These Are the Best New Features in iOS 15 and iPadOS 15

A "boring" update? No way

Key Takeaways

  • iOS 15 brings all kinds of enhancements and improvements across the board.
  • Live Text and image lookup bring the outside world inside your iPhone.
  • Despite the bad press, Safari is much improved.
iOS 15 and new features on iPhone


Is iOS 15 the boring non-update that many claim? No way. It’s full of great new features, so let’s check them out. 

iOS 15 and iPadOS 15 are mostly about improving what’s already there, but it also has slipped in some major new features. We’ve been using the betas throughout the summer, and we thought we’d share the most interesting, exciting, and useful new sections of Apple’s latest updates.

Just remember, you can install iOS 15 on most, if not all, devices that can run iOS 14, but you may not get access to the fancier features. 

Live Text

Live Text recognizes text in photos, and lets you select it and use it, just like text in any other app. Once you get used to it, it’s pretty wild. For example, you could take a snap of a complex password from the bottom of a Wi-Fi router, copy it by swiping your finger over the photo, then paste it into the password field.

Live Text also indexes (locally, on your device), all the photos in your library, and enables search. Oddly, this search has to be done from Spotlight, not the Photos app, but it will pick up text on menus, maps, road signs, shopping receipts...anything.

Also, apps can build it in. Craft app, for example, lets you open a camera, point it at text, and clip that text straight into the app.

For You

“For You/Shared With You” is a thread that runs through many apps. You know when you’re looking for a photo someone sent you, but can’t remember if it came via iMessage, or email, or whatever? Now, you just go to the Shared With You section in the Photos app, and it’s all there, and each image has a link back to the original message. 

Shared with You section in Photos app in iPadOS 15


It’s not just photos, either. In Safari, there’s a new homepage section with shared links, and so on.

This feature will get better as more apps add support for it, but even now it’s extremely useful. 

Also worth a mention is the new quick save option in the Messages app. This appears next to every photo, and you just tap it to save that photo to your camera roll. 

Safari Tab Groups

Tab groups are like folders of bookmarks, but they update themselves. That is, you open a group, open and close tabs, and browse like usual. When you switch to another group, its state is saved, and synced between all your devices (Mac, iPhone, and iPad). 

It’s like being able to put a set of tabs on ice until you need them again, and it cleans up Safari a ton.

Safari Tab Groups in iPadOS 15


Safari Extensions

Safari has seen a lot of changes this year, and now it can use desktop browser extensions. Already available extensions include an add-on for 1Blocker, which removes YouTube ads; a full-on desktop-class extension for 1Password; and StopTheMadness, which is essential for stopping sites from hijacking your browser’s features. 

Although they’re essentially the same extensions you see in Chrome, Apple has added in some welcome privacy protections

Quick Notes

Select some text in a web page, and you can highlight it, then save it to a Quick Note. Whenever you return to that page, the text stays highlighted. It’s like marking up the web, and—along with Live Text—it’s the most useful feature in iPadOS 15 (it’s iPad and Mac-only). 

Better Multitasking

Using multiple apps together on the iPad is still a pain, but it’s a bit easier to use. Now, instead of having to memorize arcane finger gestures, you just tap the new three-dot icon at the top of the screen, then choose a second app to fill half the screen. It’s also harder to lose track of all these app pairs, thanks to a row of thumbnails that appears every time you switch apps, or when you tap the Dock icon of the current app. 

Multitasking on iPad with iPadOS 15


iPad Widgets

Finally, the iPad gets home screen widgets, and a new super-sized widget option. It’s possible to put an entire calendar on your home screen, or a to-do list, or your email inbox. Widgets are cool on the iPhone, but a whole lot more useful on the iPad, where the icon-grid home screen never made much sense anyway.

There’s a lot more in iOS 15 and iPadOS 15, but these are some of the highlights. So, don’t let anyone tell you there’s nothing new. Just dive in and take a look.

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