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11 useful iOS 15 features every iPhone user should know

Dave Johnson   

11 useful iOS 15 features every iPhone user should know
  • New iOS 15 features include the ability to unlock your iPhone while wearing a face mask and the option to copy text from photos with Live Text.
  • iOS 15 is the latest release of Apple's iPhone operating system, and its subsequent iterations come with a variety of important updates to previous features.
  • Here are 11 of the most important features in iOS 15 that you should know about.

Roughly once a year, Apple releases a new version of the iPhone's operating system, and each year we get a collection of new and refined features. In the early days of iOS, it was easy to impress since the first version of the iPhone didn't even include copy and paste.

Managing to build on previous iOS generations in several compelling ways, iOS 15 includes a collection of new capabilities and some polish on existing features. Here are 11 features in iOS that every iPhone user should know.

1. Unlock your iPhone with a face mask on

The latest iPhone software update, iOS 15.4, includes a feature that helps Face ID recognize your face while you're wearing a face mask. Note that the feature only works to unlock iPhone 12 and 13 models that are updated to iOS 15.4.

2. Share your screen in FaceTime with SharePlay

One of the most compelling new features in iOS 15 is the ability to do more than conduct a face-to-face meeting in FaceTime. Now you can share your screen and media, like music and video, with SharePlay. To do that, just start a FaceTime call and then tap the SharePlay button at the top right of the screen. In the pop-up, tap Share My Screen.

Anyone else on the call can now see your screen, but if you want to share media like music, photos or video, swipe up from the bottom of the screen to go to the iPhone's home screen, and then start the app you want to share. You can play music in the Music app, start streaming video in a video app, or show images in the Photos app.

Quick tip: If you are sharing subscription content, it will only be shared if the other party in the call has a subscription to that app or service as well.

3. Let Windows and Android users join a FaceTime call

For the first time, non-iOS users can take part in FaceTime calls. To get users on those other devices into a call, start FaceTime and then tap Create Link at the top of the page. When the Share pop-up appears, send the link to your recipients any way you like — such as via email or text message. The recipients simply need to click or tap the link and you'll get a notification on your iPhone that someone wants to join your FaceTime call.

4. Use Live Text to copy text from photos

You can now hold your camera up to text in the real world, such as text in a book, on a road sign, or in a restaurant menu, and paste it into a document. It won't simply be a picture of the text, but fully editable text.

To use the Live Text feature, open the app where you want the text to appear, such as an email, and tap and hold where you want to place the text. The toolbar pop-up should appear. Tap the Scan Text button, which looks like lines of text enclosed in brackets. The camera viewfinder will now appear at the bottom of the screen. Position the camera to capture the text you want to insert — you should see a bracket surrounding the text. Tap Insert and the text should appear in the document.

You can also simply open any image in your Photos app with text, tap on text in the image, drag the highlighted field to encompass all the text you need, and tap the highlighted field then tap Copy in the pop-up menu.

5. Filter your notifications with Focus

With iOS 15, Apple introduces the concept of Focus, which lets you filter your notifications based on your activity and how much distraction you're willing to tolerate. The Sleep filter might limit all notifications, for example, while Personal might allow through notifications from specific apps and phone calls from important contacts.

To get started with Focus, swipe down from the top right of the screen and tap Focus in the Control Center. There are a half-dozen default Focus filters to choose from, and if it says Get Started, tap it to configure what notifications you will allow when it's on. If it's already configured, tap the three dots and then Settings to modify it.

When you want to concentrate, just tap the Focus filter you want to enable. To turn it off again, open the Control Center and tap the active Focus button to disable it.

6. Drag and drop between apps

You can now drag content from one app to another. For example, you can drag a photo from the Photos app and drop it into a message in the Messages app. Unfortunately, doing this takes a little practice and finger dexterity.

Suppose you want to insert a photo into a message. Open the Photos app and find the photo you want to share. Tap and hold the photo, then start to drag it until it moves a bit within the app. Now, without lifting that finger, use a different finger to swipe the app up to return to the home page. Open the Messages app (while continuing to hold the photo down with your original finger) and finally release the photo in the message you want to paste it into (you should see a green plus sign at the top right of the photo when it's safe to let go).

7. Use tab groups in Safari

The browser on your laptop has had tab groups for years, so it's about time you could create a tab group in Safari for iOS as well. To create a tab group, start Safari and then tap the Open Tabs button at the bottom right. Tap the menu at the bottom center that indicates how many tabs you have open and tap New Empty Tab Group. Name the group and save it.

Any new tabs you open will belong to this group, though you can repeat the process to create separate tab groups, each with their own collection of tabs.

8. Find out how your apps are spying on you

Apple is doubling down on privacy protection, and now you can access an informative App Privacy Report that shows you how the apps on your phone are using the permissions you've allowed, such as location, camera, microphone, and other services.

You need to opt into the App Privacy Report. To do that, start the Settings app and tap Privacy, then scroll to the bottom and tap App Privacy Report. Tap Turn on App Privacy Report and it'll start collecting information about your apps. Return here any time to see the report.

9. Change the size of text in any app

You probably know that you have some control over the size of text in iOS, so if you want larger text you can scale it up everywhere on your iPhone at once. But thanks to iOS 15, you can change the text size on an app-by-app basis.

Start the Settings app and tap Control Center. Tap the plus sign next to Text Size to add this to the Control Center. Now when you're in an app and want the text to be larger, pull down the Control Center from the top right of the screen and tap the Text Size icon. Make sure the toggle at the bottom is set to the current app rather than All Apps, and drag the sizing slider up or down until you're satisfied.

10. Get AR walking directions in Maps

Apple Maps has always been playing a bit of catch-up with Google Maps, but with iOS 15 it has leapfrogged ahead in a few important ways. One of the most intriguing updates is that you can get walking directions in augmented reality. As you walk, hold the phone up so it can see nearby buildings, and Maps will overlay street names and your walking instructions over live video of your route.

To get your AR walking directions, plan a route in the usual way and select walking instructions after you tap the route button. Tap Go, and then tap the AR cube button on the right side of the map.

11. Put the Safari address bar back at the top

Here's a feature you might want to try simply to restore Safari to the way it was before the iOS 15 update. You might have noticed that Safari's address bar and menu is now located at the bottom of the screen (in principle, to make it easier to reach). But it looks a little weird down there, and if you can't quite get used to seeing it at the bottom, it's easy to put back on top. Tap the AA button at the left side of the address bar and then, in the menu, tap Show Top Address Bar.


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