iOS 15 brings a number of new features and changes to the iPhone experience, including Focus, Notification Summary, an upgraded FaceTime experience and more, but with so many changes on offer, where do you start?
Get the most out of the redesigned Safari browser
One of the most radical changes to iOS 15 comes in the form of the redesigned Safari browser – and while it may look strange initially, there’s logic to many of the changes on offer.
The biggest is that the default location of the address bar has shifted from the top to the bottom of the page, and the new form factor is much more compact than most are used to. If kept at the bottom, you can swipe left and right on the address bar to quickly switch between tabs as you can with apps in recent models of iPhone. There are also new tabbed groups, helping to keep your various pages more organised.
There are too many changes to go into detail here, but we’ve got a detailed guide on how to use Safari in iOS 15 for those that want to learn more.
FaceTime Android and Windows users
FaceTime has seen huge improvements in iOS 15, offering not only a redesigned interface that lets you use the secondary rear cameras (if available) but SharePlay functionality and, most importantly, the ability to FaceTime with Android and Windows users.
Given the heavy reliance on video calls during the pandemic, it’s not much of a surprise that Apple has finally let Android and Windows users in on the fun – but it’s not quite as simple as you might think.
Rather than offering a FaceTime app for Android and Windows 10 that lets anybody call anybody else, calls can only be initiated by iOS 15 users. Once you begin a call – or schedule one via the FaceTime app – you can then generate a link that can be shared with Android and Windows users, which lets them join via a browser version of FaceTime.
So, while it does technically allow you to FaceTime Android and Windows users, it’s not the full integration we’d like. Still, it’s a start, and if you want to find out more, we outline how to FaceTime Android and Windows users in iOS 15 in more detail separately.
Set up Focus Modes
Focus is a big new addition in iOS 15 which looks to help you focus more on the task at hand. Building on Do Not Disturb, you can have multiple focus modes in iOS 15 that let you focus on particular tasks.
Take the Work focus as an example: you can mute incoming messages from all but work colleagues, disable distracting social media notifications and even hide entire home screen pages in a bid to keep you focused. These Focus Modes are also integrated into iMessage, letting friends and family know that you’re busy and not wanting to be disturbed, and they’ll sync between your various Apple devices too.
To set your focus modes up, head to Settings > Focus. You’ll find preset modes for generic Do Not Disturb, along with Sleep (formerly Bedtime), Personal and Work, with the latter two ready to be set up. Tap on either and follow the on-screen prompts to customise the focus mode, and once complete, you can activate it via the Control Centre.
There’s nuance to the Focus system, which is why we explain how to use Focus Modes in iOS 15 in more depth separately for those interested.
Utilise the Notification Summary
As well as Focus Modes, iOS 15 introduces the Notification Summary. The idea is that unimportant and non-time-sensitive notifications get collected in your notification centre to be delivered at pre-defined times, allowing you to get on with your day without your phone constantly pinging.
To set it up, head to Settings > Notifications > Scheduled Summary and toggle it on. You’ll then be prompted to set up the system, adding the apps you’d like to contribute to the notification summary, and set the time(s) you’d like it to appear.
You can choose up to 12 summaries per day, and there are other configurable options including one that allows time-sensitive apps to break free from Notification Summary – all of which we discuss in more detail in how to set up a Notification Summary in iOS 15.
Hide your email address
Available as part of the improved iCloud+ offering available to all paying iCloud subscribers, you’ll be able to hide your email address from social networks, online retailers and just about anywhere else that you’d usually submit your email address for in iOS 15.
Rather than submitting your real email address, you can create an alias email from within iOS 15 that’ll forward all emails to your true email address, and if you decide that the emails become too much, you can simply disable the alias and silence those nuisance emails.
You can set up an alias by going to the iCloud section of the Settings app, tapping Hide My Email and creating a new alias by following the on-screen prompts. We explain how to hide your email address in iOS 15 in more detail separately, including step-by-step instructions with screenshots and how to use it within the Mail app too.
Use Portrait Mode in third-party apps
Portrait mode was first introduced to the iPhone with the iPhone X, offering a nice faux-bokeh effect on photos that give them a look not dissimilar to that of traditional portrait photography. It’s a handy feature that certainly improves selfies, and in iOS 15, it gets even better.
That’s because Apple is finally allowing the ability to use Portrait Mode in third-party apps, with the best part being that developers don’t need to code in support like with other features – instead, simply open the camera in the app in question, swipe to access the Control Center, tap Video Effects and tap Portrait Mode to enable the blurry background.
You can’t use the more advanced features of Apple’s Portrait Mode – like using different lighting settings and adjustment of the blur – but it at least lets you blur out the messy room when you’re recording TikToks.
There are also new mic controls that accompany the new Portrait Mode, which we outline in our dedicated how to use Portrait Mode and mic controls in any iOS 15 app tutorial.
While not quite as exciting as some of the headline features of iOS 15, one of the smaller new additions to the iPhone experience is the ability to drag-and-drop screenshots after they’ve been taken.
Once you take your screenshot in iOS 15, it’s as simple as tapping and holding the thumbnail that appears in the bottom-left, opening the app (or folder if you’re using the Files app) and dropping the thumbnail into place. It’s a niche feature, but for those of us that take a lot of screenshots (this writer included) it can make a big difference to the overall mobile workflow.
We detail the feature in our dedicated how to drag-and-drop screenshots in iOS 15 tutorial for those that want to find out more.
Use SharePlay to watch movies on FaceTime
Delayed from the initial release of iOS 15, SharePlay is one of the biggest upgrades to come to FaceTime in years. In its basic form, it’ll let you share your display with others on the FaceTime call – ideal for tech support and showing off photos in your Photos app – but where it really excels is when it comes to watching content together.
You can watch movies from the likes of Apple TV+ and Disney+ as well as content from the likes of TikTok in sync, making catch-up calls much more entertaining. To share content, simply open the app in question during a FaceTime call, begin playing media and get others in the call to accept the sharing request.
We outline the process in more detail in how to use SharePlay in iOS 15 for those that want to find out more.
Copy and paste text from images
Live Text is another cool addition in iOS 15 that takes advantage of the onboard AI to analyse photos in your Photos app for text.
Once it detects text, you can copy and paste it into another app, tap numbers to call them, tap addresses to get directions in the Maps app and more. It also indexes detected text so you can quickly search for a phrase using the Spotlight menu and get image results.
It’s a powerful bit of tech with plenty of uses, and all you need to do is double-tap text on any image in your Photo library to interact with it.
We outline all the various uses of the tech in how to use Live Text on iPhone & iPad.
Disable Auto Macro mode on iPhone 13
Apple introduced a new macro shooting mode on the iPhone 13 range, but rather than adding another camera onto the rear of the smartphone, it decided to utilise the ultrawide camera already available.
The idea is simple enough; when you get close enough to a subject, the camera will switch to the ultrawide camera to give a magnified view. The problem is that it often switches prematurely when you’re still around 10cm from the subject, and there’s no toggle in the Camera app to stop it.
Thankfully, Apple added a toggle in the Settings app in iOS 15 to disable the auto-switching tech. To disable auto macro, head to Settings > Camera and toggle off Auto Macro.
If you need more guidance, we outline all you need to know in how to turn off macro mode on iPhone 13.