iOS 16 review: Something new to see

Apple is working on making your phone into something more than just a collection of applications.

The main focus of iOS 16 is on the activities that can be carried out by your mobile device when you are not using it. Apple has been advocating for many years that we require a reset in our connection with technology and that picking up our phones hundreds of times per day is not the appropriate action to take as a result of this relationship. Apple is, of course, the firm that is perhaps the most to blame for that particular issue. As a result, one of the ideas behind the company’s newly developed software for smartphones is that there may be ways for your smartphone to be useful even if you don’t use it as frequently as you otherwise would.

As is customary at this time of year, the most recent release of iOS (which became available on September 12 for iPhones 8 and later models) brings a plethora of enhancements and adjustments to virtually all of the apps and screens that are found on an iPhone. In recent years, that has essentially been the entirety of the new versions that have been released. Apple is definitely not searching for an excuse to reinvent the wheel anymore now that iOS has reached such a mature state of development as a piece of software. However, Apple decided to give a portion of its software that hasn’t received much attention as of late a complete overhaul this year after discovering that portion of the software.

iOS 16 review: Something new to see
Tom’s Guide

iOS 16‘s showcase feature is unquestionably the lock screen. Apple has completely rethought its use, transforming it from being a clock and a collection of notifications into something that functions more similarly to a second homescreen. Lock screen widgets were an instant improvement to my phone life. I can now view my calendar without unlocking my phone or even swiping right to get to that page of widgets everyone always forgets about, and I have a tiny widget that launches a new note in my notes app. Both of these features were made possible thanks to lock screen widgets.

The habit monitoring software Streaks is the source of my favorite widget for iOS 16 right now. I have “take 5,000 steps” as a daily goal (we are still in a pandemic, and I work from home, and 5,000 steps feels like an accomplishment some days now), and there is a widget on my lock screen with a meter that progressively fills up as I move closer and closer to that figure. When I look at my phone, I am subtly reminded that I probably should go outside and touch some grass. This occurs every time I look at my phone.

These kinds of light-touch interactions have never been particularly strong points for the iPhone. Prior to the release of iOS 16, the majority of actions required you to pick up your phone, unlock it, slide to the right on the homescreen, and open an application. Apple has made efforts to streamline this process with the use of Siri voice commands, and one of the main selling points of the Apple Watch is that it provides easier access to everyday chores. However, Apple’s suggestion to “place a bunch of them on your lock screen” might be the company’s most effective remedy to date. And when you combine that feature with the always-on screens that come standard on the iPhone 14 Pro, the device transforms into a wealth of information at your fingertips with no additional action required from you.

However, Apple has not fully completed the task at hand here. To begin, these widgets are still annoyingly noninteractive. Although they are able to refresh themselves with new information, the only way to make use of them is to tap on them, which will launch the corresponding app. Why can’t I just see the entire day by pressing and holding the Calendar widget? Why is it that I cannot use the “drink water” Streaks widget to actually track the amount of water that I consume?

iOS 16 review: Something new to see
CNET

You see a tiny sliver of information in the pill at the top of the screen, and you can tap it to open the app or long-press it to expand to the full widget. The new Dynamic Island feature, which is available on the iPhone 14 Pro, is a slight improvement in this regard. At least, it is an improvement while you are actively using the phone. However, I would still prefer to be able to play and pause the game directly from the pill itself. Live Activities are also a kind of interactive widget, with the live updating sports scores and other things like that; however, it appears that just a select few first-party apps are making use of it at this time. (Clock deserves praise for being a consistent pioneer in the adoption of new iOS technologies.) In general, widgets are still essentially app shortcuts, and I’d rather have them be miniature apps.

In the grand scheme of things, widgets are still essentially app shortcuts, but I’d much rather have them be miniature apps.

Lock screens oniOS 16 now allow users to change Focus modes, which is a very brilliant addition to the operating system. I’m not one to switch up my background; for the past four years, it’s been the same picture. I’ve never been one to do that. However, I now have two different backgrounds for my home screen and lock screen: one for the weekdays and one for the weekends. These are linked with a Focus mode that disables notifications from Slack and email.

You have to pick backgrounds, choose font colors for the clock, add lock screen widgets for each one, and then go through the Focus rigamarole over and over again, but it’s worth the half an hour of work because now I can just swipe through all of the different modes on my phone. Getting all of this set up is a fair amount of work. Focus modes in particular still appear to require an advanced degree to set up right, but lock screens make them a good context switching mechanism, and I’ve come to like it. Focus modes can be found on many modern smartphones. My weekend lock screen is a picture of my dog, and whenever I look at it, a voice in my head tells me to put away my phone and go outside.

Everything of a minor nature

It’s a joke that’s been going around for a long time and it’s incredibly accurate: two-thirds of Apple’s brand-new iOS features each year are just Android features that were introduced six years ago. A significant portion of the remaining third is comprised of Apple incorporating functionality that were previously exclusive to third-party applications within iOS itself. This is the correct strategy, with the exception of Apple’s occasional practice of pretending it invented decade-old software tricks. The majority of users do not want to download a large number of applications or learn new things, and the more functional the iPhone is out of the box, the better it will be for the majority of people.

When it comes to the camera, Apple is the only company that can compete with its capabilities, regardless of the manufacturer or operating system. Live Text in video is available starting with iOS 16, which means you can take some video, then pause the playback (it does not work while you are recording), and then press and hold on some text to copy it. This feature is not available when you are recording. It has certain flaws, such as the fact that it will sometimes insist that “organic” should be spelt “WACIGINIC,” but overall, it is accurate enough to be of some help. The same goes for the function that extracts the subject of a photograph, providing that it is either a human or an animal, and copies it so that it can be saved elsewhere or pasted elsewhere. It functions much more effectively when your subject and the background are fairly well separated, but I’ve been continuously impressed by how well it was able to mask and separate my face from the wall behind me or my dog’s head from the couch.

iOS 16 review: Something new to see
CNET

In addition to that, Apple has packed iOS 16 to the brim with features that are somewhat self-explanatory and which the company could and should have included a long time ago. It should go without saying that Undo Send and scheduled messages in Mail should be included. These capabilities have been available in virtually every other email service and software for many years, but they function adequately in Mail presently. The same is true for Maps, which may now accommodate several stops within the scope of a single journey. It functions properly despite the fact that it is not particularly innovative, which causes one to wonder why Apple waited so long to release it. Nevertheless, here we are. A number of helpful new accessibility features have been included withiOS 16, including a pretty outstanding closed captioning tool that applies to the entire system as well as some brilliant real-time image recognition.

There are two of these quality-of-life enhancements that have improved the aspects of my life that involve using my phone noticeably better. The first is something called haptic feedback, which is used while typing. After using it for a few weeks and becoming accustomed to the pleasant buzz that I experience whenever I strike a key, I don’t understand how I could have ever smashed my fingertips upon immobile glass. Although I’m not entirely certain that it has resulted in my being a better typist, the new system is certainly a lot more enjoyable to use. The second step is to indicate in Messages whose chats have not yet been read. My normal approach to texting has been to either react right away or completely forget about the message and go on without ever going back to it. This has been the case for far too many years. I can now mark a communication as unread and search for it at a later time. Even though it’s ludicrous that iOS 16 doesn’t let you filter messages to only show those that haven’t been read, I’ll take what I can get.

How was it possible for me to type before haptics?

You now have the ability to edit and unsend messages within the Messages app. If both you and the recipient are oniOS 16, it will operate without a hitch: the text will change without leaving its original location, and there will be a tiny blue “Edited” mark underneath it that you can tap to see all of the previous versions of the message. (You can edit it up to five times and for up to 15 minutes after you first sent it.) If you’re not all on the latest Apple software on your stuff, you’re doomed to that hideous “David edited this message” text that Android users will learn to know all too well. If you’re not all on the latest Apple software on your stuff, you’re doomed to that. The unsend capability, on the other hand, is limited to iMessage conversations; you cannot retrieve a message that you sent to a friend who uses an Android device. And you shouldn’t expect RCS to find a solution to that problem any time soon.

iOS 16 review: Something new to see
H4y Media

The enhancements to dictation that were included in iOS 16 were one feature for which I had great hopes. It now has emoji recognition, so saying “heart emoji” will really produce the heart emoji, and it also tries to automatically insert punctuation when you dictate. In theory, you should be able to dictate both more and better than ever before. You can also now dictation while simultaneously typing, which might be a little bit confusing if you accidently brush the mic button without realizing it and all of a sudden your text field is filled with background conversation that the mic picked up. Because I had such mixed experiences with these features, I decided to quit utilizing them completely. To tell you the truth, if you can recall the names of all the emoji, you ought to be the subject of a scientific investigation.

Apple has begun moving the primary focus of its user interface down toward the bottom of the screen as mobile devices have become ever larger. Your stretched thumbs will thank Apple for moving the URL bar in Safari, the search bar in Spotlight, and a whole host of other tappable user interface fields lower on the screen. It is undeniably a good concept, but it will take some time for users to become accustomed to the appearance. When I typed anything and saw the results shown above, it felt strange for several weeks before I stopped noticing it.

(One other thing you might notice at the bottom of your iPhone is a small translucent pill that says “Search.” This replaced the old button that showed how many homescreens you have and seems to exist entirely to remind users that Spotlight exists. And, as a public service announcement, Spotlight is awesome. You should use Spotlight. A quick search is still the quickest way to find an app or a contact, and it’s even a halfway decent way to search through your emails and texts.)

In iOS 16, a large number of features similar to this make up the bulk of the operating system. Overall, the modifications definitely make the phone substantially more functional and easier to use. (The full change log provided by Apple is ridiculously large.) The only persistent issue I’ve encountered is with video apps. When you try to go from portrait mode to full-screen landscape, several of them crash in pretty strange ways. However, the devs ought to solve that as soon as possible. Even in the early betas, iOS 16 was more reliable than the majority of newly released software, which not only says something about Apple’s skills but also about how much of this software Apple is actually building from scratch.

iOS 16 review: Something new to see
PCMag

However, as is the case every time, it will be up to third-party developers to determine ifiOS 16 is a smashing success or merely another incremental update. If they adopt the Dynamic Island, develop interesting lock screen widgets, create Focus filters that give users even more control over what they see and when, and flip their user interface to the bottom-up style that Apple wants, they may be able to assist in making the iPhone feel more cohesive, more useful when you’re not touching it, and a little simpler when you are touching it. If they don’t, and you use third-party programs most of the time, you probably won’t notice much different about this year’s operating system.

I also have high hopes that developers and websites will swiftly adopt passkeys, the new authentication scheme that does not require a password and is supported by iOS 16. Passkeys are not widely accepted in most places right now, but considering how widespread support for the concept has been, I anticipate that this will change in the near future. Your iPhone, or another device, as passkeys are not exclusive to Apple products, will eventually become the most important factor in determining how secure you are. And in the limited number of locations where I was able to test passkeys by taking pictures of QR codes to authenticate my smartphone, it worked quite well in iOS 16.

The new iOS 16 makes just about every aspect of the iPhone at least somewhat better.

In what concerns Apple, I believe the corporation is moving in the right direction at the moment. It is evident that it is invested in transforming the iPhone into more than just a collection of apps; it wants the phone to be dynamic and interactive, and it wants it to be able to bring you what you need without asking you to step into the world of somebody else. (The business and antitrust ramifications of such thinking are deep and fascinating, but that discussion is not relevant to this review.) I like the idea that my iPhone has all of my things and the capability to show it to me in the correct locations without requiring me to go searching for it. However, in order for this to truly be successful, Apple will need to place an even greater emphasis on notifications, widgets, Live Activities, and perhaps even the Dynamic Island.

iOS 16 review: Something new to see

Aside from the larger-scale changes,iOS 16improves the functionality of the majority of the iPhone’s components in some way. Apple is currently in this phase, which entails refining, adjusting, and fine-tuning. If Apple has any brand-new, mind-blowing ideas about how technology is supposed to function, then I’m willing to bet that they won’t be arriving for the iPhone. In the years to come, Apple is expected to continue enhancing the iPhone in a number of different ways year after year.

What are you going to do, switch?


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