Apple unveils iOS 15 with a host of new features, privacy protection

Apple unveiled a bunch of new features for iOS 15 on Monday at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference, a multi-day event that’s typically heavy on software news. The new features include updates to video calls on FaceTime and digital keys in Apple Wallet.

On FaceTime, Apple will offer new options to let users watch movies or listen to music together during a call. It is also introducing a new grid view to better broadcast every face on a call. Android and Windows users will now also be able to join FaceTime calls.

“We’ve all found ourselves using video calling for just about everything,” Craig Federighi, Apple’s SVP of software engineering, said during the virtual keynote presentation on Monday.

Apple is also introducing updates to its mobile wallet that will allow users to unlock everything from their home to their hotel room with digital keys in the app.

“You can never leave home without your keys, so we are continuing to add keys to wallet and making them even better,” said Jennifer Bailey, VP of internet services and Apple Pay, citing recent additions such as car keys to unlock a vehicle from your iPhone. BMW and others will ship cars with this feature starting later this year, she said.

The company will also make it possible to store identity cards in Apple Wallet. Starting this fall, users can scan their driver’s license or ID into the wallet app where it will be stored in an encrypted form.

Bailey also said Apple is working with the TSA to use that digital ID at airport security checkpoints.

Apple introduced a new iOS feature called “Focus” that will let users select what kinds of notifications they want to receive, and from whom, at certain times of day. For example, a user can set their phone on “work” mode, and opt to only receive notifications from coworkers, emails and Slack messages. When other notifications are turned off, users can set a “do not disturb” auto-reply for messages.

On iMessage, Apple wants to make it easier for users to keep track of the photos, links and other content they’ve been sent. Apps including Photos, Safari and Apple Music will now include a “shared with you folder” to highlight content that has been sent through messages.

The company also doubled down on its privacy policy. The company introduced a variety of new security features, including one called “mail privacy protection.”

The email app on Apple devices will now hide users’ IP addresses and their location, so companies sending emails can’t link that information to users’ other online activity. Additionally, senders can’t see if or when users open their email.

Siri, the virtual assistant app will now process audio right on your device, rather than sending commands to a server, to alleviate concerns about unwanted audio listening by third parties. The change will also make Siri’s response time faster, Apple executive said.

Subscribers of iCloud+ can now take advantage of additional new privacy features. They include Safari “private relay,” which encrypts the traffic leaving a user’s device, so no third parties (including Apple) can intercept and read what they’re searching for. And the “hide my email” feature will let subscribers input a randomly generated email when signing up for an account on a new website that will forward messages to their inbox. This will reduce the number of companies that have access to users’ direct email addresses.

For the iPad the company has introduced a new “multitasking” feature that will let users work on two apps at the same time using a split view, and a simple swiping mechanism to switch between apps on split view.

Apple also introduced a new feature on AirPods called “conversation boost” that is designed to help people who are hard of hearing. The tool focuses a user’s AirPods Pro on the person talking in front of them, making it easier to hear in a face to face conversation. It can also reduce the amount of ambient noise.

The company reminded developers that the App Store now has 600 million weekly visitors from 175 countries and regions, and said it has paid more than $230 billion to developers since the App Store launched in 2008.

iOS 15 will be available to the general public in the fall.