Apple Unveils iOS Update With New FaceTime, Privacy Features

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Apple has unveiled the next version of iOS at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference. Expected to launch later this year on the next generation of iPhones, iOS 15 comes with updates to FaceTime like opening up to Windows and Android users, privacy improvements in Siri and email, and support for home keys and IDs in the Wallet, among other new features.

Apple’s also updating the software for iPads and Apple Watch, with new productivity and mindfulness features.

With more people turning to video calls in the past year and growing competition from other apps, FaceTime was due for an update. New features include spatial audio to put the voice where it comes from on the screen, portrait mode to blur out the caller’s background, microphone improvements to reduce background noise and a grid view for multiple callers.

To watch videos or listen to music together, Apple introduced SharePlay on Facetime. This syncs the playback on two devices and allows shared controls and screen sharing.

Furthermore, for the first iPhone users will be able to have Facetime calls with non-iOS users. Anyone with the latest Edge or Chrome browser on a Windows or Android device can join a Facetime call. Invites can be sent via email or third-party apps.

Siri on-device processing, email protection

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iOS 15 comes with several new privacy features. Apple is notably moving processing of audio in Siri requests on device. This means the user information will no longer be sent to Apple servers for processing, but be handled on the iPhone, by default.

The new feature Mail Privacy Protection stops senders from learning whether an email has been opened, and hides IP addresses so senders can’t learn a user’s location or use it to build a profile on them.

With the new software, iOS users also can access an App Privacy Report. This provides an overview of how an app used the access granted to location, photos, camera, microphone and contacts in the last seven days, and which other domains are contacted.

iPhone as a hotel room key

Apple Wallet is getting support for more types of keys. Last summer, Apple introduced digital car keys, and this year, Ultra Wideband technology was added. Next, the iPhone with iOS 15 can be used to unlock a user’s home, office or hotel room, when using supporting third-party locks.

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In addition, from later this year, customers in participating states in the US will be able to add their driver’s license or state IDs to Wallet. The Transportation Security Administration is working to enable airport security checkpoints as the first place customers can use their digital Identity Card in Wallet. Identity Cards in Wallet are encrypted and safely stored in the Secure Element of the phone.

Apple released a developer preview of iOS 15, and a public beta will be available to iOS users next month. Other new features on iOS 15 include:

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Focus, to filter notifications and apps based on what a user wants to focus on. Customers can create a custom Focus or rely on suggestions based on on-device intelligence and context, like during their work hours or while they’re winding down for bed.

A redesign of Notifications, adding contact photos for people and larger icons for apps. A new notification summary will group non-time-critical notifications into a summary for delivery all at one moment in the day, while urgent and personal communications are delivered immediately.

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Single apps or conversations can be muted for an hour or day.

Live Text uses on-device intelligence to recognize text in a photo and allow users to take action. For example, users can search for and locate the picture of a handwritten family recipe, or capture a phone number from a storefront with the option to place a call.
Storage service iCloud is renamed iCloud+ and comes with new features such as Hide My Email, expanded HomeKit Secure Video support, and iCloud Private Relay, at no additional cost.

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The email service allows users to generate temporary email addresses if they don’t want to share their private address in a mail, while Private Relay encrypts all traffic sent from the device, sent over two internet relays to keep their identity and web traffic separate. Current iCloud subscribers will be upgraded to iCloud+ automatically this fall.
Siri expands to third-party devices based on HomeKit. ‘Hey Siri’-enabled accessories will relay requests through HomePod or HomePod mini and will support features such as Personal Requests, Intercom, timers, and alarms.

Better multitasking on iPad

The new iOS also comes with enhancements specific to the iPad. iPadOS 15 introduces a better multitasking experience, making features like Split View and Slide Over easier to use on the tablet. In addition, Notes goes systemwide with Quick Note, and new widget layouts for the Home Screen and App Library help organize apps. Translate delivers new features for translating text and conversations, and users can now build apps for iPhone and iPad, on iPad, with Swift Playgrounds.

‘Reflect’ sessions on new Breathe app

For Apple Watch, the company previewed watchOS 8. This comes with updates to the Wallet and Home apps, such as UWB digital car keys, on-watch video from HomeKit-based security cameras and an intercom for smart home systems with HomePod.

In addition to syncing with the new Focus function in iOS 15, the Breathe app on Apple Watch has been renamed Mindfulness and gets the new session type ‘Reflect’ to help users relax. Other new additions include Tai Chi and Pilates workout types, a new Portraits watch face and enhancements to Messages and the Photos app.

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