SINGAPORE (HARDWAREZONE) - At Apple's annual worldwide developer conference (WWDC) last week, the iPhone maker started the online event with a banger - the incoming updates to iOS 15 for its smartphones.
Here is the low-down on the mobile operating system's key features and changes.
Apple recognises how video calls have taken centre stage in the new ways people work and unwind, and has thus introduced a bumper pack of features to its FaceTime video call app.
A new Grid View comes to FaceTime's group video calls, making it easy to see more call participants at once. To help users focus on the people in the video call, FaceTime's new Portrait Mode blurs the background with a bokeh effect.
Video callers can simultaneously enjoy songs and shows together in FaceTime calls with a new SharePlay feature.
SharePlay cuts across the Apple Music streaming service, Apple TV+, and video streaming apps, allowing a person to share music or shows they are enjoying at the moment with others in a FaceTime call.
The new content-sharing feature works with iPhones, iPad tablets, and Mac computers.
Apple said it is already working to incorporate SharePlay into various apps like Disney+, ESPN+, HBO Max, Hulu, MasterClass, Paramount+, Pluto TV, TikTok, Twitch and many others.
SharePlay is expected to be up and running with the launch of iOS 15.
Finally, Apple introduced FaceTime Link, a feature that makes it easier to schedule video calls with others that do not use Apple's apps and devices.
An iOS 15 user can create a link for a scheduled FaceTime call from his iPhone, iPad or Mac and share it through Apple's Messages, Calendar and Mail apps, as well as third-party apps.
People who click on this FaceTime Link, including those on Android or Windows, will be able to get into the video call.
For non-iOS users, they jump into the FaceTime video call through their devices' Web browsers instead of Apple's FaceTime app.
Regardless of the platform used, the video calls are end-to-end encrypted for added privacy and safety.
A new feature called Focus will help users on iOS 15 filter out the noise and clutter in their lives.
Focus filters out notifications and apps based on what the user wants to concentrate on, while allowing certain groups of people and apps to contact and notify users at specified times of the day.
For instance, a user can set up Focus for a function, such as for work, and decide who and what apps related to work can notify him, while leaving out others. Focus will suggest what to allow based on the function.
When the user has Focus enabled, an excluded person who tries to contact him can get a note - via the Messages app - that the user has notifications silenced.
Notifications are also getting streamlined with a new Notification Summary. At scheduled times, an iPhone can bring up important notifications to the top. Less important notifications will be pushed down but you can still peruse them by scrolling through your list of notifications.
Text in images
A new feature called Live Text gives iOS' Camera and Photos apps the ability to transcribe text found in images, either by transcribing a freshly-taken text-heavy photo or existing photos with text in them.
The text can be easily copied over into other apps, like Mail. According to Apple, Live Text works in both English and Chinese (traditional and simplified).
Besides transcribing, Live Text also allows the Spotlight search function to search for words in photos like handwritten text.
Apple Wallet, the app which stores information across credit cards and digital car keys, is adding other keys, including digital versions of house keys, office keys and hotel room keys, starting with Hyatt as a hotel partner.
Also new to Apple Wallet is the ability to scan and store information for state IDs, like a driver's license. But this feature is limited to participating states in the United States and coming only later this year.
The Weather app will get high-resolution, full-screen, dynamic weather maps and big meteorological upgrades to provide more weather information - such as wind, rain, unhealthy air quality and more to its users.
Weather graphics will include the sun's position, precipitation, and notification highlights, which tell users when rain or snow starts or stops.
Apple Maps is adding more road details which will give drivers more information like bus and taxi lanes, turn lanes, crosswalks, and bike lanes - making it much safer and easier to navigate in bustling cities.
These additions are also available in Apple's CarPlay feature that allows a driver to control his iOS device using the car's dashboard screen.
Maps also makes it easier for public transport commuters to know that they are due to alight at their upcoming stop.
People who require more detailed walking directions can hold up their iPhones for an augmented reality-guided walking map with Apple Maps.
iOS 15 availability
The developer beta version of iOS 15 is available now, and the public beta for the Apple smartphone operating system will come in July.