The 12 Best Hidden Features in iOS 15

Secret, cool stuff you can do with your iPhone

Apple added and updated a variety of features in iOS 15, but for every highly touted add-on like SharePlay, several other equally useful ones are hiding away, waiting for you to find them. Some of these lesser-known features are so useful that once you discover they exist, you'll wonder why Apple hadn't mentioned them. Here are some of the best hidden features in iOS 15.

01
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Visual Lookup Gives More Info About Your Pics

iOS 15 Photos app with plant photo, information icon, and Visual Lookup icon highlighted

Photos picked up some cool tricks in iOS 15. One of the best is Visual Lookup, which you can check out after opening one of your pictures in the app. Tap the i icon at the bottom of the screen to see basic info like the date and time you took the picture, along with more technical details like its resolution, size, and exposure time.

If the button has little star symbols on it, you can do even more. Look for icons on your pics like a leaf for plants, a paw print for animals, or a map for a landmark, and then select them for more info. Not sure what kind of dog or flower you're looking at? Visual Lookup might be able to tell you.

02
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Quickly Find Links, Photos, and Songs Using Shared With You

Steps required to see all photos within someone's message history on iOS 15

Throughout your day, you'll likely send a variety of links, song recommendations, pictures, and other items via Messages, and you'll probably receive your share, too. Before iOS 15, if you hadn't checked out a link or photo right away, you'd have to scroll back through your text exchanges to find them again.

Shared With You makes it way easier to find the links and recommendations you've received. Apple's Music, News, Podcasts, Photos, Safari web browser, and TV app all include sections that collect links and pictures from Messages and let you check them out on your schedule without having to find them in the conversation.

03
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Instantly Save Photos in Messages

The Save Photo icon in Messages for iOS 15

Messages in iOS 15 also includes a handy feature that will save you some taps. Anytime someone sends you a photo, an icon will appear next to it in the conversation. Tap it to instantly save that image to your Photos app. Previously, you'd have to select the photo, tap the Share icon, and then choose Save Photo.

The new, single-touch method saves both time and trouble. You can add photos to your Camera Roll immediately, which means it won't be super inconvenient if your friend sends you several pictures of a kitten and you want to hold on to them for later.

04
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Send an Away Message While You're Driving

The Auto-Reply option for the Driving Focus in iOS 15

Apple included a suite of features called Focus in iOS 15 that try to promote healthier habits with sleep, driving, and other activities. Whether or not you use features like Bedtime on the Apple Watch, you should still check out Focus' driving function to avoid distractions while you're on the road.

While the basic version of the driving Focus will both silence your notifications and stop you from using your phone while you're in your car, you can also let your contacts know you're being a responsible driver and will get back to them. Go to Settings > Focus > Driving > Auto-Reply to turn on and customize your message. Contacts can still push through urgent texts, but otherwise, they'll at least know you aren't ignoring them.

05
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Quickly Refresh Pages in Safari

The fast refresh option in Safari for iOS 15

You can tap the reload icon in Safari's address bar to reload a page, but iOS 15 provides an alternate way that might be faster. Pull down from the top of the page (not the top of the screen, which will open the Notification Center), and a refresh circle will appear. Release to reload.

06
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Use Spotlight Without Unlocking Your Phone

iOS 15 Spotlight Search in the iPhone lock screen

Spotlight Search in iOS lets you find apps, messages, and even search the web from your iPhone's Home screen. In iOS 15, you don't even need to enter your passcode to use the feature. Swipe down on your lock screen, and Spotlight Search will open. From there, you can enter any search you want. You may still have to unlock your phone to see results—in Safari, for example—but you can at least make the search quickly.

07
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Install Apps Without Opening the App Store

Downloading an app from Spotlight Search in iOS 15

Another good feature of Spotlight Search in iOS 15 lets you bypass the App Store to install games and other programs. Swipe down from the Home or lock screen or the Notification Center, and then search for the app you want to add. Tap the download icon, and the installation will begin.

08
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Control HomeKit Accessories to the Minute

A time-sensitive Siri HomeKit command in iOS 15

Apple's digital assistant, Siri, has always been indispensable for making the most of HomeKit accessories like smartbulbs, door locks, and thermostats. Commands like, "Hey, Siri, turn the living room lights green" are both convenient and fun. But in iOS 15, you can get even more specific with your HomeKit requests.

Need to set a silent alarm? Ask Siri to change a certain bulb red at the exact time you need the alert. Want to have coffee ready in the morning? Try, "Hey, Siri, turn on the kitchen outlet at 6:30 a.m."

09
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Get a List of Songs You've Identified from Control Center

The Music Identification button in iOS 15's Control Center and a list of identified songs

The iPhone's built-in Shazam music identification feature is already a slightly hidden feature; if you want to know what's playing on the radio or at a party, you can just ask Siri, and it will do its best to help you out. You can't always act on that information immediately, however, and that's where this update comes in handy.

First, go to Settings > Control Center and tap the plus sign next to Music Recognition to add the icon. After you've had Siri identify some tracks, open Command Center, and then do a long press on the identification symbol. A menu will appear with the last few songs you asked about.

10
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Drag and Drop Between Apps

Drag and Drop in iOS 15

This feature is a little obscure partly because it's not obvious it's there and takes a lot of steps to pull off. You can move photos, links, and other items between apps without using copy and paste. Here's how:

  1. Find a link or other thing you want to share, and do a long press on it until it "detaches" from the page.
  2. Swipe up from the bottom of the screen to return to the Home screen (you can also do this in the App Switcher if the other program is already open).
  3. Tap the destination app to open it.
  4. Drop the item where you want it.

Use this feature to share links in Messages, add images to Notes, and more. It takes a little coordination—and sometimes both hands or at least multiple fingers—to make it happen, but once you get it down, it's a really smooth way to share and add things.

11
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Enhance Memories with Apple Music

Selecting Apple Music tracks for a Memory in Photos for iOS 15

The For You tab in Photos automatically assembles montages of pictures to commemorate particular days, years, or themes. If you have a lot of dog pictures, for example, it's definitely cobbled them together into a "Pet Friends" collection. Before iOS 15, you could add some stock instrumental music to inject a little mood into your memories, but if you have a subscription to Apple Music, you can add some more familiar tunes.

Open a memory, and then tap the screen to pull up a menu. Select the Music icon, and then swipe to try out some preselected tracks from bands you like. You can also select the icon with a plus sign on it for more options.

12
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Move the Safari Address Bar Back to the Top

The settings menu and "Show Top Address Bar" command in Safari for iOS 15

Safari in iOS 15 has a major change in how it handles tabs: You can move between the ones you have open by swiping left and right on the tab bar at the bottom of the screen, which also functions as an address bar. If you miss the address bar's old location, however, you can turn the tab feature off. To do so, tap the AA icon to the left, and then select Show Top Address Bar. Note that doing so will also turn off the swipe function, so if you want that back, return to the AA menu and select Show Bottom Tab Bar.

FAQ
  • How do I get iOS 15?

    To update to iOS 15, see if the update is available on your iPhone. Go to Settings > General > Software Update; if the iOS 15 update is available, tap Download and Install, and then follow the prompts.

  • How do I turn off auto updates on my iPhone?

    If you want to disable the automatic software update feature, tap Settings > General > Software Update. Next, tap Automatic Updates, and then tap the toggle next to Automatic Updates to disable the feature.

  • How do I update apps on an iPhone?

    To update apps manually, open the App Store app and tap your account profile picture or icon. Under the Available Updates header, locate the app you wish to update and tap Update. To turn on automatic app updates, go to Settings > App Store > Automatic Downloads and toggle on the switch next to App Updates.

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