One of the features Apple announced for iOS 15 is Legacy Contacts, a way to ensure that your digital life outlives you – if you would like it to.
The company hasn’t yet launched it, saying only that it is “coming in a software update to iOS 15,” but there are signs that Apple is preparing for its introduction …
As we store more and more data digitally, a growing concern is that all of it could be lost in the event of our death. We’ve outlined in the past the risk to family photos in particular.
We’ve previously detailed some steps you can take today, including leaving device passwords and Apple ID credentials with a lawyer, alongside a copy of your will.
First of all, you may want to think about including your device passwords in a letter with a will. Without that, all the data on them may be rendered inaccessible. That could well include things with huge sentimental value, like family photos or that novel you’ve been working on […]
Your Apple ID also holds the key to everything you’ve ever bought from iTunes. Think about that. In the old days, your family could continue to enjoy your music, books and movies simply by reaching onto the shelf for a CD, paperback or DVD. But every app, every piece of music, every TV show, every movie, every book or audiobook you ever bought through iTunes is inaccessible to them without your Apple credentials. That’s a huge volume of valuable assets they can’t easily access.
But Apple is aiming to make the process a little easier with a new feature called Legacy Contacts.
The Digital Legacy programme allows you to designate people as Legacy Contacts so they can access your account and personal information in the event of your death.
The way the feature will work is this. If you want one or more friends or family members to be able to access your iCloud data after your death, you will be able to name them, and provide them with a security key. The key will not be usable while you are alive – Apple will only activate it if supplied with proof of your death, which would normally be a copy of your death certificate.
It’s worth noting that not all of your data will be accessible, as some of it is protected with end-to-end encryption. This includes Apple Card transactions, health data, keychain entries, and browser history.
Macworld spotted two signs of readiness for launch. First, the company has updated the iCloud usage agreement.
With Digital Legacy, you can choose to add one or more contacts to access and download certain data in your account after your death.
If your designated contacts provide proof of death to Apple and have the required key, they will automatically obtain access to that certain account data and activation lock will be removed from all your devices. Thus, it is your responsibility to keep your Digital Legacy contacts up to date.
Second, Apple has a microsite for Legacy Contacts to request access to your account and devices after your death.
Request access to a deceased friend or family member’s account. If you are the legacy contact for a deceased person, you can request access to their account and have the activation lock removed from their devices.
There are links there to two support documents, but these currently redirect to the main support page.
Every year, new iOS releases arrive with headline-grabbing features like SharePlay and Focus. Likewise, every year, iOS includes under-the-radar improvements that aren’t likely to generate headlines. In this hands-on video I consider the top hidden iOS 15 features that I’ve stumbled upon.
While a few of these low-key features were demonstrated in my top iOS 15 features overview, the majority are enhancements that I haven’t yet showcased for the public version of iOS 15. Here’s a full list of all of the sleeper features covered in this video, along with a brief commentary on why I think each feature is beneficial.
Return of the editing loupe
The editing loupe was a staple feature of iOS for years, but was inexplicably removed. The loupe magnifies the immediate area around the cursor to help with precise movement. Needless to say, it’s an iOS 15 features that I welcome back with open arms.
Mute notifications for individual apps
You can now mute notifications via Notification Center on a per-app basis. Simply swipe on the notification, select Options, and mute for 1 hour or for the entire day.
Reorder Home Screen pages
You can now quickly reorder Home Screen pages by going into edit mode and tapping the page dots to enter the page editor.
Delete Home Screen pages
Within the page editor, it’s now possible to outright delete hidden Home Screen pages, sending all of its apps to the App Library.
Drag and drop support
iPadOS has enjoyed true drag and drop support for several years now, and iPhone users can now join in on the fun. Try dragging an image from the Photos app to a Messages app thread, or drag a URL directly from Safari into Notes.
Live Text shortcut
Live Text is one of the headline features in iOS 15, and if you tap in a text field to open the copy paste menu, you’ll see a new capture text shortcut to quickly insert live text from anywhere.
Reduce Bass on HomePod
If you’re an apartment dweller, this is a feature that you’ll surely appreciate. Open the Home app, invoke your HomePod, and flip the Reduce Bass switch.
I often listen to ambient sounds on Apple Music at night to help me sleep. With iOS 15, ambient background sounds are built right into iOS. Simply go to Accessibility → Audio/Visual → Background Sounds.
Voice memos skip silence and adjust playback speed
iOS 15 lets you speed through voice memos with the adoption of skip silence and playback speed adjustments.
Long-press on the Shazam shortcut in Control Center to access Shazam listening history.
Playback speed with default video player
Press the ellipsis button in the bottom right-hand corner of the default video player to access awesome new playback speed options.
Zoom in with Quick Take
When taking a video with Quick Take, slide up or down to zoom in and out.
New QR code UI
A new AR-centric QR code UI appears in the stock camera app when a QR code appears in the viewfinder.
Photo picker order
iOS 15 will now respect the order of your selections when picking photos via the Photo picker.
Markup immediately available when editing photos
No longer are the markup options hidden behind a menu when editing photos in the Photos app.
iCloud Backup Over Cellular
Users on fast cellular connections now have the option to perform backups even when not connected to Wi-Fi. This option is perfect for those connected to speedy 5G cellular service.
Prepare for new iPhone on reset
iOS 15 helps you get ready for the iPhone 13 with a new Prepare for New iPhone checklist.
iCloud Data Recovery service
This service can help you recover data that is not yet end-to-end encrypted, such as photos, notes, and reminders.
Account Recovery Contact
It’s a good idea to establish an account recovery contact just in case you forget your device passcode and Apple ID password.
Use Groups with Files app
You can now group files in the Files app by Kind, Date, and Size.
Hybrid Time Picker
iOS 15 lets you cycle through the time picker old school style, complete with haptic feedback, but it also allows for direct time input with just a tap.
Updated AirPrint interface
An updated AirPrint UI comes with a new presets panel and the ability to select media and quality.
Built-in OTP authenticator
Finally! iOS 15 now supports one-time-passcodes for two-factor authentication. It will also auto-fill your one-time-passcodes for a totally seamless login experience. To set up one-time-passcodes, go to Settings → Password.
Pull to refresh in Safari
Safari gets tons of new additions like Tab Groups, and a new bottom address bar with built-in swipe gestures. But Safari gets an additional swipe gesture by finally bringing support for pull-to-refresh to Apple’s default browser for the first time.
Definitely don’t sleep on Safari’s new extensions capability, which lets users integrate apps and utilities such as Apollo or 1Password like never before. To activate available extensions, open Safari, tap the ‘Aa’ button, and click Manage Extensions.
Per-app accessibility settings
In the past, enabling an accessibility setting like Smart Invert would apply to iOS as a whole. In iOS 15, it’s now possible to apply accessibility settings on a per-app basis. Simply visit Settings → Accessibility → Per-App Settings.
If you’re multi-lingual, you’ll no doubt enjoy being able to search through all available keyboards in Settings → General → Keyboard → Keyboards → Add New Keyboard.
Download from Spotlight
A refreshed UI allows you to download apps from Spotlight directly without invoking the App Store.
Modified App Store search results for installed apps
If your App Store search results include apps that you already have installed, iOS 15 will present a minimized view of the app icon with no corresponding screenshots.
Spotlight web image search
You can now easily search the web for images via Spotlight.
Lock Screen access for Spotlight search
You can also access Spotlight search directly from the Lock Screen on an unlocked iPhone.
Uninstall apps via Spotlight
In iOS 15, it’s now possible to search for an app via Spotlight, long-press on the result, and delete the app right from Spotlight.
Continuous Siri dictation
iOS 15 affords users the ability to continually dictate text well beyond the limits of previous versions of iOS.
Share On Screen items with Siri (Screenshot)
You can ask Siri to share on-screen content with a friend.
Control Smart Home Devices at a Specific Time
You can also ask Siri to control Smart Home devices at a certain time, which will create an automation within the Home app.
Find My after power off
Finally, for devices logged in to the Find My network, you can now find your iPhone running iOS 15, even if the device has been powered off.
iOS 15 introduces Live Text using on-device intelligence, redesigned notifications, upgrades to Maps, and more.
iOS 15 introduces new ways to stay connected, powerful updates that help users focus and explore, and intelligent features to get more done with iPhone. FaceTime updates provide more natural video calls, Focus helps users reduce distraction, new features like Live Text use on-device intelligence to surface useful information, upgrades to Maps provide brand new ways to navigate the world, and much more. iOS 15 is available today as a free software update.
Enhancements for More Natural FaceTime Calls
FaceTime is more essential than ever, giving users a way to easily connect with the people who matter most. Powerful updates to FaceTime audio and video features make calls feel more natural and lifelike. With spatial audio, voices in a Group FaceTime call sound like they’re coming from the direction in which the person is positioned on the screen.1 Voice Isolation, a new microphone mode, uses machine learning to eliminate background noise and prioritize the user’s voice, while Wide Spectrum allows for every bit of background sound to come through. Inspired by the stunning portrait photos taken on iPhone, Portrait mode in FaceTime blurs a user’s background and puts them at the focus.2 Voice Isolation, Wide Spectrum, and Portrait mode can also be used with third-party apps, such as Webex, Zoom, and WhatsApp. Group FaceTime gives the option to display participants in same-size tiles in a new grid view.
With iOS 15, Group FaceTime displays participants in same-size tiles in a grid view.
FaceTime calls now extend beyond Apple devices, so people using an Android or Windows device can join from their web browser. FaceTime calls on the web remain end-to-end encrypted so privacy is not compromised. To initiate the call, iPhone, iPad, and Mac users simply create a FaceTime link and share it through Messages, Calendar, Mail, or third-party apps, making it easier than ever to connect with friends and family.
Later this fall, SharePlay will deliver a new way for users to share experiences with friends and family while on a FaceTime call, such as listening to songs together, watching a TV show or movie, completing a workout together, or sharing their screen to view apps. SharePlay will work with apps like Apple Music, Apple TV+, and Apple Fitness+, as well as Disney+, ESPN+, HBO Max, Hulu, MasterClass, Paramount+, Pluto TV, SoundCloud, TikTok, Twitch, and many others. SharePlay can be accessed through iPhone, iPad, and Mac, and with shared playback controls, anyone in a SharePlay session can play, pause, or jump ahead. SharePlay even extends to Apple TV, so users can watch shows or movies on a big screen.
More Ways to Stay Connected with Messages
Shared with You is a new section that appears in Photos, Safari, Apple News, Music, Apple Podcasts, and the Apple TV app that displays the photos, articles, music, and other content shared by friends and family in Messages. Shared with You automatically displays shared photos in the Photos app, news stories in Apple News, and other relevant content in the corresponding app. The Shared with You section shows who sent the content, and makes it easy to view the associated message and restart the conversation.
In iOS 15, Memoji brings even more ways for users to express themselves with multicolored headwear, more glasses styles, and new accessibility options including cochlear implants, oxygen tubes, and a soft helmet. Memoji stickers can be customized with more than 40 outfit options and nine new sticker poses including a shaka, hand wave, and light bulb moment.
The Shared with You section in Photos displays the photos shared by friends and family in Messages.
Powerful Tools to Find Focus in the Day
iOS 15 introduces Focus, a new way to help users reduce distraction by filtering notifications based on what a user wants to focus on in that moment. For example, the Work Focus can be set during work hours to only allow notifications from coworkers and apps that are used for work, the Personal Focus can be used when taking a break with friends and family, or the Fitness Focus can help a user stay in the zone while completing a workout. Users can create a custom Focus or select a provided Focus, which uses on-device intelligence to suggest which notifications from people and apps are allowed. To further extend the ability to focus, users can create dedicated Home Screen pages with relevant apps and widgets to match a specific Focus.
While using Focus, a status is automatically displayed to contacts in Messages and supported third-party communication apps like Slack, so they know not to interrupt. Users will even receive suggestions to turn on a Focus based on factors like time of day or location, and when Focus is set on one Apple device, it automatically applies to all of a user’s Apple devices.
Focus helps users filter notifications to reduce distractions, using a custom Focus or a suggested Focus like Work or Fitness.
A Fresh New Look for Notifications
Notifications have been redesigned, adding contact photos for people and larger icons for apps that make them even easier to identify. The notification summary is a collection of notifications delivered each day at scheduled times determined by the user. Using on-device intelligence, the summary is arranged by priority, with the most relevant notifications rising to the top based on how a user interacts with apps. Time-sensitive notifications, messages, and phone calls will be delivered immediately, so users won’t miss timely alerts, and it’s easy to temporarily mute any app or messaging thread for an hour or for the day.
iOS 15 introduces the notification summary, a collection of notifications delivered each day at the times selected by the user.
On-Device Intelligence Delivers Live Text, Advanced Spotlight Search, and Memories
Live Text makes text in photos interactive. Using on-device intelligence, Live Text recognizes text in photos across the entire system including the web, and allows users to take action, such as copy and paste, look up information, and translate. Users can even tap the image of a phone number to make a call, or the image of a web address to open a page in Safari. With the power of the Neural Engine, the Camera app can also quickly recognize and copy text in the moment, such as the Wi-Fi password displayed at a local coffee shop. With Visual Look Up, users can learn more about popular art, landmarks, and books, plants and flowers found in nature, and breeds of pets.
Spotlight is the universal way to start searches on iPhone and now it can be accessed directly from the Lock Screen, and includes the ability to search photos by location, people, scenes, or objects. Using Live Text, Spotlight can find text and handwriting in photos.
iOS 15 delivers the biggest update ever to Memories. With a fresh new look, interactive interface, and integration with Apple Music that uses on-device intelligence to suggest music tracks, new cinematic Memories makes it easier to relive favorite or forgotten moments.
Live Text uses on-device intelligence to identify text and enhance the photos experience.
Spotlight now searches photos by location, people, scenes, and objects.
Redesigned Browsing with Safari
Safari introduces a newly designed browsing experience that makes controls easier to reach. By default, the new tab bar is positioned at the bottom of the screen, so users can easily swipe between tabs with one hand. Tab Groups allow users to organize tabs and easily access them at any time across iPhone, iPad, or Mac, and a customizable start page and web extensions on iOS make Safari more powerful and personal than ever.
Safari is redesigned with a new tab bar and Tab Groups for an even better browsing experience.
Navigate and Explore with Apple Maps
Maps in iOS 15 introduces a whole new way of looking at the world. A visually stunning map offers unprecedented levels of detail for neighborhoods, commercial districts, buildings, as well as custom-designed landmarks, and a new night-time mode with a moonlit glow. Navigation features a new three-dimensional driving view with road details that help users more easily identify turn lanes, medians, crosswalks, and sidewalks. The enhanced map is available in Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco, with more to come. A beautifully designed interactive globe provides rich detail for mountain ranges, deserts, rainforests, and bodies of water.
Transit riders can get one-tap access to all departures near them and pin their favorite lines. Maps automatically follows along with a selected transit route, notifying users when it’s nearly time to disembark, and riders can even keep track on Apple Watch. By simply holding up iPhone, users can receive detailed walking directions in augmented reality.
Maps automatically follows along a selected transit ride and now notifies users when they are nearing their desired stop.
A three-dimensional city navigation and exploration experience comes to Apple Maps with more realistic and colorful details.
With iOS 15, users can access even more places with just a tap of their iPhone with new home, hotel, office, and car keys in Wallet. Digital car keys get even better with support for Ultra Wideband technology, so users can securely lock, unlock, and start their supported vehicle without removing their iPhone from a pocket or bag. iPhone can also be used to unlock a user’s home, office, or even a hotel room — all through keys stored in Wallet. Additionally, users will be able to add eligible state IDs and driver’s licenses to Wallet on iPhone as this option becomes available in their state in the future.
House and hotel room keys as well as ID cards come to Wallet for a simple tap-to-unlock experience for everyday places.
Redesigned Weather Experience
Weather includes an all-new design with full-screen maps, graphical displays of weather data, and dynamic layouts that change based on conditions. Beautifully animated backgrounds more accurately reflect sun position, clouds, and precipitation, and notifications indicate when rain or snow is about to start or stop.
The Weather app has been redesigned to include full-screen maps and dynamic layouts that change based on weather conditions.
Organize and Collaborate in Notes
Notes adds user-created tags that make it easy to quickly categorize notes and mentions that allow members of shared notes to notify one another of important updates. An all-new Activity view shows the recent history of a shared note, and Highlights reveals details on who made the changes. Quick Notes created on Mac and iPad can be viewed and edited in Notes.
Notes adds user-created tags that make it easy to quickly categorize notes in line with relevant content.
More Privacy Controls
New privacy features provide even more transparency and control over the data users provide to apps. Mail Privacy Protection prevents 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. Siri’s protection of user privacy goes even further with on-device speech recognition as users’ audio requests are now processed entirely on device by default, enabling more personalization, offline requests, and faster performance.6
Siri adds Announce Notifications on AirPods and the ability for users to share what’s on their screen just by asking. Siri can now be enabled in third-party HomeKit accessories, so HomePod and HomePod mini users can easily and securely ask Siri to send a message, set a reminder, or broadcast an Intercom message to the family from more devices in the home.7
iCloud+ combines everything users love about iCloud with new premium features, including Hide My Email, expanded HomeKit Secure Video support, and an innovative new internet privacy service, iCloud Private Relay.8 Current iCloud storage subscribers will be upgraded to iCloud+ automatically at no additional cost. All iCloud+ plans can be shared with people in the same Family Sharing group, so everyone can enjoy the new features, storage, and elevated experience that comes with the service.
The Health app gets a new sharing tab that lets users share their health data with family, caregivers, or a care team, trends give users a way to focus attention on meaningful changes in personal health metrics, and Walking Steadiness is a new metric that empowers people to proactively manage their fall risk. Users also have the ability to store verifiable COVID-19 vaccination or test result records directly in the Health app, so they can easily access them at any time.
Translate adds a new Auto Translate feature that automatically detects when a user begins speaking and translates speech without tapping the microphone button, allowing for conversation across languages to flow more naturally. Systemwide translation makes it possible to translate text anywhere on iPhone by selecting it and tapping Translate.
New iPhone setup makes it more seamless than ever to get started with iPhone. Existing iPhone users can temporarily back up data to iCloud — even without a subscription — to easily transfer their data to a new iPhone.9 For those moving to iPhone for the first time, an improved Move to iOS experience easily transfers photo albums, files, folders, and Accessibility settings, so iPhone feels personal right from the start.
Accessibility features include the ability to explore people, objects, text, and tables within images in more detail with VoiceOver, and new background sounds play continuously in the background to mask unwanted environmental or external noise. Sound actions customize Switch Control to work with mouth sounds, and users can customize display and text size settings on an app-by-app basis. Apple is also bringing support for recognizing imported audiograms — charts that show the results of a hearing test — to Headphone Accommodations.
Hide My Email lets users share unique, random email addresses that forward to their personal inbox any time they wish to keep their personal email address private.
Trends in the Health app enables users to easily see how a given health metric is progressing over time.
Translate goes systemwide, allowing users to translate text anywhere on iPhone.
Pricing and Availability
iOS 15 is a free software update that is available starting today for iPhone 6s and later. For more information, visit apple.com/ios/ios-15. Some features may not be available in all regions or all languages.