iOS 16: Every Major New Feature Apple Revealed at WWDC

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This story is part of WWDC 2022, CNET’s complete coverage from and about Apple’s annual developers conference.

iOS 16, Apple’s next major iPhone operating system, made a big splash at WWDC 2022, Apple’s annual developer conference. With iOS 16 you’ll be able to edit messages you already sent in the Messages app, and you get new tools to personalize your iPhone with like the ability to customize the way your lock screen looks and new privacy features for those in abusive relationships. All these add up to an iOS that feels fresh and contemporary. iOS 16 will likely be released this September alongside the heavily rumored iPhone 14 and will be available for the iPhone 8 and later.

Apple’s announcements about iOS 16 took place outdoors on the lawn at Apple Park, the company’s headquarters in Cupertino, California. The May 16 release of iOS 15.5 included updates to Apple Cash, Photos Memories and the Podcasts app. Apple also recently launched a developer beta for iOS 15.6, which at this time lacks any major new features and seems mainly about fixing bugs.

iOS 16 lets you edit and ‘unsend’ messages

“Embarrassing typos are a thing of the past,” said Apple Senior Vice President of Software Engineering Craig Federighi as he introduced three of the most requested features for the Messages app.

First, in iOS 16 you’ll be able to edit sent messages. So if you notice a typo after a message, you’ll be able to edit the message after the fact. A tiny “edited” appears in the status under the message.

A screenshot of the iOS 16 Messages app showing one that's been edited

In Messages, you can edit previously sent messages.


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Next — and this might be my favorite new feature — you can immediately recall a sent message. If you accidentally sent an unfinished message, you can use the undo send tool to prevent it from being read and hopefully look less chaotic to your friends and family.

Lastly, you can mark messages and threads as unread. This is an excellent tool for when you don’t have time to respond to a message in the moment, but want to make sure you come back to it later.

Your iPhone gets a new customizable lock screen

One of the things you look at the most on your iPhone is the lock screen, especially if you have a Face ID-equipped iPhone. iOS 16 brings the most substantial update to the iPhone’s lock screen yet. Press and hold to edit your lock screen: You can swipe to try out the several different styles. Each style changes the color filter, the background and the font to complement each other.

You can also customize the fonts for the time and date to your liking, and add lock screen widgets like temperature, activity rings and a calendar. The widgets are akin to complications on the Apple Watch lock screen. 

Your iPhone will become a lot more customizable in iOS 16. You’ll be able to choose how your lock screen looks, down to the font and color.


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You can set up multiple customized lock screens with different widgets and easily swipe to switch between them. There’s even a photo-shuffle option that automatically changes the pictures on your lock screen.

One feature we hoped to see Apple add was an always-on display. It’s something nearly all Android phones have; even the Apple Watch does. I guess there’s hope it’ll come out with the iPhone 14.

A screenshot of the Live Activities tool on the bottom of the lock screen

iOS 16 adds a feature that developers can use called Live Activities. This is essentially a mini way to view the real-time progress of a workout, sporting event or Uber ride from your iPhone’s lock screen, instead of getting multiple notifications.


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Notifications and live activities

Sometimes notifications can cover up your photo, so iOS 16 moves lock screen notifications to the bottom of your display as you receive them. This should be a big help for one-handed use of your iPhone.

iOS 16 also aims to solve another notification problem. Sometimes you get a bunch of notifications in a row from one app, like the score of a basketball game. A new tool for developers called Live Activities makes it easier to stay on top of things that are happening in real time from your lock screen, instead of getting a series of interruptions.

Live Activities should make it easier to follow things like sporting events or even the progress of an Uber ride.

Wallet and Apple Pay Later

ID cards will be available in your Wallet app in more states, with more security and privacy features. In iOS 16 you can protect your identity and age. So rather than providing your exact birth date, you can simply put that you’re over 21.

iOS 16 makes sharing keys easier with apps like Mail and Messages. When your friend receives the key, they can add it to their Wallet. Apple said it’s working to make sure that shared keys are an industry standard and free for others.

A screenshot of cards in the Wallet app for iOS 16

The Wallet app in iOS 16 gets a bunch of small but notable updates, including the Apple Pay Later payment plan.


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Apple Pay will support new types of payments and adds a new feature called Apple Pay Later, a Klarna-like service that lets you split the cost of an Apple Pay purchase into four equal payments spread over six weeks, with zero interest and no fees. Upcoming payments are managed through the Wallet app, making it easy to keep track of dates and payments.

But Apple Pay doesn’t stop there. A new feature will also help you track Apple Pay orders and lets merchants deliver detailed receipts and tracking information. This should make it easier to stay up to date on the status of all your orders.

A screenshot of a thread in Messages where a cutout of a dog is added

You can tap and hold on the subject of a photo and separate it from the background. Then you can drag it into another app like Messages to share it.


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Tap and drag for photos

In iOS 15, Visual Look Up analyzes your photos and can identify objects. iOS 16 takes this to the next level. When you touch a photo’s subject like the dog in the image above, you can lift it away from the background and add it to apps like Messages.

Apple sometimes overuses the word “magic,” but this feature truly seems like it.

Craig Federighi introduces SharePlay in Messages in front of a giant screen

During the keynote for WWDC, Apple executive Craig Federighi introduces SharePlay for the Messages app.


Apple

SharePlay comes to Messages

SharePlay, which debuted in iOS 15, lets you have a shared experience while connecting with someone over FaceTime. You can watch TV shows, listen to music in sync and other things. iOS 16 adds the ability to discover SharePlay apps from within FaceTime.

But perhaps one of the coolest things Apple did for SharePlay was to make it work within the Messages app. Apple said that this was one of the biggest requests from developers. Now when you want to share a movie on Disney Plus, you can start SharePlay together while chatting in Messages.

An Apple executive presents the Safety Check feature during the WWDC keynote

Safety Check lets you quickly reset location sharing and access to passwords. It’s intended to be helpful for people in abusive relationships.


Apple

Safety Check aims to help people in abusive relationships

Safety Check is a new feature intended to be helpful for people in abusive relationships.

It lets you review and reset who has access to location information as well as passwords, messages and other iPhone apps on an iPhone.

Focus mode updates and Focus filters

Focus mode gets several updates. The first applies Focus behaviors to widgets and lock screen looks. So you could have one lock screen set for when your Work Focus is enabled and another for workouts.

Apple added specific Focus filters that apply your iPhone’s Focus mode within apps. For example, in Safari, you can limit what tabs are shown depending on what Focus mode you have active.

Apple Maps adds transit fare cards

Maps will get several updates. You’ll be able to plan trips with up to 15 different stops along the way. If you start planning a trip with the Maps app on your Mac, you’ll be able to share that to your iPhone.

And in something similar to what Google announced for Google Wallet in Android 13, you’ll be able to see transit fare estimates as well as add more money to a fare card from within Apple Maps.

Craig Federighi shows off the new Quick Start feature during the WWDC keynote

In iOS 16 you’ll be able to customize Quick Start with a specific child’s iCloud parental controls and settings.


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iCloud family checklist

iCloud gets several new features. One of the more interesting ones is the option to set up a new device for your child. When Quick Start appears, you have the option to pick a user to set up the new device for and use all the parental controls you’ve previously selected and configured. However, this is not what many of us are still hoping for: the ability to set up separate users for the same device.

There’s a new family checklist with tips for updating settings for your kids as they get older, like a reminder to check location-sharing settings or share your iCloud Plus subscriptions.

For more, check out everything Apple announced at WWDC 2022.


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