Apple showed off some pretty significant software changes coming to the iPhone, iPad, Mac and Apple Watch this year as part of its WWDC 2021 kick-off keynote. While there was no new Mac hardware as had been rumored prior to the event, the WWDC keynote wasn't hurting for announcements, as Apple previewed iOS 15, iPad OS 15, macOS 12 and watch OS 8.
Each of the software updates promises their own features and enhancements, but there are a few unifying additions. Apple's looking to make it easier to share things between its devices, and privacy remains very much on the company's mind as it tries to differentiate itself from other big tech companies.
All four of the software updates Apple announced during its keynote are available in beta form for developers right now. Public betas of iOS 15, iPad OS 15, macOS 12 and watch OS 8 will be available in July, with the final releases coming this fall.
Here's what Apple had to say about its different software platforms during its WWDC 2021 keynote.
iOS 15: Apple's iPhone software adds a major overhaul of FaceTime, highlighted by Share Play which will let you listen to music, watch videos and share screens with other people on a video call; other enhancements include spatial audio for more natural sounding calls and a portrait mode to blur the background.
Notifications are getting redesigned in iOS, and a new Focus mode lets you filter out notifications that aren't relevant to the task at hand, whether it's work or relaxation. Wallet, Weather and Maps are all getting significant enhancements, while Apple is adopting some of Google's best features with a Live Text capability that allows you to convert the text that you photograph into actual text for a note.
iOS 15 is official and we can't wait to get our hands on it. Apple showed off several new features during its WWDC 2021 keynote, including some awesome new things coming to FaceTime and notifications.
Though the full version of iOS 15 won't ship until later this year, Apple's iOS preview offers us the chance to see what big features Apple has planned for the software that powers its smartphones, including the iPhone 13 models due out later this year.
New FaceTime features: FaceTime is getting some of the most substantive changes in iOS 15. The popular video chat is getting spatial audio to make sound feel more natural, plus voice isolation using machine learning and wide spectrum to bring in more ambient sounds.
Better yet, for group FaceTime calls, Apple is adding link creation (a la Google Meet and Zoom) so that even people on Android and Windows can join in via the browser. Apple has also added a grid view for group calls and a portrait mode to bring the focus on you.
Share Play: Share Play is a new way to share media experiences with your friends and family. If you're quite social and like to share music, videos, and your phone's screen, Share Play is a new way to communicate in lieu of screenshots. You can, for example, listen to an album on Apple Music together, or watch a Netflix show together while chatting in iMessage with the picture-in-picture mode. Share Play will work across iOS, iPad OS, and macOS.
Notifications and Focus: One major pain point with iOS is notifications and Apple is tackling it to a degree. Notifications will now be sorted into a deal-with-it later category, and conversations will surface first. The look and feel of the notifications pane has received a slight face lift to look a bit more modern. On top of improvements to notifications, iOS 15 will introduce changes to Do Not Disturb and add the new Focus mode. The former simply lets you set a DND status in Messages and iMessage will auto-reply to say that you're busy. Focus lets you set up profiles like work and personal that changes how you use the phone, letting you eliminate distractions while you're working or taking some time for yourself.
Live Text: Similar to Google Lens, Apple will introduce Live Text to iOS 15. You'll be able to copy text from within a photo, screenshot, or web image.
Lookup: Again, looking to Google Lens, Apple added Lookup, which lets you point your camera at something and look it up. It can recognize animals, nature, landmarks, art, and much more.
Photos Memories: Apple is taking a page out of Google Photos' book and is adding new
memories to Photos. These memories curate photos and adds music to them, creating a fun movie. You can change the music and pace, often creating something wholly different.
Wallet additions: Wallet is getting some improvements, letting you add car keys (with supported car manufacturers), corporate badges, hotel keys (at participating hotels), and even state IDs in participating states. Apple said that the TSA will start letting you use your iPhone for identification purposes.
Fresh Weather design: The Weather app is getting a face lift. Apple has added a lot more animations and new infographics. It helps you get more information about what's going on outside.
Maps changes: Apple is gunning straight for maps and navigation superiority with Maps in iOS 15. It'll now offer a globe (a la Google Earth) and it adds new city details like elevation, turn lanes, and bike lanes. It'll also show you new road details and traffic conditions. Transit users will be able to pin their favorite lines, and Maps will let you know when it's time to disembark.
Moving into the future, Maps in iOS 15 is heading into augmented reality. When you emerge from a train station and you're lost, hold up your iPhone and let it scan the buildings around you. It'll bring up the last directions you need to get to your destination.
Safari: Safari is getting an overhaul in macOS 12, and some of those changes are finding their way to the iPhone, too, though the new look accounts for the iPhone's smaller display. The tab bar is now at the bottom of the screen — closer to your thumb, Apple notes — and it disappears as you scroll. The idea is to make the browser easier to operate with one hand.
Additionally, features introduced in the macOS Monterey version of Safari such as Group Tabs will also appear in iOS 15's version. Web extensions are now supported on the iPhone and iPad as well.
Shared With You: Apple's new way of surfacing everything that's been sent your way by friends and family is called Shared With You. This allows you to quickly find articles, songs, videos, photos, and more across iOS quickly without having to worry about keeping track.
Find My: Apple wants to help you keep track of everything with Find My. It allows you to find something that's been turned off or erased, livestream locations to friends and families, get separation alerts if you leave an Apple device behind in an unknown location, and add Air Pods Max and Air Pods Pro to the network.
Translate: Translate has gotten some quality of life features, supposedly allowing for seamless translation across languages.
Accessibility: iOS 15 adds or improves accessibility options within the OS, including sweeping improvements to Voice Over.
Privacy: iOS 15 continues in iOS 14.5's footsteps by offering more robust privacy features. All speech recognition is handled on-device by default, including Siri queries. Mail Privacy Protection keeps senders from seeing if you've opened an email and also prevents them from grabbing your IP address. Finally, App Privacy Report gives you a low-down on what apps have accessed certain permissions within the last seven days.
iPad OS 15: Many of the same features found in iOS 15 will make their way to Apple's tablets, too, but there are some iPad-specific changes, too. Specifically, on-screen widgets are finally appearing on the iPad, and they're customized for the tablet's more ample screen real estate. The Translate app introduced in iOS 14 is coming to the iPad as well. Multitasking is getting a big upgrade in iPad OS 15, starting with menu buttons for easy access to different multitasking modes. There’re also new ways to create split-screen views from your open apps.
iPad OS 15 new features:
iPad OS 15 multitasking upgrades
Apple's making multitasking easier with iPad OS 15, starting with new Menu buttons for multitasking at the top of the screen (which are hidden under a three-dots button). With a tap or two, you'll start using a split-view mode, and view your home screen to pull out the apps you want. Slide-over is also shown as an option in this button.
Switching out one of the apps in your split view works just as easily. Just swipe down from the top of the app to see your home screen, to start finding a new app to multitask with.
Apple also highlighted a way to multitask further, where holding down on a message in Mail (while already in split-view) gives you the option to compose a reply in a window that stands on top of your split-screen. This didn't seem especially major at first, but then we saw that you can minimize that reply to the Shelf, a new section that appears above the dock, where you can find other works in progress from the application you're working in.
iPad OS 15 brings widgets all over the home screen:
The WWDC 2021 stream showed off how widgets can now go anywhere on the home screen, making the most of that big iPad screen. Apple also introduced a new larger-sized widget, showing it off with the TV app, where you could see a list of content you could watch, and a spotlighted show (in this case, Apple's own Mythic Quest).
App Library, the application management view that lets you remove apps from the home screen, but still view them in a menu, is now also on iPad OS. Just like the option to put widgets on the home screen, this was a curious absence from iPad OS 15, after being missing in iPad OS 14.
iPad OS 15's Quick Notes speeds up note-taking:
Having trouble getting a note started quickly? The new Quick Notes feature makes a note a simple drag of the Apple Pencil away. Moving the tip of the pencil inward from the bottom right corner, starts a Quick Note.
While you can simply write in this note, Quick Notes are designed to help you take notes with another app. The demonstrator showed how to easily pull the URL from the Safari webpage you're using alongside with Quick Notes.
Quick Notes can be created on iPad OS, and then viewed on macOS or iOS — and you'll be able to edit them on iOS. too.
MacOS 12 Monterey new features, release date & Compatibility
Today at Apple's WWDC 2021 event we learned a lot about macOS 12, now formally named macOS Monterey. The Mac software update is due out this fall, with a public beta expected in July. (The macOS Monterey developer beta is live now.
When macOS Monterey does arrive on your Mac, whether as a beta or the full release, Apple has one big theme that dominates its new OS: continuity.
MacOS Monterey: New features
Universal Control: Perhaps the most futuristic feature coming to macOS Monterey, Universal Control effectively allows you to share a single keyboard and mouse across multiple Apple devices that are in close proximity to your macOS PC.
Airplay to Mac: Speaking of Air Dropping, now you can also use iOS and iPad devices to Airplay media directly to your iMac or MacBook running macOS Monterey. This could be a great way to make use of the excellent speakers on the new 24-inch iMac 2021, for example.
Shortcuts come to macOS: The popular Shortcuts app from iOS is making the leap to macOS, allowing you to set up custom shortcuts and routines on your iMac/MacBook that you can then run from Siri, the Finder, the Dock, and other areas of macOS Monterey.
Safari: Apple is launching a redesign of Safari alongside macOS Monterey that will see the browser's tabs get smaller and organizable into “tab groups”, a la Google Chrome. Safari will now auto-update tab groups across all your devices, too, and so Safari on iOS 15 and iPad OS 15 is also getting updated with a new look and support for tab groups.
MacOS Monterey: Outlook
With its renewed focus on continuity, macOS Monterey looks like a clear play on Apple's part to strengthen the ties that bind Mac users into Apple's walled garden of devices and services.
That's not necessarily a bad thing, of course — many of the new macOS Monterey features seem quite useful, and using Universal Control to drag and drop images doodled on an iPad or iPhone directly into an open document on your MacBook seems downright futuristic.
Watch OS 8 Release Date, Compatibility, Beta and Top New Features For Apple Watches
Apple just revealed watch OS 8, the Apple Watch's next big software overhaul. The annual refresh includes a slew of new features, upgrading the experience of owning one of the best smartwatches around with a Mindfulness app and more workout types. And watch OS 8 finally lets you set multiple timers from your wrist.
Watch OS 8: Top new features for Apple Watch
Mindfulness app: The new Mindfulness app not only redesigns the existing Breathe feature, but it adds a tool called Reflect. Reflect prompts you to focus on certain moments and think about things that might bring you a sense of calmness.
Respiratory rate: Now, when you enable sleep tracking on your Apple Watch, it will track your respiratory rate overnight. Since this metric is consistent, change may indicate shift in your overall wellness.
More workout types: This year, Apple is adding workout tracking for Tai Chi and new kind of Pilates.
Portrait watch face: There's only one new watch face this year. It's called Portrait and uses portrait photos to create depth, overlaying photo subjects over your time and date information.
New Photos app: Apple is giving the Photos app a major facelift. Now, you can see collages and moments like you can on your phone. You can easily share photos from your Apple Watch with contacts via Messages and Mail, too.
Editable Messages: In watch OS 8, you can correct errors in dictation using the Digital Crown to scroll precisely to the spot in a message you want to fix. You can also use multiple composition types ( i e. Scribble, emojis) in the same message.
Home Kit upgrades: watch OS 8 will make your Apple Watch a better tool for navigating your smart home devices with Home Kit. You can access your security cameras, see the status of all your connected gadgets and more.
Multiple timers: You can set multiple timers at once from your Apple Watch. It's about dang time.