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A Few Weeks with iOS 15

A Few Weeks with iOS 15
By Undigital.tech Newsletter • Issue #32 • View online
This review was also published in my column at Inc.com
Now that iOS 15 is here, the question for many iPhone users is whether to upgrade now or wait a few months. It’s a fair question. First, Apple is taking a more passive approach than it has in the past, when it would essentially force new OS updates on users. Now, if you’re using iOS 14, it will show you that iOS 15 is available, but doesn’t notify you to update your device.

Now that iOS 15 is here, the question for many iPhone users is whether to upgrade now or wait a few months. It’s a fair question. First, Apple is taking a more passive approach than it has in the past, when it would essentially force new OS updates on users. Now, if you’re using iOS 14, it will show you that iOS 15 is available, but doesn’t notify you to update your device.
Plus, you might be wondering whether iOS 15 is ready. Considering how much we all depend on our iPhones, it’s not an unreasonable question. There have been some rocky initial releases, like iOS 13, which the Department of Defense actually warned employees not to install.
This year, there’s no reason to worry and plenty of upside. To be fair, there are always some small bugs to work out, like the fact some users can’t enable the ability to unlock your iPhone with your Apple Watch when you’re wearing a mask, but Apple says it’s working on a fix. The benefits, on the other hand, are pretty big. Here are five of my favorite reasons you should update to iOS 15 right now: 
1. Live Text
Easily the most impressive reason to update to iOS 15, and the thing you’ll likely use most often, is Live Text. This feature lets you take a photo of text and interact with it. For example, you can take a photo of a phone number, and then tap on it to call. Or you can take a photo of a document and then copy portions of the text to be pasted elsewhere. It even works with handwritten text.
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JASON ATEN
Even more helpful, you can select the text and it have it translated for you. In my experience it works really well. While Google Lens has done much of the same for a while now, there’s a real benefit to having it built into the device. Besides, Live Text uses the neural engine in your iPhone so that processing happens on your device, making it faster and more private.
2. Focus Modes
I’ve always felt the best thing about the iPhone is that it helps you stay connected. The problem is that also happens to be one of the worst things about the iPhone. The constant stream of notifications can be a real distraction. Apple’s solution is to allow you to decide what contacts and apps are able to send you notifications based on what you’re doing by creating what it calls a “Focus.” 
You might think of these as customizable “do not disturb” modes. For example, you can set up a “meeting” Focus that only allows you to receive messages from your spouse or children. It can then group all of your other notifications into a summary for you to read later.
JASON ATEN
One thing that I like about setting up different Focuses for different tasks or types of work is that you can actually customize your home screen based on what apps you want to have access to during that time. You can also choose to have it hide notification badges, which – for me – are as big a distraction as notifications. Finally, when you set a Focus, you can enable an auto-response, letting people know your status.
3. Safari Extensions
With iOS 15, Apple is making Safari on the iPhone more functional by letting you use Web extensions. Honestly, the Mac might be the biggest beneficiary because this move could motivate developers to create real extensions for Safari now that they can also be used on the iPhone. 
Right now, the selections are limited, but the extensions that do exist work exactly like they would on your Mac. If an app you have installed on your iPhone has an extension, it will ask you if you want to add it when you launch Safari. Otherwise, you can find them in a dedicated section in the App Store. I’m a fan of the 
Grammarly, 1Password, and Amplosion, which is a handy tool that redirects Google Amp links to the original website source. 
4. New Safari Tabs
Of course, Apple’s redesign of Safari on the iPhone has been a bit controversial. That’s largely due to the fact that Apple had combined the navigation and toolbar at the bottom into a new user interface that crammed a lot into a small space and generally made it harder to do just about everything. 
The one benefit of this design, which, to Apple’s credit, got better during the beta period, is that it’s far easier to navigate through tabs. Because they’re at the bottom, they’re within easy reach of your thumb when you’re holding your iPhone and using it with one hand. Additionally, when you view all of your tabs, they’re in a card view instead of the Rolodex-like arrangement before. 
5. Per-App Accessibility Settings
Sometimes, Apple’s best features aren’t obvious or easy to find because they’re hidden away in the accessibility settings on your device. While the company deserves credit for building in a lot of great tools for people with vision, hearing, or mobility challenges, some of those features are useful for everyone and should be easier to find.
For example, iOS gives you the ability to control the size of text displayed on your screen. In the past, there was a global setting that applied across all apps. Now, in iOS 15, you can set individual text sizes for different apps. That means that if you want to increase the text size in your messages or email, you can do that without having to increase it for other apps. 
In fact, you can change any of Apple’s accessibility settings for individual apps by visiting Settings > Accessibility > Per-App Settings and adding the apps you want to customize.
Plus, you might be wondering whether iOS 15 is ready. Considering how much we all depend on our iPhones, it’s not an unreasonable question. There have been some rocky initial releases, like iOS 13, which the Department of Defense actually warned employees not to install.
This year, there’s no reason to worry and plenty of upside. To be fair, there are always some small bugs to work out, like the fact some users can’t enable the ability to unlock your iPhone with your Apple Watch when you’re wearing a mask, but Apple says it’s working on a fix. The benefits, on the other hand, are pretty big. Here are five of my favorite reasons you should update to iOS 15 right now: 
1. Live Text
Easily the most impressive reason to update to iOS 15, and the thing you’ll likely use most often, is Live Text. This feature lets you take a photo of text and interact with it. For example, you can take a photo of a phone number, and then tap on it to call. Or you can take a photo of a document and then copy portions of the text to be pasted elsewhere. It even works with handwritten text.
Even more helpful, you can select the text and it have it translated for you. In my experience it works really well. While Google Lens has done much of the same for a while now, there’s a real benefit to having it built into the device. Besides, Live Text uses the neural engine in your iPhone so that processing happens on your device, making it faster and more private.
2. Focus Modes
I’ve always felt the best thing about the iPhone is that it helps you stay connected. The problem is that also happens to be one of the worst things about the iPhone. The constant stream of notifications can be a real distraction. Apple’s solution is to allow you to decide what contacts and apps are able to send you notifications based on what you’re doing by creating what it calls a “Focus.” 
You might think of these as customizable “do not disturb” modes. For example, you can set up a “meeting” Focus that only allows you to receive messages from your spouse or children. It can then group all of your other notifications into a summary for you to read later.
One thing that I like about setting up different Focuses for different tasks or types of work is that you can actually customize your home screen based on what apps you want to have access to during that time. You can also choose to have it hide notification badges, which – for me – are as big a distraction as notifications. Finally, when you set a Focus, you can enable an auto-response, letting people know your status.
3. Safari Extensions
With iOS 15, Apple is making Safari on the iPhone more functional by letting you use Web extensions. Honestly, the Mac might be the biggest beneficiary because this move could motivate developers to create real extensions for Safari now that they can also be used on the iPhone. 
Right now, the selections are limited, but the extensions that do exist work exactly like they would on your Mac. If an app you have installed on your iPhone has an extension, it will ask you if you want to add it when you launch Safari. Otherwise, you can find them in a dedicated section in the App Store. I’m a fan of the extensions from Grammarly, 1Password, and Amplosion, which is a handy tool that redirects Google Amp links to the original website source. 
4. New Safari Tabs
Of course, Apple’s redesign of Safari on the iPhone has been a bit controversial. That’s largely due to the fact that Apple had combined the navigation and toolbar at the bottom into a new user interface that crammed a lot into a small space and generally made it harder to do just about everything. 
The one benefit of this design, which, to Apple’s credit, got better during the beta period, is that it’s far easier to navigate through tabs. Because they’re at the bottom, they’re within easy reach of your thumb when you’re holding your iPhone and using it with one hand. Additionally, when you view all of your tabs, they’re in a card view instead of the Rolodex-like arrangement before. 
5. Per-App Accessibility Settings
Sometimes, Apple’s best features aren’t obvious or easy to find because they’re hidden away in the accessibility settings on your device. While the company deserves credit for building in a lot of great tools for people with vision, hearing, or mobility challenges, some of those features are useful for everyone and should be easier to find.
For example, iOS gives you the ability to control the size of text displayed on your screen. In the past, there was a global setting that applied across all apps. Now, in iOS 15, you can set individual text sizes for different apps. That means that if you want to increase the text size in your messages or email, you can do that without having to increase it for other apps. 
In fact, you can change any of Apple’s accessibility settings for individual apps by visiting Settings > Accessibility > Per-App Settings and adding the apps you want to customize.
My Favorite iOS 15 Apps for Your iPhone 13
1. Halide Mark II
The headline feature of the new iPhones is definitely the new camera system. The iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max have three all-new cameras and they are a big deal – literally. Of course, apps that are able to take advantage of the work Apple put into the cameras will be right at home on your new iPhone.
Halide has been my go-to camera app for a while now. It gives you far more control over the images you take. It also has a native raw shooting mode, called “Instant Raw,” which combines RAW file formats with computational photography to give you a finished image that retains control over editing. 
Halide is $11.99 per year.
2. Spark
I’ve probably spent more time than I should, looking for the best email app. Considering that it’s where most of us spend the majority of our time communicating, it’s a big deal. Your email app has to be functional and easy to use.
That’s why I regularly recommend Spark as the best email app for your iPhone. It has great support for third-party app integrations, as well as a seamless ability to collaborate and share emails with your team. It also has a well-designed calendar feature, making it a versatile tool to help you communicate better and stay organized.
Spark is free to use, or $7.99 a month for the Premium version. 
3. 1Password 
Managing passwords is not fun. Making things worse, most of us are really bad at it. That’s why we choose easy-to-remember passwords and then use them for every account and website. That’s a problem because it means that once your information is compromised, bad guys have access to everything. 1Password solves that by making it easy to create secure passwords, while only having to remember one password. 
Even better is that one of the new features of iOS 15 is that Safari is getting native extensions on the iPhone. That means that 1Password works on Safari on your iPhone just like it does on the Mac. 
1Password is $2.99 a month, or $4.99 for up to five users in a family. Business pricing starts at $19.99 a month for up to 10 users.
4. Fantastical
Apple’s Calendar app on the iPhone is fine, but definitely not great. Fantastical, on the other hand, is what Apple should have made. When you create calendar entries, Fantastical is contextually aware of things like date, time, location, and even people you’re meeting with, and automatically adds them to the event. That makes it much easier to add things to your calendar without having to tap through menus and options. It also has handy features like one-tap links for Zoom and Microsoft Teams calls, making it easy to join your video meetings. 
Fantastical is $4.99 a month, and includes Cardhop, a powerful and easy-to-use contact manager. 
5. Things 3
To be fair, Things isn’t an app that requires an iPhone 13. Still, if you need a beautifully designed app to help you stay organized, this is that. Things 3 is a to-do-list app that gets out of the way and makes it easy to capture tasks, schedule them, and stay on top of everything you need to do. As a result, it makes almost every list of the top iPhone apps because it’s just that useful. Even better, it doesn’t get clogged with features that don’t actually help you get things done. 
Things 3 is $9.99 for the iPhone. 
6. Carrot Weather
Carrot Weather is a weather app, but with personality. And, it has a lot of personality. Beyond the fact that you can decide how friendly (or not) you want your forecast to be, Carrot Weather is just a really great app. It’s well-designed and makes it very easy to see how the weather is going to change throughout the day. 
JASON ATEN
It also has a great widget that adjusts its content based on upcoming weather and time of day. To be fair, the stock iOS weather app got a great update this year, but Carrot Weather is still the best, in my opinion. 
Carrot Weather is a free download, with premium features starting at $0.99 a month.
7. iMovie
I don’t usually pick Apple’s native apps, but I’m making an exception this year. That’s because if you want to take advantage of the new Cinematic Mode on the iPhone 13, you’re going to need something to edit that fancy footage. All of Apple’s video editing apps will support it, which means your best option is iMovie if you want to play around with it on your device. 
Other Stories You Might Like
I Spent 6 Months Using Notion. How It Completely Changed The Way I Work | Inc.com
5 Simple Tips for Organizing the Apps on Your iPhone | Inc.com
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