When Tim Cook, Craig Federighi, and other core Apple leaders take the stage for WWDC 2021 on June 7, we'll hear a lot about exciting new things to come. We're likely to see what's in store for watchOS 8 and macOS 12, but more importantly, we'll get a glimpse at what iOS 15 and iPadOS 15 will be like.
The new iOS and iPadOS systems being developed will undoubtedly be brimming with so many new features that Apple won't even be able to scratch the surface at the keynote announcement. But the real questions are what those new features will be and why the rumor mill is so quiet this year.
Most years, we hear rumor after rumor about Apple's upcoming software. While the company manages to save a handful of features and changes as surprises, we generally know what to expect, especially when it comes to sweeping changes. Widgets, for example, were a major iOS 14 rumor, so it wasn't much of a shock to see them front and center during the all-virtual WWDC 2020.
This year is different. We hardly know anything about iOS 15, especially when compared to years past. We've had some leaks and rumors here and there and have a general idea about apps and areas Apple will improve on, but concrete features are few and far between in all the gossip.
Below, you'll find everything we know so far about iOS 15 from leaks and claims online. However, because there are so few, we also dive into features we think Apple should add to iOS 15.
Apple introduced a system-wide dark mode with iOS 13 but left it pretty unchanged ever since. While we don't have any real details here, Apple may add more Dark Mode options, such as a choice between a "gray" dark mode and a "night mode" dark mode. You might even be able to change iMessage bubble colors.
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It's been some time now since Android could claim complete superiority over iOS in the notification department. Android fans might still have their preference, but with instant tuning, grouping, and so much more, Notification Center has never been more manageable.
The rumor mill suggests that Apple will continue these improvements with iOS 15. According to Bloomberg, Apple is planning to allow us to change how our notifications behave based on what we're currently up to.
The company is planning a new feature that will allow users to set different notification preferences, such as if the phone makes a sound or not, depending on their current status. The enhancement will come in the form of a new menu that lets users select if they are driving, working, sleeping, or custom categories of their choosing. The menu will be shown on the updated Lock Screen and in Control Center, the iPhone and iPad's menu for quickly accessing settings.
If you use Do Not Disturb While Driving, you've gotten a taste for Apple's current auto-reply feature. If the iPhone senses that you're driving, it won't alert you to incoming messages and will reply on your behalf, so your contacts know that you're unavailable.
Auto-reply might be getting a big upgrade with iOS 15. According to Bloomberg, auto-replies are expanding to cover users based on their status. That sounds a lot like the notification settings mentioned above.
There will also be an option to set automatic replies to messages depending on their status. That will be an improvement over the current auto-reply feature, which is only currently available while driving. Apple has added some unique notifications features such as Do Not Disturb and Sleep Mode, but this will mark the first time the company offers a systemwide feature for changing notifications depending on a user's status.
That said, Bloomberg stops short of saying whether these statuses align with the notification statuses. It's possible that auto-replies will work based on driving, working, sleeping, or another custom category, but because it doesn't say for sure, we'll just need to wait and see.
The Messages app has undergone some major changes over the last four years. We've seen message effects, Tapback, GIF support, tagging, in-line replies, and so much more. The rumor that we'll see other new tweaks obviously sparks the imagination, but we won't know what exactly Apple has in store until WWDC.
The Health app currently has a "Nutrition" section that lets you track everything from caffeine consumption to your monounsaturated fat numbers. That said, that's a lot more difficult to keep track of than saying you had two cups of coffee and a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich for breakfast.
That's why we might see Apple add food tracking to Health with iOS 15. There are plenty of third-party apps that can help you keep track of your diet, but having this feature built into Health will help many users who only use Apple's app.
Apple seemingly leaked this new change itself. The company announced new accessibility features coming to its products soon, including motion controls for Apple Watch and background noises in iOS. But when demonstrating some of these new iOS features in the press release, we can see that these settings pages don't look quite like iOS 14.
If you look at the screenshots below for Apple's new "Background Sounds" settings, you can see that the layout is quite different; While iOS settings pages have traditionally seen squared options that stretch edge-to-edge, these screenshots show options that are rounded and don't reach the edges. It resembles the UI when building your shortcuts in the Shortcuts app.
Speaking of those accessibility features, it isn't clear where they're going to end up. Apple didn't clarify in its press release which version of iOS it would come with, so it may show up with iOS 15. That said, it's entirely possible it'll also appear on a later version of iOS 14. We're currently beta testing iOS 14.7, and while there's no sign of these features yet, they might make an appearance down the road.
Always On Display, or AOD, is a feature on many smartphones that lets you see limited information without the entire display needing to be enabled. You can see subtle notification previews to stay up-to-date without turning the whole display on or even keep the time on-screen.
While this feature is common in the Android world, Apple has never added it to its iPhone models. The feature requires an OLED display since OLED panels let you enable pixels one by one, rather than using one solid backlight for the entire display. That's how you show limited information on portions of the screen while keeping the rest of it turned off to save on battery life.
However, the OLED panel isn't enough; Apple will likely need an LTPO display, allowing the display to refresh at very low intervals (often one frame per second). That way, your display isn't burning through the battery. This is how the company added an AOD to both the Apple Watch Series 5 and Series 6. It's great for quickly checking out information on your watch without having to raise your wrist all the way up.
That said, this isn't a feature that Apple can add to the existing iPhone products with just a software update. Instead, we'll need to wait for Apple to add this hardware to an upcoming iPhone. If the rumors are right, that could be as soon as the iPhone 13 due out later this year — the series that will be running iOS 15 out of the box — so we're looking at an iPhone 13-exclusive.
The rumors do suggest that Apple will drop support for iPhones with the A9 chip. That includes the iPhone 6S, 6S Plus, and first-generation SE. While that's a bummer for anyone using those iPhones, it isn't a huge surprise. After all, the A9 chip dates back to 2015 (although the SE came out in 2016). Those phones supported iOS 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, and 14, an eternity in the smartphone world.
Don't think that you need to go out and buy a new iPhone, either. Sure, your 6S won't support iOS 15, but Apple will continue to support iOS 14 with security updates, just like it does with iOS 12 for legacy devices like the iPhone 6.
We all know that passcodes protect our iPhones from being unlocked by any unauthorized user. But nothing is stopping a thief from shutting down your iPhone. That can be a problem since services like Find My need your iPhone to stay powered on to give you real-time updates. A shutdown disables that and makes it much harder to find the iPhone.
That's what makes a simple security feature from Samsung so compelling; Galaxy devices running the latest versions of One UI require a passcode to shut down if the device is currently locked. You don't need one if the device is unlocked, and you can disable this feature if you want to, but if someone steals your locked Galaxy, they won't be able to shut it off, short of breaking the device.
We'd love to see iOS implement a similar security feature. Seeing as Apple is one of the best in the industry for user privacy and security, it would be great to have "Require Passcode to Shutdown" as an option in Settings.
Like notifications, default apps were always something that Android users held over iOS users' heads. Apple changed that a bit in recent updates, allowing us to set our default web browser and default email app. We even can tell Siri which audio source we prefer to use, although it isn't a true default music player option.
- More Info: Set Spotify as Siri's Preferred Audio Player in iOS 14.5 for Music, Podcasts & Audiobooks
And that's really the point. There are so many other app types that I'd love to set as default but can't. It would be nice to set apps like Microsoft To Do or Asana as the default task manager over Apple Reminders; Google Photos as the default photos app over Apple Photos, Waze over Apple Maps, Facebook Messenger over Apple Messages, and so on.
The point is that I'd like Apple to give us more control over what is considered "default" on iOS. It's great that our web browsers and email viewers of choice are there already — now, let's do the rest.
When Apple introduced the edge-to-edge display of the iPhone X, it also introduced lock screen shortcuts. Well, it introduced its lock screen shortcuts, as you can't change them. The flashlight and camera shortcuts are your only option, and you can't turn them off.
There's no doubt that these shortcuts come in handy, but I can't help but feel that Apple would do all of us a service by making this a customizable experience. Imagine if we could replace these shortcuts with any others from the Control Center list? You could swap the flashlight and camera shortcuts with the timer and Apple TV remote, screen recording and calculator, or any other combination you can think of.
You can even make the argument that if Apple forces us to live with its two choices, that the camera shouldn't be one of them, anyway. You can still access it by simply swiping left on the lock screen, so why do we need two different ways to get to the app from the lock screen?
Except for Reflection, the ringtone exclusive to any Face ID-equipped iPhone, Apple hasn't updated its ringtone or alert tones since iOS 7. Sure, that was also the last time iOS has a complete aesthetic overhaul, but still! We lived with the same tones from the iPhone's introduction in 2007 through 2013, totaling six years. By that measure, Apple should have refreshed the sounds back in 2019 with iOS 13.
Spoiler alert — that didn't happen.
Neither iOS 13 nor iOS 14 introduced any new sounds to the mix. Let's hope iOS 15 changes things up. If they don't, at least you can still make your own.
This one is a bit of a given, but Apple typically adds new wallpapers with every major iOS release, in addition to new wallpapers for fresh iPhones. That said, we'd like to see a wider variety of options this year.
One of the big rumors that was supposed to become a reality in iOS 14 was third-party app integration with the wallpaper settings. We saw mockups that showed apps as categories or folders in the wallpaper selection settings instead of just Apple's Dynamic, Stills, and Live options. But it never happened. Sure, iOS 14.3 gave us the "Set Wallpaper" action in Shortcuts, but not everyone understands shortcuts, and it would be much easier to get some outside integration in the wallpaper settings options.
The cameras on iPhones are renowned. For many people, it's why they upgrade to the latest iPhone. So why do we still need to buy a pro camera app to use these cameras to their full potential, Apple? Why can't I finely control shutter speed, ISO, focus, dedicated camera, white balance, and so much more?
Look, I get it — Apple's cameras combine excellent hardware and software to create fantastic point-and-shoot images. The company probably doesn't want the everyday user to screw that up by tapping the wrong setting. But the camera app is woefully inadequate for professionals, requiring a separate purchase and download from the App Store.
Control Center tiles offer convenient shortcuts to apps and functions you use every day. That's why they make so much sense as replacements for the current lock screen shortcuts! But we're not here to repeat ourselves.
In addition to customizable lock screen shortcuts via Control Center tiles, I want more Control Center tiles to begin with. Specifically, I'd love to see more settings available here. Right now, we have settings like Dark Mode, Low Power Mode, and Text Size, but why stop there? Let's add more of the settings that are often turned on and off, which are a pain to dive into the Settings for each and every time.
For example, I like to keep my iPhone's Auto-Lock feature set to five minutes so that I don't accidentally leave the screen on all day. However, when I'm driving, I place my iPhone on a car mount as a CarPlay substitute. In those cases, I turn Auto-Lock to "Never" so that my GPS, music, or podcasts are always on the screen. However, that requires me to dive into Settings every time I get in the car, and again when I leave the car. A Control Center tile could change that.
While we're at it, wouldn't it be nice to see some controls in the Control Center for some of your most-used third-party apps? Imagine if you could add a control to open Halide or start playing a random Netflix movie. It could get crowded in the Control Center settings, but if widgets have taught us anything, it won't be that crowded.
When Apple added home screen widgets to iOS 14, it changed the way we designed our app layouts. Widgets give us a better look at our favorite apps without actually needing to open them. When we do need to open them, a tap of the widget does just that.
But when you use a widget instead of an app icon, you lose the app's specific quick actions menu that appears during a long-press. Instead, you get the generic widget quick actions menu. Sometimes that doesn't matter if an app developer doesn't take advantage of the quick actions menu. However, sometimes these menus are really convenient, and their omission is noticeable.
Carrot Weather, for example, has a quick actions shortcut to search for a location. I use the Carrot widget, so every time I want to search for a new location's weather, I need to tap the widget, then go to the location section of the app. It's just an extra step that doesn't need to be there.
I think there's a way for Apple to add both the widget's quick actions menu in addition to the app's. Let's hope it figures it out for iOS 15.
Speaking of widget settings, here's a big complaint of mine: let us resize widgets from the home screen. If you add a new widget to your home screen only to find that you wish you had chosen a different size, you need to delete it and start all over. That seems silly to me — why can't we have a simple "Resize" option in the quick actions menu instead?
That's how things work on macOS, by the way. If you right-click on one of your widgets in Notification Center, you can simply choose another size right then and there. That functionality needs to come to iOS.
Alright, one more widgets complaint: iOS 15, please make widgets richer. I'm talking about real-time updates so that widgets, like Carrot Weather, can accurately deliver me the forecast all day long. Right now, it's a toss-up and requires me to actually open the app to refresh the widget on the home screen.
That's because iOS puts developers in a bind and doesn't let them make widgets that can refresh like you can on Android. Let's change that with this next update.
Shortcuts is constantly becoming more powerful with each update, but it's growing at a snail's pace. At least, that's what it feels like. There are so many actions missing that would be useful, like an "Add captions" action for Photos so that you can add captions to multiple photos at once, and a "Set Color Filter" action so that you can change the color of your screen, as well as "Set Back Tap," "Set Accessibility Shortcut," etc. We could even use some more triggers for automations — Apple has only scratched the surface when it comes to those.
Why is it that the keyboard's bottom edge is still a blank space after almost four years? If you use a Face ID model, you know what I'm talking about. Whenever you type, there's a big blank space beneath the keyboard, taken up only by an emoji/keyboard switcher and Dictation.
That's a wasted opportunity, in my opinion. Jailbreak developers like XCXiao seem to think so too because they fill that space with plenty of useful features. An emoji bar, quick actions row, and even a clipboard manager are available with Key+.
If you like to jailbreak your iPhones, this isn't an issue for you. But for those of us that stick with stock, it feels like Apple is dragging its feet here. But hey, who knows — this wouldn't be the first time Apple added a feature jailbreakers have had for a while.
Sure, auto-replies are great, but what if you didn't need them in the first place? Or, at least, you could deter most people from messaging you when you aren't around? I would love to see Apple add statuses to Messages so that you can let everyone know whether or not you're free to talk.
On top of that, let's add status lights to the mix. Green if you're active, yellow for idle, or red/gray for away.
One of the big trends in the chat app world is communities. Think Discord; you can have many people together in one channel, in the same type of app you use to talk to friends one-on-one or in small groups.
This could be an interesting concept for Messages. Apple already broke the mold a little with its Business Chat feature, which lets you chat with companies in the same app as your friends. It even adds custom media, like the company's logo at the top of the chat. Maybe communities would be possible as well.
Make it easier to manage your data from one location instead of diving into each app and searching for things to delete there. Maybe something like we see on Mac for internal storage?
While iCloud is a convenient way for iOS users to backup their data, iCloud management is a mess. There's no centralized way to manage all of your data. Instead, the responsibility is spread among the apps that use iCloud, as well as some settings on your Apple devices. That's not exactly ideal.
I'd like to see iCloud management work a little more like internal storage management; while both have a breakdown of what's taking up storage, you have much finer control over internal storage, including the ability to sort and delete individual files. That's the kind of management we need with iCloud.
If you're an iOS developer or public beta tester, you might remember that iOS 14.5 beta 1 introduced a cool new Software Update page; when your software was up to date, you saw a green checkmark, the software version a confirmation message that your iPhone with fully updated, and the last time iOS checked for a software update.
With beta 2, however, this was almost entirely stripped away. The page remained somewhat updated, but now it just shows the iOS version with the message "iOS is up to date." I want iOS 15 to bring back the settings page from 14.5 beta 1.
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