Apple just dropped iOS 15, but should you upgrade?
There's a lot of new software to install. Here's why you should just install it all.
Yesterday, Apple released a handful of software upgrades as it does every year around this time. iOS 15, iPadOS 15, watchOS 8, and tvOS 15 are all now available to the general public, and as per usual, people are wondering whether any of them are worth installing.
Usually, if someone asks me whether they should install an update like this, I encourage them to just do it. Not only are you getting new features, you’re also getting better security and privacy. That’s always a good thing.
Still, many are hesitant about software upgrades because they assume it’ll break or change something they’re familiar with. That’s true with a decent number of updates released in the past, but if you’re worried about any of these updates ruining your experience, think again.
Safari in iOS 15 is… noticeable
Apple may have the most iterative update for iOS it’s ever released with iOS 15. There’s absolutely nothing ground-breaking about it, and it’s even pretty hard to notice the new features and changes Apple has added. I think the most obvious will be the Safari redesign that’s caused a lot of controversy over the beta period. Apple moved a lot of the controls to the bottom of your screen so they’re easier to reach, and I’ve found that I actually like the adjustment. It makes navigation way easier than performing thumb gymnastics to reach the search bar at the top of your phone. Still, if you don’t like the repositioning, you can revert to the old design in Settings.
Focus modes are great
Speaking of Settings, there are new controls baked into Do Not Disturb called Focus that have proven to be a highlight of iOS 15 for me. Focus is basically a tool that lets you create different profiles on your iPhone (or iPad through iPadOS 15) to control who gets you contact you, which apps get to notify you, and even what’s displayed on your home screen. I’ve set up a Work profile that can automatically turn on when I get to my office in Sunny Ocean City, New Jersey. Once it’s activated, I get a custom home screen with all of my work apps, distracting apps silenced to the background, and a select number of contacts who get to buzz my phone.
Once you set up a Focus mode, it’ll sync across your iPad, Apple Watch, and Mac (so long as you’re running the latest software on all of them). They can be turned on manually or automatically based on time and location. Apple also includes an auto-activation mode which can detect when your phone thinks you’ll want a particular Focus mode on, but I just stuck with location- or time-based activation.
I think Focus modes have the potential to be one of the more important features Apple has released in the past few years. They’re extremely useful and help with avoiding apps you don’t want to use during the day.
Other features in the mix
That being said, this is probably the most significant update in iOS 15 you’ll find, at least for now. The Weather app has gotten a big upgrade, but it’s just the Weather app - it’s not like it’ll change your life. Apple Maps, Notes, Photos, Spotlight, and more are also seeing improvements, but it might be hard to find them if you don’t know what you’re looking for.
Other features that are pretty tucked away include Live Text (the ability to copy text from photos and your camera feed), FaceTime call link sharing (with support for Android and Windows 10 devices, finally), and support for digital state ID cards in Wallet. Siri is also improved on iOS 15 so that it runs locally on your device, which means it’s way faster and your recordings don’t get sent to the cloud.
SharePlay isn’t here yet, for whatever reason
What Apple wants you to focus on is SharePlay, a feature undoubtedly born from the pandemic. Through FaceTime, using SharePlay, you can watch content with your friends on platforms like Apple TV Plus and Disney Plus. It’s the virtual watch party you wanted during quarantine, but a year too late. And it’ll be even later now that Apple decided not to include in the initial release of iOS and iPadOS 15. When it’ll roll out remains unclear, but I’m sure it won’t be for a while.
iPadOS 15, watchOS 8, and tvOS 15
All of these new features are nice, but they’re incremental. The same goes for iPadOS 15, which gets a majority of these new features plus widgets on the home screen, the App Library, and new multitasking shortcuts. Then there’s watchOS 8 which gets a couple of new workouts, a new Photos app, some new watch faces, and a lot of the same features as iOS 15. tvOS 15 is by far the most incremental, however, given how Apple didn’t even bother to give it its own feature page on its website.
It’s quite simple: Apple took a break this year. Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily. How much innovation can you do over Zoom and Slack anyway? It makes plenty of sense for Apple to take a break from inventing crazy new features, but it is a pretty big bummer. The iPhone aside, I at least wish Apple would’ve gotten a little crazy with iPadOS given how the latest iPad Pros have M1 processors in them.
Regardless, this is a very incremental year for Apple, as we’ve seen now with both their software and hardware. If you’re on the fence about upgrading your iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, or Apple TV, I recommend just going for it. Nothing is fundamentally bad here, and you likely won’t have any major learning curves to tackle once the software’s installed.
1. Ming-Chi Kuo has some thoughts on the 2022 iPhones
Famed analyst Ming-Chi Kuo (via 9to5Mac) has shared some predictions and insights into what we can expect from Apple’s 2022 lineup of iPhones. Apparently, the company will be shipping an improved iPhone SE with 5G, two new iPhone 14 Pro models with hole-punch cameras instead of notches (along with 48MP cameras on their backs), and a standard iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Max (with no mini in sight).
Touch ID likely won’t be on any of these phones, according to Kuo, as the feature has been pushed back to 2023 due to slow development. In addition, none of them will fold, with that device being reserved for 2024.
Obviously, it’s insane to believe anything about 2022 iPhone rumors since the iPhone 13 series has yet to ship, but it’s interesting to see what people are already saying about next year’s devices. Jon Prosser certainly had something to say not too long ago.
2. The iPhone 13 is doing better in pre-orders than the iPhone 12
Kuo also touched on pre-orders for the iPhone 13. According to the analyst, Apple’s latest devices are doing noticeably better than the iPhone 12 series did last year, although sales are currently in line with market expectations. In addition, it doesn’t seem that Apple will face any major supply problems with the iPhone 13 Pro series like it did with the 12 Pro series last year.
My iPhone 13 Pro should be coming on Friday, so expect coverage the moment I take it out of the box.
3. T-Mobile wishes Samsung would just make another Galaxy Note
T-Mobile has openly expressed some disappointment with Samsung. During an investor event reported on by FierceWireless, the company was quoted as saying “Samsung has really fallen behind the eight ball relative to other OEMs on the global supply chain issue.” The Uncarrier is disappointed in the shortage of Galaxy S devices and claims that Samsung “discontinued” the Galaxy Note series, something “many of [T-Mobile’s] customers just loved.”
It’s worth noting (pun definitely intended) that Samsung hasn’t formally discontinued the Galaxy Note series, only seemingly doing so with the introduction of S Pen support on other flagships and the lack of a Note phone this year. Current rumors suggest we’ll see a new Note in 2022, but it’s too early to confirm anything. Still, if Samsung doesn’t say anything in the near future on this topic, I can only imagine carriers will remain pissed off. We’ll just have to see.
4. It looks like the Galaxy S21 Fan Edition is coming soon
Google accidentally slipped and mentioned the Samsung Galaxy S21 Fan Edition, the sequel to the S20 Fan Edition which proved very popular last year, on a support page for Play Services for AR. Everyone’s assuming this must mean the phone’s coming soon, so be on the lookout for some type of announcement from Samsung pertaining to the device.
5. Another foldable Google Pixel has been spotted
9to5Google has surfaced evidence of another foldable Pixel phone codenamed “Jumbojack” within the code of the upcoming Android 12.1 update. This device will allegedly resemble Samsung’s foldables with two displays, one becoming unavailable once you fold it. That either means a clamshell design like the Z Flip or a book-like folding design similar to the Z Fold.
It’s also worth highlighting that 9to5Google uses food metiphores to paint a picture as to what Jumbojack could look like. This codename could be a reference to the Jumbo Jack cheeseburger at Jack in the Box, which would mean the device would resemble a burger-esque design akin to the Z Flip rather than a hot dog-style design akin to the Z Fold.
There are lots of rumors out there suggesting we’re getting a foldable Pixel phone soon, so we might find out what Jumbojack means in the near future. Until then, all we’ll have to work with are its codename and the fact that it appeared in Android 12.1, an update anticipated to improve the experience of using foldable phones.
6. Google’s Pixel 6 and 6 Pro hit the FCC
On the flip side, two devices we know are coming soon from Google are the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro. Now, we have further confirmation of that thanks to the devices’ approval by the FCC. Interestingly, it seems that the Pixel 6 Pro will be only one of the two devices to support mmWave 5G. I guess Google will have to justify its high price tag somehow.
7. OnePlus is merging its software with Oppo next year, won’t release a OnePlus 9T
OnePlus confirmed two bits of news: it’s merging its software experience with Oppo after blending their two development teams together, and the company won’t be shipping a T-branded device in 2021. That means we won’t be getting a OnePlus 9T, the first time that’s happened since the original OnePlus 3T debuted in 2016. The Verge was on a briefing call with OnePlus CEO Pete Lau, and they have a few extra details about the decision-making process that I recommend checking out.