What you get with iOS 15/iPadOS 15
Despite the extent of this list, you will still be gaining a slew of new features when you do upgrade your operating system(s). Focus, for example, will help you keep your head down to get things done, while the new design of Safari at present seems like great news to anyone else creating browsers for iOS. Maps gives new views, including 3D views, and you’ll get much better sound during FaceTime calls. Photos gets much better at identifying and sharing memories selected from \ your collection. Live Text, a slew of privacy protecting features, and excellent improvements to Contacts, Notes and Reminders — including support for tags — should give most iPhone and iPad users plenty of useful new tools.
Enterprises will also benefit from a far more powerful MDM system.
What you won’t get with 15
What follows are features that are slated to be made available in a later software update.
One additional caveat is that some features, particularly those that make use of AI, will only be supported on iPhone XS or newer. These include such tools Live Text in photos, for instance. There are also a small number of features that require you have a very recent iPhone.
Perhaps the most exciting improvement we’ll be left waiting for pending introduction of macOS Monterey, Universal Control lets you use a single mouse and keyboard to control up to three devices, so long as they are all logged in to the same Apple ID. You can move your cursor between all the screens and drag-&-drop items between devices, making it far easier to work with multiple devices.
Universal Control won’t be available until the next iteration of macOS ships. It will work with iPad Pro, iPad Air 3 or later, iPad 6 or later, and iPad mini 5 or later. You’ll also need a MacBook Pro (2016 and later), MacBook (2016 and later), MacBook Air (2018 and later), iMac (2017 and later), iMac (5K Retina 27-inch, Late 2015), iMac Pro, Mac mini (2018 and later), or Mac Pro (2019).
Originally announced as being made available as an iOS 15 update, Apple has decided to spend time improving its controversial CSAM plans. Given the company’s recent decision to suspend an app from Russia’s opposition leader from its store just before an election, many continue to feel that the CSAM tools should never see the light of day.
How can Apple prevent mission creep with these? It cannot.
[Also read: A business user’s guide to Apple’s upgrade season]
One of the improvements that didn’t get a great deal of attention when announced, Swift Playgrounds 4 will let you use your iPad to create apps for Apple’s mobile devices that can then be submitted to the App Store. The ability to upload apps to the store will debut as a subsequent software update in 15.
App Privacy Report
Coming later this year, Apple’s improved App Privacy report should give deeper insight into what apps are doing with your privacy by letting you see what sensors and data the app has accessed each week. If you find an app using the camera and has no reason to do so, you’ll be able to suspend access privileges or delete the app. Mail Privacy Protection helps prevent email senders from learning about your Mail activity.
ID cards in Wallet
In some states and some countries, it will be possible to store digital versions of government IDs inside the Wallet app. This feature is supposedly set to launch later this year.
iCloud+ features are coming soon
Existing iCloud accounts will be upgraded to iCloud+ automatically when the service is fully operational later this fall. This means its landmark features, including iCloud Private Relay, custom email domains, and Hide my Email won’t be available on launch.
iCloud Private Relay encrypts Safari traffic as it leaves your device, protecting it from being read by others. It means you can feel a little more secure when using public Wi-Fi or other networks, as your requests are sent through two separate internet relays so no one — including Apple — can see who you are and what sites you visit. The protection isn’t perfect, but is far better than before. You may find some websites may have issues, such as showing content for the wrong region or requiring extra steps to sign in when you use iCloud Private Relay.
Custom email domains let you personalize your iCloud Mail address with a custom domain name. Once you configure iCloud as the email provider for your domain, you can set up as many as three personal aliases for your iCloud email address and invite your family members to use the same domain with their iCloud Mail accounts.
Hide My Email will let users create unique, random email addresses that forward to your personal inbox, so you can send and receive email without sharing your real email address. There’s no limit to how many you can create and you can disable them at will. Hide My Email support in Mail is coming in a software update later this year.
Digital Legacy program
Apple’s Digital Legacy program is an important scheme in that it begins to formalize a process through which you can pass on your personal information to family members and friends in the event you pass away. It does so by letting users define Legacy Contacts who will be given the right to download this information. The one thing you can’t leave behind – and I think it should be possible – is your books, movies and music. The Digital Legacy Program is coming in a later software update.
While ostensibly not an enterprise-focused feature, SharePlay does have some potential. Apple has introduced it as a way for you to share music, TV shows, and anything you can share from your screen with others from within a FaceTime call. It’s a consumer feature, but it’s one developers may be able to make use of in their apps, thanks to a set of APIs the company has made available.
Find your AirPods
Apple has promised that it will make it possible to find lost AirPods Pro and AirPods Max using its huge end-to-end encrypted Find My network. This will guide you to the last known place your AirPods were found, and let you make them chirp to help you find them.
We don’t yet know when all these features will be available, but we can speculate many will be introduced with the release of macOS Monterey later this fall.
One more thing: Every year we see millions of Apple customers attempt to upgrade to the latest iteration of the OS almost as soon as it is introduced. This can lead to slow downloads and a frustrating upgrade experience. It usually makes sense to wait 24 hours or so until things settle down and any unexpected problems with an upgrade reveal themselves.
Apple is expected to release iOS 15/iPadOS 15 at 10 a.m. PT/1 p.m. ET today.