularly those keen on waiting for them to be stable and out of beta.

However they are coming, with the next version, iOS 15, set to grace phones going as far back as the iPhone 6s, likely the last update for what is almost a six year old phone. Good luck finding OS updates as strong as six years anywhere else.

Security updates will be a part of the package, for sure, but iOS 15 is more than that, and covers a gamut of extra features that you can expect your phone to give you, almost feeling like a new device with some of the “new” Apple imparts. We’re not sure if Apple has highlighted a specific theme here, but what we’re reading suggests “doing more” might be, especially when it’s “doing more by yourself”, or even “doing more with friends”.

Doing more by yourself with iOS 15

Much of what’s in iOS 15 seems focused on helping you do more on your phone because it’s your phone, so let’s start there, with a focus mode.

Apple just calls it “Focus”, and it’s basically a new feature that lets you decide what apps you want to focus on, and then uses AI to control which apps and people can notify you. Everything else will get blocked until Focus is off, and so your focus isn’t blocked.

Apple Focus

The notifications you get have also been improved, with contact photos for people, bigger icons for apps, and a notification summary to bring together notifications that aren’t critically important, providing them as a summary when you’re awake or caring enough to check your phone. You can even mute an app or message thread so it doesn’t bother you, pausing notifications for an hour or for the day.

Some of those notifications may include photos, and those photos may even include important information. With iOS 15, those photos can be even be scanned by iOS 15’s “Live Text” feature to recognise text and integrate it in your day-to-day.

It’s a little like something Google does can do with its translation app, meaning you can scan in handwriting without even thinking. A photo of the WiFi password in a cafe and give you the copy to throw into your settings, while a photo of a phone number on a sign can let you call it directly from the image, and so on and so on. Live Text in iOS 15 is reportedly a feature that will even extend to the search functionality on your iPhone — Spotlight — and expand searches to cover text in images, as well. Handy.

There are also changes to how your experience Maps, with both more detail in maps and a night mode, while Safari on iOS 15 now sees a new design with tabs at the bottom of the screen you can swipe between, plus support for web extensions to make Safari on the iPhone more powerful.

You’ll also find support for more ways to reduce your wallet and sets of keys, with digital car keys supported through more cars thanks to the Ultra Wideband technology supported on recent iPhones, much like how an AirTag turns an iPhone 12 into a personal GPS of sorts for finding bits and pieces, including your car.

Also, Apple Wallet can begin to hold identity cards, though this feature has only been noted to work in America right now. While Australians have a digital license in select states, there’s been no word whether iOS 15 will connect with these digital equivalents just yet.

Apple's text transcription technology.

Doing more with friends on iOS 15

It’s not just about the things you do on your own phone, but how you can share the experiences with others.

As such, Apple will support its Spatial Audio concept in FaceTime, allowing you to hear a positional audio based on where friends are in a Group FaceTime call, with the microphone able to separate noise from the background, almost like their phone had a microphone-based portrait mode of sorts.

You’ll also be able to share music and video experiences with friends using “SharePlay”, as well as apps, essentially experiencing something together, even if you’re not quite in the same place at the same time. Last year made us all do a lot more of our stuff by ourselves — thanks, coronavirus — and SharePlay seems to find a digital solution to that, with other app makers looking to throw support in, including Disney+, MasterClass, and others.

Oh, and FaceTime won’t be limited just to owners of an Apple device in the very near future, with Android and Windows supported, too. That’s the first step in Apple sharing its messaging services outside of the Apple ecosystem, and will work over a web browser through a special link, kind of like how you can join video chats in Zoom through a web browser without an app.

Plus there are changes to support a way to share your Health app with family, friends, or medical people, handy if you need that in your life.

Watch TV shows with friends over your phone in sync with each other using SharePlay.

Availability for iOS 15

There are a bunch of other things, too, such as Siri able to tell you what’s on screen if you own one of the AirPods varieties, an additions to Find My that allows family to livestream their locations and a separation note if you leave an Apple gadget behind. HomeKit will bring support for “Hey Siri” working in more products, and Apple is updating the iCloud to support a VPN with iCloud+.

But mostly, you probably just care when iOS 15 is coming to your iPhone.

Right now, the expectation is in September alongside a new iPhone, likely the iPhone 13 range. However, like all iOS releases, you can expect this one to go to a developer beta from now, with a more stable public beta in July.

Betas are for people who plan to test software or who like to live dangerously, or maybe even both, so we’d probably suggest not installing the iOS 15 beta at least until it hits public beta next month. From there, it’s only a hop, skip, and a couple of months until September, which is when iOS 15 will come out for iPhones from the iPhone 6s and higher.

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