The new iPhone features coming to your pocket in iOS 15

It’s new iPhone week, but it’s not just those pre-ordering the shiny new hardware who are getting an upgrade. Everyone with an iPhone 6s or newer (including the original iPhone SE and 7th generation iPod Touch) can download iOS 15 for free from today, to get an approximation of that new phone feeling.

”Shared with You” in Messages is going to be big for people who have friends that are always recommending things. Say your paramour sends you a text with a song they’ve been enjoying: when you open Apple Music, that song will appear in the Shared with You section. Same goes for Podcasts, News, websites, movies and TV shows in the relevant apps.

iOS 15 brings changes to sharing, notifications, privacy and more.

Meanwhile the Do Not Disturb feature has been expanded into “Focus”, which will help those who have an unfortunate tendency to unlock their phone to read a work email and then accidentally play Forza Street for 10 minutes. You can select different profiles for work, personal time, sleep, fitness, mindfulness, gaming, reading or driving, which will then turn off notifications for apps not related to that activity.

Conveniently, Focus syncs across all your devices, so you can set it on your phone and have it hide the same notifications on Mac and iPad. You can also make Home Screen pages to go with each Focus, to make it easier to avoid temptation.

Notifications have been refreshed with an updated look, and also easier muting of particular conversations for custom lengths of time (which is great for when the group chat pops off at the wrong moment). There is also a handy notification summary to help you catch up.

Reminders and Notes are suddenly much more useful, beyond shopping lists and celebrity Twitter apologies. Both apps are getting tags, mentions and smart lists/folders, so you’ll be able to more easily sort through your digital memory and alert people to their specific tasks in shared notes. This marks the most major upgrade to Notes and Reminders in years, and is long overdue.

Speaking of overdue, there are big updates to Safari as well. It’s been completely overhauled to bring it into the roaring 20s with tab groups, a bottom tab bar and tab group syncing so you can have those tabs across multiple devices. There are also new privacy protections, web extensions, a new customisable start page and you refresh by swiping down now.

For fans of privacy (so, everyone), iPhone now has App Privacy Reports that tell you which apps have accessed your location, photos, camera, microphone and contacts in the last week, and how many times.

Plus, now you can designate people as Legacy Contacts so they can access your data after you die.

And that’s not even mentioning the major upgrades to Photos, Siri, Spotlight, Live Text, Wallet, Maps, Weather, Widgets and Facetime (though SharePlay, the big Facetime update that lets you enjoy media with distant friends, is coming later and we’ll talk about it then).

Although today’s the day for the big update, it’s always a good idea to back up your device and wait around a week before updating to a new operating system. No matter how good a public beta is, there are always a few bugs that aren’t discovered until an update goes to millions of devices instead of just thousands. That week gives Apple enough time to iron out the bugs, but isn’t so long that you miss out on the important security updates.

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