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iOS 15 review: A better iPhone experience

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iOS15 The greatest compliment I can give is that, despite all the new features Apple has introduced — and subsequent updates have added even more — the enhancements are easy to integrate into everyday iPhone use. These enhancements and changes seem like a natural extension to what is already there.

Since the initial beta was released earlier this summer, I have been using iOS 15. This has only increased now that we are two updates into the latest version of Apple’s mobile software. I use iOS 15 on two iPhones, an iPhone 11 Pro Max (or iPhone 12), and sometimes refer back to the reference device to verify what has changed since the last iOS update. This is my standard practice. Since the iOS 15 enhancements feel so familiar on my phone, I borrow the iOS 14-powered iPhone from the house every now and again. This is a sign that the upgrade was successful.

iOS 15 isn’t a radical upgrade. While there are many changes, there is no fundamental rethinking about what an iPhone can do. It doesn’t have to at this point in Apple’s smartphone company’s history.

iOS 15 improves some of the built-in apps, highlighted by changes to Maps and FaceTime. It also introduces some welcome new capabilities such as being able to store ID card in Wallet. Additionally, it supercharges your iPhone’s intelligence with new features like Visual Search Up and Live Text. Although not all of the changes are perfect, you will love what you see when you download iOS 15.

You can find out more about iOS 15’s latest additions in our guide to iOS 15.4 or the in-development iOS15.5.

iOS 15 Review: Availability and Devices

iOS 15 is available in beta form since June. However, the software can now be downloaded by anyone. If you don’t have iOS 15 installed, simply head to Settings and tap General.

If your phone is running iOS 14, you can upgrade to iOS 15. This means that any iPhone 6s or higher will work, even the 7th gen iPod Touch and the original iPhone SE. iPadOS15 is the iPad’s own version of this software. Keep in mind that Apple regularly releases updates to iOS 15, , including one that fixes a number of bugs.

Not all iOS 15 features will work on older iPhones. Some capabilities require a lot more neural processing power and are only available to iPhones that have at least an Apple A12 Bionic processor. These include:

  • iPhone XR
  • iPhone XS Max and iPhone XS
  • iPhone 11
  • iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone Pro Max
  • iPhone SE (2020).
  • iPhone 12
  • iPhone 12 mini
  • iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro max
  • iPhone 13
  • iPhone 13 mini
  • iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Max

iOS 15 review: FaceTime improvements

The iOS 15 redesign of FadeTime’s video messaging app will be remembered as the most significant change in iOS 15. However, the largest addition was delayed. SharePlay is the much-hyped feature that allows you to watch videos, listen and share your screen with others on FaceTime calls. After Apple had the chance to refine the feature, SharePlay was released in iOS 15.1 and, as we’ll see, it was well worth the wait.

FaceTime’s other enhancements should not be overlooked by SharePlay. iOS 15 introduces several changes that make FaceTime an attractive alternative to Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and all other video messaging tools we have used for the past 18-months.

Although FaceTime is not on my top list of video messaging apps, it has always been a favorite. This is mainly because the app is too cluttered for me, especially for group calls. iOS 15 addresses this problem by offering a grid view option. This allows you to neatly stack the faces of people on a call rather than treating them like floating windows that resize according to who is talking.

Even better, FaceTime in iOS 15 allows you to enjoy spatial audio, provided you have an iPhoneXR and later. Spatial audio allows you to hear the person’s voice emanating from the area of the screen that is their square. This is a small change, but it can make video calls feel much more natural.

These are not the only audio enhancements available in FaceTime. Wide Spectrum and Voice Isolation are new features in FaceTime. The former can be used to amplify your voice while the latter can pick-up all ambient sounds around you. These features are also available in third-party apps. FaceTime can now introduce background blurring when you’re on the camera.

People without an iPhone will be able to use FaceTime as an additional feature. Apple will also extend FaceTime to Android, Windows and other platforms, but it will be a browser-based interface, and not an app. You can now schedule FaceTime call by using shareable links. In case someone else is trying to crash your call, you have the ability to not only control who can join, but also can remove people from a call 30 seconds after they start.

iOS 15 review: Using SharePlay

SharePlay is a revolutionary new feature that will be available on iPad, Mac, and Apple TV. SharePlay allows you to stream audio and video over FaceTime. It will also play for other FaceTiming friends. Playback is synced so everyone can watch or listen at the same moment. SharePlay allows you to share your iPhone screen.

While there are many video chat apps that offer similar features, some of them may be built-in or extensions. Apple’s inclusion of the functionality in its video messaging app is significant. Apple has high hopes for SharePlay as developers have the ability to add support to their apps. Not only will Showtime and Paramount Plus be supported, but there are many other apps, including Redfin, Night Sky, and Heads Up, that can take advantage of SharePlay’s screen-sharing capabilities. Support is being added to more apps all the time.

My testing was done mainly with Apple TV Plus. I watched Ted Lasso together with two Tom’s Guide colleagues. Each of us could control the playback on our respective devices. To make Ted Lasso’s antics more visible, I could resize the video window and minimize the FaceTime window. I could then flip the sizes to see the reactions of my colleagues. FaceTime allows you to switch between text and audio chats so that the video playback is always front and center.

SharePlay was able to drop the audio from whatever you were watching or listening too, which I found quite useful in keeping your conversation moving. Audio controls in SharePlay are universal. You can’t increase the volume of the video you’re watching or listening to without increasing the volume on FaceTime.

SharePlay is a great way to make the most of it. Check out our 6 SharePlay secrets we discovered while using FaceTime.

iOS 15 review: Focus mode

FaceTime is Apple’s goal to keep people connected using iOS 15. The new Focus feature is at the forefront of the company’s plan for removing distractions and time suckers. Focus is a refined version of Do Not Disturb. It blocks irrelevant notifications and restricts your home screen to the apps that are relevant to the task at hand.

You can, for example, set a Work Focus that blocks notifications from streaming apps or social networking tools. It can also block incoming messages from people you haven’t white-listed. You can also designate a home screen to only display your work-related apps. This will further filter out distractions. I have mine set up to display Slack, Gmail and Google Docs, as well as a few handy utilities and widgets for reminders and appointments.

Your Focus status will be visible in Messages to other iOS 15 users. They’ll see it and hopefully not be as inclined to ping or ping you. Your Focus status can also be displayed by third-party messaging apps — something I hope more of them will use. Your Focus settings can be followed from one device to another, as iPadOS 15 (and macOS Monterey) support it.

It is simple to set up focus and turn it on. That is only half of the battle. Focus is located in the Control Center. To set your focus, swipe down from the upper right corner of your iPhone screen (iPhone X and later). If you have the feature enabled, you can turn off the focus by tapping the icon on your lock screen. While we’ve mostly talked about setting up work focus, Apple allows you to customize and name any focus mode that you choose, such as for gaming, family, driving, or sleeping.

The home screen feature in Focus is my only complaint. It’s not possible to create a home screen that appears only when you activate a focus mode or fades into the background after you’re done. Instead, you select an existing home screen. This is contrary to my organization of apps. I place the most used apps on one screen. You can also access apps that you haven’t yet accessed by swiping right until you reach App Library. This means I don’t have to launch PUBG Mobile while I should be responding to an email from my boss.

While Focus setup is an important part of the process, Apple has no control over the outcome. Focus must be adapted to your work habits so that it can truly work. I haven’t seen this happen yet. However, IOS 15 beta will hopefully make me more vigilant about using the distraction-fighting tools Apple has provided. Focus is a promising tool, but it’s not a panacea for all your distraction problems.

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