My expectations for the iOS 16 announcement were high, especially regarding the changes to the lock screen and notifications. In this sense, Apple did not disappoint. However, the new version of the iPhone software is much more of a restructuring of system features than a breath of fresh air of new features into iOS.
Just after the (imaginary) curtain of Apple’s Developer Conference had dropped, it was time to install the iOS 16 beta and take the new features for a spin. The big highlight is the restructured iOS 16 lock screen, which finally offers more customization. In this regard, Apple clearly sought inspiration in their own watchOS and other manufacturer’s ecosystems to give us more freedom. It’s a bold move I wasn’t expecting, but which fortunately works very well.
Among the list of increments, options such as Live Activities, Safety Check and Voice Dictation leave iOS 16 more practical and secure, and the new features that arrive to the Messages app show Apple’s need to modernize its communication services.
In my first contact with iOS 16 everything points toward future iPhones being more dedicated to the user, and less focused on Apple. But remember: All my impressions stem from a software still heavily under development.
Take control of the lock screen
Apple felt a need to change the way we interact with the lock screen. While most rumors and expectations indicated the adoption of the always-on display feature, the news came in the form of customization.
iOS 16 will certainly be known for bringing the first major overhaul to the lock screen. Using a system very similar to what we find today on the Apple Watch, the iPhone now offers a number of “faces” options for customizing the lock screen. From previously configured layouts to customizable options, the concept of the new lock screen is to present what really matters to you—all without unlocking the iPhone.
Just like on the Apple Watch, simply long press the screen to navigate between different lock screen options and to find the best settings for you. Choices can be made by categories such as colors, photos, weather, and emojis. Virtually everything is customizable: fonts, colors, and even widgets.
The inclusion of widgets here brings me back to the concepts of the new iPhone UI created based on rumors that the iPhone 14 series may drop the notch, leaving the notification bar open to integrate information like battery percentage, for example. We’re not there (yet), but the fact that I can add a widget that shows the battery level of my headset right on the lock screen seems like a great alternative to me.
The possibilities are vast. Since the iOS 16 APIs can be integrated by developers into their apps from WidgetKit, virtually any app with widget support can be used on the lock screen right away.
Best of all, you can create a number of lock screen profiles and navigate between them according to your needs. Using the Lock Screen gallery you can change the look of your iPhone in seconds. Also, since the notifications are now grouped at the bottom of the lock screen – and can even be hidden—it is much nicer to see the picture and other elements of the lock screen without interference.
One criticism here, however, is that once you change the lock screen, automatically the iPhone wallpaper switches to the same pattern.
In conjunction with the new lock screen, we have the Live Activities feature, which allows you to track events in real time without having to unlock your iPhone—and in a compact yet very visual form.
If you’ve ever ordered an Uber ride or a food delivery you know that these actions often trigger an avalanche of notifications, leaving your phone screen flashing with updates from these services. To decrease the amount of notifications (and our anxiety), Apple has created a feature called Live Activities.
The intention of Apple’s engineers with this feature is to make notifications less disturbing by condensing a series of updates in just one visually nicer place, avoiding a sequence of interruptions. Those who use the iPhone connected to the Apple Watch feel this change a lot, as we have a decrease in the number of notifications on the wrist.
The Messaging app lands into 2022
The Messages app has undergone a nice makeover in iOS 16. Messages now offers three new features: editing messages after sending, deleting messages after sending, and marking a conversation as unread. It also works with SharePlay too.
Message editing works pretty much like editing posts on services like Facebook, Slack, and Telegram, in which we can see a tag informing us that the message has been edited. The same happens with deleted messages, just as we have in a WhatsApp chat.
Marking a message as unread works as a reminder to reply. Personally, I use this option a lot in Gmail so I don’t forget to reply to messages I’ve previously read, but that I couldn’t respond to right on the spot.
Really smart voice interaction
As a fan of the audio recording and transcription application, I was really happy with the improvements Apple brought to the text dictation system for services such as Notes, Messages or E-mail. According to the company, 18 billion dictation requests are made every month, which certainly makes the engineers’ efforts in the area worthwhile.
Using voice text entry on Apple’s keyboard, I was easily able to type several sentences in a second, and in case of misunderstanding it is really easy to replace words by voice or simultaneously by touch. Beyond accessibility, this feature is really efficient when it comes to creating messages, including articles using voice. The automatic punctuation feature, as we have in the Google voice recording application, is very welcome here.
After the controversy with AirTags, now we have Safety Check
In May last year, Apple announced AirTags as tracking devices to be added to your keychain or even your computer backpack for easy location in case of loss or theft. However, it didn’t take long for a series of security alerts to start popping up on the web. For the sake of users’ privacy, Apple sent out a firmware update to prevent people from being tracked without their knowledge.
With iOS 16, Apple dives even deeper into the privacy and security sphere and brings the Safety Check function. With this, Apple wants to offer more control to users who share passwords or access to certain apps and data such as geolocation. Presented as an aid to combat abuse in toxic relationships, Safety Check quickly revokes access to data and location previously shared with others.
Right now, access can easily be blocked from Privacy and Security settings now and offer the options: Emergency Reset as well as Manage Sharing & Access. The first option quickly remove people and revoke access to apps, allows you also to change the Apple ID and add or remove emergency contacts. The second option is a helpful shortcut to sharing access management. You can remove permissions to services such as Photos, Messages, and other applications, restricting access to your personal devices only.
And a super thoughtful addition is the “Quick Exit” button that quickly closes the Safety Check window and leaves no trace in multitasking. This offers much more security for victims of abuse.
Conclusion: More you and less Apple!
There is a classic phrase said by Steve Jobs in the 1990s that stays with me to this day: “A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” For a long time there has been talk about Apple dictating trends and offering as little customization as possible, almost forcing us to use its ecosystem the way it was dictated by the company.
However, iOS 16 strikes me as an OS that finally takes people’s opinions into consideration. The new OS offers more choices right on the lock screen of your phone, as well as more control over your data and the right to not be tracked. With the optimization of the Messaging app and Voice Dictation, Apple integrates some strong features that we’ve had to use third-party apps for before.
Overall, the improvements are quite clear to me. While in the beginning, the new iOS 16 beta felt like not having much many new things, this impression is settling and with the dust falling it’s easier to realize that in fact this is the most modern and secure operating system that Apple has ever released.
Of all the new features in iOS 16, these are the most relevant functions that officially arrive on the iPhone in September for me. And for you: which feature will mark this update?