Alongside the launch of the new iPhone this week, Apple is preparing for its “biggest iOS release ever”. The launch of iOS 10, the operating system designed for the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, is anticipated as the most significant iOS revamp since Apple overhauled the design in 2013 with the release of iOS 7.
Like every iOS before it, iOS 10 is packed with a bounty of brand-new features designed to make your phone more useful than ever. It’s not available to download quite yet, but here’s a rundown of all the bells and whistles you have to look forward to come September 13th.
See your Home-screen notifications just by picking up your phone
With iOS 10, there’s been a complete overhaul to the lock screen and notification set-up, and it’s going to fundamentally change how you interact with your phone. Instead of having to tap the wake button to check for any notifications on your lock screen, or accidentally blow past them by tapping the Home button and unlocking it, your phone will now “wake” whenever you pick it up to look at it.
Access your camera faster and easier from the lock screen
We’ve long dreamed of a quickdraw camera function, for those moments when there’s absolutely NO TIME TO SPARE snapping a photo or video. With iOS 10, when you wake your phone by lifting it up, all you have to do is swipe left and the camera app instantly opens. Ta-da!
Send texts with doodles, GIFs, stickers, and other cheesy effects
iMessage now comes jam-packed with a bunch of special features so you can be much more, um, expressive in your one-on-one and group chats. There’s a lot to learn, so let’s break it down:
- Send Snapchat-style “Digital Touch” messages: Now, when you go to compose an iMessage, you’ll notice two more buttons in addition to the camera and microphone icons. Tap the one that looks like a heart and a black window will open. Here you have the option to doodle in a variety of colors — or snap a photo/video and sketch on top of it. If it sounds a little like Snapchat, that’s because it’s a lot like Snapchat.
- React to individual messages: Want to give someone a thumbs-up on what they just said? Press and hold on a message bubble and a menu of reactions will pop up (heart, thumbs-up/down, question mark, haha, exclamations points). Select one and it gets tacked on to the message like a sticker.
- Search for GIFs directly in your message window: When you tap the Applications icon, you’ll notice a searchable library of GIFs — a feature that previously required downloading a special third-party keyboard.
- Send animated emojis and music: Scroll to the subsequent pages in the Applications tab and you’ll discover animated emojis and tracks from your Apple Music account, which you can easily select and send independently, or as part of a larger message.
- Jazz up your messages with special effects: You can now add special effects to your message so it makes a bigger splash when someone receives it. For instance, you can have it explode across their screen, or transform their screen into a mini-fireworks show. You can even force them to “scratch off” a message with their finger to reveal what’s beneath it. To explore all the different effects, enter your text or photo in the message window, then press and hold the send button.
- Handwrite your message: If you want to get personal and shoot a note in your own handwriting, just open the conversation, flip your phone the long ways to landscape (or tap the squiggle in the bottom-right corner of the keyboard), and let your chicken scratch loose.
- Automatically swap out words for emoji: The new iOS automatically matches words you’ve written with their emoji counterparts (if they exist), and will automatically swap them out if you want. To see this in action, type a message with words you know are emoji-fied (love, tennis, pizza, etc.) and tap to access the emoji keyboard. You’ll notice those words are now highlighted in yellow, and when tapped, will transform into their emoji equivalents.
Free up space by deleting obnoxious native apps
For the first time in iPhone history, you can finally delete those awful apps that come pre-installed on every device. That means you don’t have to see the stock ticker or Apple Watch app on your Home screen ever again, and it also frees up some serious space (about 4 or 5GB) by removing some of the more substantial native Apple apps, including Apple Music, Maps, and even Mail.
Your photos now automatically organize themselves
Even if you’re not upgrading to that new dual lens camera on the iPhone 7 Plus, there’s still plenty of photo magic to be had. When you open your Photos app, you’ll notice quite a few changes. For one, there’s a new tab at the bottom called “Memories,” which contains photo albums that’ve been automatically generated based on what Apple thinks might be an important memory to you — depending on who’s in them, where they were taken, and if they were shot during a particular photo-happy weekend or week.
Also, when you tap the “Albums” tab at the bottom, you’ll see that there’s one called “People.” It’s filled with photos containing (and organized by) the individual people frequently found in your photos.
Finding a specific photo is now much easier, too, since Apple categorizes them using AI to assign identifying traits. Can’t find that one shot from the beach last summer, or of your dog in a boat? Just search “beach” or “dog,” and it’ll cull every image in your library that matches that query.
Get into a better sleep schedule
When you open the Alarm app, you’ll notice there’s a brand-new tab at the bottom labeled Bedtime. This is essentially Apple’s version of the Sleep Cycle app. It tracks your sleep habits and gently reminds you when it’s time to start winding down, so you get adequate shut-eye based on when you need to be up in the morning.
You can type in different languages without switching keyboards
For the multilingual among us, iOS 10 alleviates a huge headache when communicating interchangeably in English and another language. Now, you’ll be able to go back and forth from Spanish (or French, or Czech, or any other language Apple supports) and English within the same message without switching between keyboards. Viva la Spanglish!
Clear all notifications at once
The compendium of notifications that appears when you swipe down from the top of your screen can be helpful for finding any important alerts or messages that might’ve gone unnoticed, but it can also get cluttered quickly. Now you can easily dismiss them all by pressing and holding the “X” at the top.
Siri can now do things for you in other apps, like Uber
Tim Cook & Co. didn’t mention ole Siri too much in their big announcement, but she has not been forgotten. In iOS 10, Apple’s giving Siri access to third-party apps, meaning using natural language you’ll be able to her to do things like order a car (“Siri, get me a Lyft”), or send messages outside of iMessage (“Siri, tell John I’ll be a few minutes late via WhatsApp”). It’s been a long time coming, but Siri’s finally catching up to her uber-useful AI counterparts like Alexa by heeding commands for more than just Apple-affiliated services.
When will it be available?
The new software iOS 10 will be available from September 13 and will ship with the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus from September 16.
How can you get it?
The software update will be available for iPhone 5 handsets and those released since, and for the iPad mini 2, iPad 4, iPad Air and generations since.
On any of these devices you will be able to upgrade by going to Settings -> General -> Software Update. If you can’t wait until then you can try out the iOS 10 beta. To do this you’ll need to sign up to Apple’s Beta Software Program using your Apple ID. Once you’ve signed up you can register the device you’d like to upgrade to iOS 10 or macOS Sierra and be able to download it.
Apple advises customers to backup any device they’re using for the beta, and stresses that as the software is still being tested it may feature glitches and bugs. Backup your device in Settings using iCloud or by connecting it to a computer.
For users that have more than one Apple device the iPhone maker says its better to download the beta on a secondary one.