The Very Best New Features in iOS 15

FaceTime, Live Texts, Quick Notes, and more

Key Takeaways

  • Apple announced the new features of iOS 15 at its developer conference this week.
  • The beta is available for developers, and the final release will be in the fall.
  • Quick Notes may be the best thing ever.
iOS 15 and its SharePlay in FaceTime and Live Text features

Apple

On the surface, iOS 15 might look like a pedestrian update, but that’s like saying a brownie isn’t delicious just because it doesn’t have 20 cherries and a pile of cream on top. 

iOS 15 and iPadOS 15 (henceforth referred to as just iOS 15) do get some great new features. We won’t try to cover everything, but we’ll look at the changes that will have the most impact on you, the user. 

"It's true that iOS 15 doesn't have any flashy new features that will set the internet and world abuzz," cybersecurity analyst Eric Florence told Lifewire via email. "At this point, Apple hasn't released a ground-breaking new iOS in years now and it's unlikely that they will any time soon. Still, there is a lot to be thankful and excited for with iOS 15."

FaceTime

This is more of a catch up for Apple’s video chat software, which has lagged behind Zoom and other competitors. For instance, now you can generate a link to a FaceTime call, and share it with anyone. People who don’t have Apple devices can then join in on the web, just like Zoom.

In fact, this may be the most important change to FaceTime in years, because now you can host small get-togethers, meetings, yoga classes, etc., without the privacy hassles of Zoom. 

iOS 15 portrait mode in FaceTime

Apple

The fanciest FaceTime features are the ones we’re least likely to use in the long term. SharePlay lets you watch movies together, in sync, while still chatting, or listen to the same music. That would have been great during 2020’s lockdowns, but interest in such a feature today is likely to fade. But there’s one other fantastic FaceTime feature: Screen sharing.

Now, when you call your parents to troubleshoot their Apple device, you’ll no longer have to ask Mom to point her iPhone’s camera at the screen of Dad’s iPad to see what’s what. Now you can share their screen and help fix stuff that way. 

Live Text

Another incredible addition is LiveText, which recognizes text in photos, screenshots, or live through the camera, and turns it into selectable, copy-able text. You can translate restaurant menus in real time, grab text from images on Twitter, and so on. It’s similar to a feature Google Translate has had for years, but it’s integrated throughout the entire system. It’s also a big win for accessibility—you can point the camera at a sign and have it read to you. 

Related are some startling Spotlight features. For instance, point the camera at a plant or a good doggy, and ask your phone what kind of plant or dog it is. The phone will tell you the breed or the species, which is pretty wild. Just don’t use it for checking whether mushrooms are safe to eat. Even humans can be easily fooled there. 

Quick Notes

Quick Notes might be my favorite new iOS feature in years. You access it by swiping up from the bottom right corner of the iPad’s screen, and you can jot a quick note. But that’s not the cool part.

If you highlight some text on a page in Safari, then clip it to your note, that text stays highlighted, even when you come back to that page in the future. You can also see your clipping in the Notes app, and you can go back to that marked-up page. Apple calls these "persistent highlights," and they’re going to be so useful. For me, I spend a lot of time clipping info from emails and news stories for my articles, but it could be used for recipes, shopping research, anything. 

iPad Multitasking

Hopes were high that iOS 15 would bring completely redesigned multitasking to the iPad, and those hopes have been dashed. But Apple has improved things enough that people might want to use it. 

At the top of every window is a new multitasking icon. Tap it, and you can have the current app fill just half the screen. Then, you can navigate your iPad as usual, and when you tap another app, it fills the other half of the screen. No more cryptic swipe gestures that might activate by mistake. 

iPadOS 15 split view and app multitasking

Apple

Another great addition is that, when you’re looking at multiple apps in the app-switcher view, you can just drag one on top of another to combine them into a split view. And the iPad now has a menu bar! Apple isn’t calling it that, but the old keyboard shortcuts panel has turned into a menu bar. In fact, if a developer has modified their app to also run on the Mac using Catalyst, the Mac menu items will show up on the iPad. 

It’s not proper windows, but it’s not bad, either 

Shared With You

My final favorite feature is Shared with You. You know how sometimes you’re looking for that photo someone sent, but you can’t remember if it was in an email, a message, or even who it was from? Now, iOS 15 automatically files shared items where you will find them.

For instance, photos are collected in a Shared with You section in the Photos app, links in Safari, music in the Music app, and so on. So you always know where to look.

iOS 15 is full of these quality-of-life improvements. They might not have the immediate impact of Google’s Material You makeover, but they will make the iPhone and iPad (and also the Mac) way easier to use. And those are the kinds of improvements we like.

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