Last year, I hosted for the first time an article on this blog that wasn’t written by myself but by BBC Academy mobile journalism (“MoJo”) trainer Marc Blank-Settle whom I have met on several occassions and keep constantly in touch with via Twitter. His yearly insights into every new iteration of Apple’s mobile operating system iOS from a journalist’s point of view have become a much respected staple of the community so it’s no surprise he’s done it again for iOS 16. If you are an iPhone user, you should definitely dig into this and don’t forget to follow Marc on Twitter for the latest updates or to ask him a question. I’m also using this opportunity to apologize for my own relative silence on this blog in the last months but life’s been extremely busy. Hopefully the near future will allow me again to post more content here. But for today, I’m handing things over to Marc Blank-Settle. – Florian from smartfilming.blog
Regular readers will know that it’s that time of year again – a review of the new version of iOS, the operating system that powers iPhones.
Not every aspect of iOS 16 will be covered here, just the new features which will be of most use to journalists in general and especially mobile journalists – ‘mojos’, the growing number of reporters and producers creating, editing and sharing content with their smartphones.
We got our first look at iOS 16 from Apple in early June 2022 since when I’ve been using various versions of the beta on an iPhone SE 2 and an iPhone 13 Pro to work out what’s hot and what’s not.
Which iPhones will run iOS 16?
It’s worth pointing out even at this early stage that not all features will work on all iPhones which can install iOS 16. While devices as old as the iPhone 8 will run it, this phone and its big brother the iPhone 8 plus won’t get all the bells and whistles.
The cut-off point for the majority of the new stuff tends to be the iPhone XS and newer as these devices use the A12 bionic chip or newer.
If you have an XS or something made since, then you’re good to go with iOS 16. But even then some of the very glossiest features are reserved for the latest iPhone 13.
If you’re still rocking an iPhone 7 or older, don’t despair as your device won’t stop working once iOS 16 is out, it just won’t get the update.
iOS vs Android
The fact that the new version of iOS can actually run on the iPhone 8 which was released in September 2017, helps explain why I write these reviews when I don’t produce something similar for Android despite it being the world’s most used operating system.
Globally, Android has roughly 70% of the smartphone market with iOS on about 27% and a handful of other operating systems making up the gap to 100%.
While the situation has improved recently, Android devices don’t get updates to their operating system as uniformly as iPhones do. Depending on the handset make and model, it might get the latest version of Android immediately, eventually, or quite possibly never – even on relatively new devices.
By contrast, anyone with a compatible iPhone can download iOS 16 on the very day it’s made available, assuming the demand doesn’t cause Apple’s servers to fall over as has happened in the past.
All this means that this review will, I hope, be immediately useful to the vast majority of owners of iOS devices, whereas a review of the latest version of Android wouldn’t be similarly useful.
There’s also the small matter that iOS is the platform of choice for most major broadcasters and individual journalists, even if an increasing number are using Android. It’s what’s used almost exclusively at the BBC too.
What’s in it for Mojo?
In addition to finding synonyms for the word ‘features’, another long-standing challenge with this annual review has been deciding which new features to look at in depth, which to mention in passing and which to skip over totally.
Equally, what will interest journalists any more or less than normal people? (Yes, there’s a subtle dig there at journalists – but it’s ok, I used to be one).
If you want an all-encompassing review, then I’d point you to websites like iMore and MacStories.
Those reviews will have a lot more detail about things like the new customisable lock screen, where you can choose both the font and colour of the display; how notifications are shown to you, as well as adding widgets such as battery level, air quality, calendar and even news.
When developers launch their iOS 16 compatible apps, there’ll be some with widgets you can launch from the Lock Screen, straight to things like a third-party app’s camera. This could prove handy for journalists who want to capture that not-to-be-missed moment but for whatever reason don’t want to use the main iOS camera.
The Lock Screen also gets something which Apple have called ‘Live Activities’, but these also are currently limited to Apple’s own apps. One example is the countdown timer which can now be shown while the phone is locked.
This is another area where developers are no doubt busily working away on how they can send updating notifications to the screen while it’s locked – things like football scores or the whereabouts of a taxi driver.
I also won’t be covering the fact you can get haptic feedback, little “bumps” you can feel as you type; or that there’s a new video player with larger buttons.
Finding out what’s new
Some of the changes are flagged up by iOS the first time you’re in an area of your iPhone where you could use them.
For example, here’s what you see in Mail for the new “Send Later” option:
But lots of the changes aren’t that obvious and neither are the implications of some of them.
That’s where I hope this review comes in.
It will will focus on the innovations which journalists and mobile journalists in particular should find useful.
If iOS 16 has a theme running through it, then to my eyes it’s something of great importance to all journalists: security and safety.
Apple’s developers do seem to like ‘modes’. There’s long been ‘Airplane’ which disconnects your device from wifi and data networks; more recently there’s ‘Portrait’ which takes photos with a blurred background and also ‘Cinematic’ which does similar things with video. To the list you can now add ‘Lockdown’.
Journalists have long been a target of the powerful, such as politicians fearful of wrongdoings being highlighted and scandals being exposed. If a journalist is a target, then their iPhone with all the information it contains could be the bullseye. This might explain the introduction of Lockdown Mode, available on all devices which can run iOS 16.
You’ll find it in ‘Settings’ then ‘Privacy and Security’ and while Apple describes it as an ‘extreme, optional type of protection’, it could prove useful for all journalists and not just those who think they’re being targeted.
What Lockdown Mode does
With Lockdown Mode turned on, an iPhone stops functioning as it usually does, settings are changed, web access is limited, apps are altered and communication features are blocked, all of which also make it harder for those with nefarious intentions to install anything nasty on your device such as a new profile.
Your iPhone will still work if you put it into Lockdown Mode but not as you’re used to.
Here are a few examples of the kind of changes which could affect journalists; people can’t Facetime you unless you Facetime them and people can’t message you unless you message them.
If you can’t access messages with attachments, nothing can be installed via a message attachment which is one common way for malware to be added. There is though an option to allow trusted sites.
While many, possibly most, journalists won’t be targeted in a way which necessitates activating Lockdown Mode, it’s useful to know it’s there as an option for those who might need to use it.
While you’re in ‘Privacy & Security’, you might notice in iOS 16 something called Safety Check. While not specifically for journalists, it makes sense to cover it now.
It resets any permissions given to others over personal aspects of your own digital life such as location, calendar, photo sharing, and emergency contacts. Apple’s use case for this is to prevent stalking or harassment when one half of a relationship needs to detach from the other half.
Safety Check has two options, of which the first is a slower one where you can manage sharing and access by reviewing yourself the people and the apps which have access to your information like location sharing so you can’t be secretly tracked. The other, faster option is ‘Emergency Reset’ and does much of the above as well as letting you remove all emergency contacts and resetting your Apple ID and password so no one can log into your account – all this, pretty much at the tap of a button.
There are a few more new features around security for journalists worth looking at, although this first one is security for all.
Rapid security updates
While iPhones are generally not that vulnerable to bugs, malware and hacks, vulnerabilities do occasionally get found which could get exploited.
Fixes are swiftly offered but often these come with feature updates which some users are reluctant to take – meaning they don’t get the security patches either. In iOS 16, Apple will start making available just the security updates so users can keep their devices secure even if they’re slow to install software updates.
Locked photo folders
Keeping photos and videos secure should be a consideration for all journalists but an inspection of the Photos app (aka camera roll) might prove problematic for some because of the content recorded. iOS 16 provides a new way to prevent prying eyes from seeing what’s there.
When you delete a photo or video, it goes into a folder called ‘Recently Deleted’. In iOS 16, it’s locked by default and can only be opened with Touch ID or Face ID – in other words, not by someone else and instead only by you.
That means content you’ve recorded, filed and then deleted isn’t accessible by others.
A better workaround might be to delete the footage in your ‘Recently Deleted’ folder swiftly once it’s been sent so no suspicions can be raised.
The fact the folder is locked by default might mean people who don’t know this is how it’s meant to be could suspect there’s something in there that the journalist wants to hide, even when there isn’t. The fact there’s nothing problematic in there will become obvious once opened but it could cause unnecessary tension with a border guard and the like.
Locked ‘Hidden Photos’ folder
Another folder in the Photos app is also now locked and can only be opened with ‘Touch ID’ or ‘Face ID’ and that’s the hidden folder. This can be useful for journalists who can squirrel away photos and videos which they don’t want to be seen in Photos.
Being locked by default does give this footage another level of protection but I’d advocate a different route which is already available on iOS 15, the option to hide the hidden folder, so it doesn’t even show. Go to ‘Settings’ then ‘Photos’ and then turn off the option to have the hidden album shown. Any content placed in it will remain there, but it just won’t be seen in the Photos app, let alone be seen as a suspicion-arousing album that’s locked.
Hiding your email address
There’ll be a bigger look at changes to email later but there’s one aspect relating to privacy worth addressing in this section.
In iOS 15, Apple added the option to hide your email address when signing up for things like a food delivery service or a new app. In the ‘Add your email address’ field on the registration page, one alternative to giving your genuine address was to select ‘hide my email’ and iOS would then generate something like firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
This feature has been extended so that when you send an email from the iOS email app, you can choose to generate a random email yourself rather than only when signing up to a service.
There are more secure ways to hide your tracks when contacting someone but this is one low-level method which journalists may want to consider to avoid giving away their email address.
The three mainstays of mobile journalism are video, photos and audio and iOS 16 brings a number of new features for these areas. To be more accurate, for two out of three of them as I have not found anything new within Voice Memos, Apple’s own app for recording, editing and sending audio.
My review of what’s new here is always tinged with an element of uncertainty about how much I ought in fact to be outlining here as many journalists don’t often use the stock iOS video camera, or stills camera, or audio recorder. They’re perfectly good and reliable but there are much better options on the App Store which will give you more options and features.
But the camera for taking still photos is good for our purposes, so let’s start there.
What’s new in Photos
There doesn’t appear to be any major changes to what you can do when taking a photo, which is something of a blessing in disguise as the on-screen interface was already pretty crowded.
For those of you lucky enough to be using an iPhone 13, ‘Portrait mode’ photos do get a small enhancement meaning objects in front of a subject can be blurred to give the final photo a more natural bokeh or background blur effect.
You can though do a few new and useful things with photos once you’ve taken them and they’re safely in the Photos app aka the camera roll.
Here, Apple have done their usual trick of looking at what some popular and successful apps can do and then bringing that into iOS itself.
Lifting a subject from the background
For example, there are numerous apps on the App Store which can separate an image from its background – and that’s now native to iOS (iPhone XS and newer) with the snappily-titled ‘lift subject from background’.
Press and hold on either a photo or a paused video frame until you see a groovy white flash go around the part to be extracted and then either ‘copy’ or ‘share’ to do something with only that part of the photo, not the whole thing. The extracted image is saved as a PNG, not a JPEG.
It only really works though with the main subject of a photo. No groovy flash means it hasn’t worked. But when it does work, it’s impressively good.
If you want to extract someone in the background, you’re out of luck.
And if it’s a crowd of people, nothing happens at all.
The image you select also needs a clear amount of separation between the subject and background for the machine learning to work its magic.
If it’s a crowd of people without one or two people obviously prominent, nothing happens at all. With these four speakers, it performed pretty well… apart from the odd missing limb.
Where to use it?
So where would this be useful?
Think presentations, montages, memes, YouTube thumbnails or posters. Extract the main part of the photo, add some text and you’re done. For journalism, this could work nicely with news-related content, with the politician or business leader plus a quote from what they’ve said.
Or maybe put the subject on a green-screen background and open yourself up an ethical can of worms. Or for selling products on eBay where placing your item on the kitchen table doesn’t give it the background you want, but extracting it on to a clean white background does.
Copying image edits
Editing photos has long been an ethical minefield, with questions swirling around what amount of editing is acceptable before it strays into image manipulation and even deception. But for those comfortable with tweaking a photo, there’s a new option within the Photos app.
Not to the editing parameters such as exposure, saturation or vignette, but more that if you’ve made an edit to give a look and feel you’re particularly happy with, you can tap the three dots in the circle to the top right of the photo or video, copy all those edits and then apply them to other photos or videos to give all of them a consistent look.
Those three dots are new too and bring together some of the more useful actions you might want to access quickly when you’re dealing with a photo or video. Previously, these options were only available if you pressed the box with an upward arrow below the image.
But the introduction of these three dots could play havoc with muscle memory as the layout of buttons on-screen has moved around in iOS 15 (above) compared to iOS 16 (below).
Undoing changes and Live Photos
Another change for photos, which also applies to videos, is that any changes to exposure, brilliance, saturation and so on can be reverted one-by-one when tapping the new ‘undo’ button. But be careful as once you save your edit, you only get the ‘revert’ option to undo all the changes rather than individual ones.
There’s a small but time-saving and tap-reducing tweak with Live Photos, those short videos which many of us will have taken by accident when in fact we wanted to take a photo. Until now, changing from a Live Photo to a static one was not an obvious process at all. You had to select the photo, tap on edit, then the Live Photo icon of concentric rings, then the yellow ‘live’ button at the top.
Good luck on stumbling across that workflow.
Now, just tap the word ‘live’ displayed in the top left of the photo and one of the options is ‘off’. Tap that and your Live Photo is instantly converted into a still image.
Changing a photo’s format
Sometimes a photo is needed in a different format for use online or elsewhere. Conversion apps exist but it’s now native in iOS 16 although it’s quite a convoluted process buried deep in the Files app and not available via the Photos app itself.
Transfer your photo to Files and save it to ‘On my iPhone’. Press on the photo to reveal the menu of options, one of which is ‘Quick Actions’ and tap that. Then from this menu, you can then tap ‘convert image’ (by which point you’re probably questioning the accuracy of this being a quick action) and you get the option to save it as a JPEG, PNG or HEIF.
Removing duplicate photos
Even with the large storage many iPhones have these days, having duplicate photos taking up unnecessary space seems, well, unnecessary so Apple have gamely stepped into the breach where thousands of third-party apps have gone before by making it easier to detect and delete duplicate photos in the Photos app.
According to Apple, when duplicates are detected they are put into a new duplicates folder in the Photos app for you to review and then merge. Merging combines relevant data like captions, keywords, and favourites into one photo with the highest quality. Albums that contain merged duplicates are updated with the merged photo. You’ll also be shown how much space you’ll save by merging the duplicates although being photos we’re talking a few megabytes per merge.
I’ve found that it works…okay but not brilliantly. I deliberately took lots of photos where I didn’t move the camera yet they didn’t show in the duplicates folder which raises the question of how similar the images need to be to count. My iPhone only found one set of duplicates which I was happy to merge and gain back that precious 200kb of space.
Video filming remains largely the same in iOS 16 although those of you with a 13 (and no doubt a 14) may benefit from refinements to what’s called ‘Cinematic mode’ video, which was introduced with the iPhone 13. This is the feature where the camera changes for you who is in focus and can give better background blur to footage too. To be brutally honest, I didn’t notice much difference when testing it despite Apple’s insistence that this depth of field effect will be more accurate ‘for profile angles and around the edges of hair and glasses’.
One change to video where I did notice the benefit was where if a video is paused with text on screen, that text becomes interactive which Apple call ‘Live Text’. That text can be copied, translated, searched and more.
I’ve already put it into effect when a colleague asked for a transcript from a training video which I’d previously made. It already had subtitles on screen so I used the new feature to pause, copy the text of the subtitles and then paste them into a document. It worked very well.
It’s worth adding that Live Text in photos (but not video) now supports what Apple have named ‘Quick Actions’. If there’s text in the image such as a phone number, you should see an automatic option to call it. In iOS 15, you still had to tap the phone number to then get the option to call it. Hurrah for progress!
But for both of these, it’s again progress for some and not others. Your device needs to be running the A12 bionic chip for all this to work, so if you’re not using the iPhone XS or newer, you’re out of luck.
Talking of being out of luck, iOS 16 often brings changes I can’t fully test because of broader limitations in terms of what BBC-owned technology lets me do.
One such feature is Continuity Camera (CC) as to try it out, I need the beta of Ventura which is the next version of MacOS and the powers-that-be have said no.
CC works wirelessly and automatically connects an iPhone and Mac on the same Wi-Fi and using the same Apple ID so the better camera on the iPhone can be used for any video-calling or live-streaming app such as FaceTime and Zoom.
Critics could view this as something of an indictment – perhaps even by Apple themselves – of the relatively poor quality of the Mac camera which has not improved to the extent the iPhone’s has. Were Apple to put a much better camera into the Mac, there’d be no need to use connect an iPhone.
But CC is here – and when I am able to try it fully, I’m looking forward to trying out a feature known as Desk View.
When the iPhone is positioned pointing towards the user, as for a FaceTime call, Desk View uses the ultra-wide angle lens (if your iPhone has one) to show an overhead view of your desk and Mac keyboard. That happens even though the phone isn’t itself pointing downwards. This could be good for showing off gadgets, drawings in a notebook, or simply the mess of cables and wires. That last one could just be me though.
There doesn’t seem to be any changes to Voice Memos in iOS 16.
The only discernible change I have found for anything to do with audio is very tangential. The speed at which you can play podcasts within Apple’s app of the same name. Previously, it was 0.5x, 1x, 1.25x, 1.5x and 2x, and you tapped the number shown to cycle through the options. Now, there’s a menu which pops-up and gives a faster slower option – 0.75x as 0.5x has been junked, as well as a faster faster 1.75x option.
Love them or loathe them, emails remain a mainstay of a journalist’s life despite the competition from Slack, WhatsApp and other services. iOS 16 brings updates which are new to iOS Mail app if not to others like Gmail or Outlook.
One is the option to unsend an email. I’m sure many of us have tapped ‘send’ only to have that ‘oh no’ moment as we realise we’ve not included a key fact or have forgotten to remove a recipient or we’ve sent an email to my boss with content destined for my wife. (that last one was probably just me…)
That’s where ‘undo send’ could rescue things.
Once you tap to send an email on its way, the words ‘undo send’ appear briefly at the bottom of the screen. You’ve got ten seconds to tap them as if you don’t, the words go and so does your email – along with the mistakes and erroneous recipients. But if you do tap them in time, the email reappears on screen leaving you free to make the necessary changes.
Tap the arrow to send and ‘undo send’ is again shown, meaning you can correct any incorrect errors. If you change your mind about sending the email at all, then just tap ‘cancel send’ and it’ll go to your drafts.
A word of warning though: you only see ‘undo send’ on an email you yourself have started. It won’t show up when replying to one you’ve received.
When you start writing an email, you do so from the ‘all inboxes’ screen by tapping the box with a pencil on it; when you’ve sent it, the screen reverts to ‘all inboxes’ where ‘undo send’ is shown at the bottom of the screen. By contrast, when you reply to an email you’ve been sent, you return to the text of the email you’re replying to and not to ‘all inboxes’, so you don’t see the ‘undo send’ prompt.
You only need to tap the back arrow in the top left to return to ‘all inboxes’ but if you forget to do that, or something distracts and delays you from doing that, your email could be sent before you get the chance to delay it.
That’s why it’s worth considering extending the delay as ten seconds may not be enough. Go in
‘Settings’ then ‘Mail’ and ‘Undo send delay’ where you’ll see options for 20 and 30 seconds. Or, if you prefer to live dangerously as before, you can turn it off altogether.
Delay sending an email
Journalism at the BBC and elsewhere is a 24 hour a day, seven days a week operation as there’s always someone on shift, somewhere in the world. But often the person you want to email isn’t working when you are and sending an email at 5pm your time might get lost when your colleague logs on at 9am the next morning.
Emails on iOS gain a feature to help with this, the option to delay sending an email. When you’ve composed it, press and hold on the blue arrow sending arrow to reveal three options: now, a default of 9pm tonight and 8am tomorrow, depending on when you compose it; and ‘choose your own time’ – both the date and the time. As it accesses your calendar, there’s nothing to stop you scheduling the email for several years in the future, assuming you still have the same job.
Delay send has quirks
Emails delayed for sending go into a new sub-folder which means you can change its future sending date and time – or cancel sending it later.
There are a few quirks to be aware of with this feature though. For example, while you can edit the time of a future send, you can’t edit the contents of the email. And don’t just tap the arrow, give it a good press as just giving it a slight tap could result in your email being sent immediately.
Another addition to Mail – but again another addition not new to email apps per se – is that iOS can recognise if you’ve written about including an attachment but have failed to include it when you press send, so you now get an alert about that omission.
The AI which gets this to work is pretty clever too. I got the prompt above because of the words I wrote but another test with the phrase ‘I love this song – I have a lot of sentimental attachment to it’ did not prompt the alert to appear.
Swiping right to left on an email brings up options such as ‘flag’, ‘delete’ and ‘more’, as happens in iOS 15. But tap ‘more’ and buried in the options which then come up is ‘Remind Me’. This is akin to flagging an email for dealing with at a later date and you can tell the Mail app when to remind you about it – in an hour, tomorrow or at some point in the future, with an interface just like choosing when to delay sending an email. When the ‘Remind Me’ time is reached, the email reappears at the top of your inbox and you can then tackle it or use the feature to procrastinate some more. But if it works, you should be able to take action on an email at a time to suit you instead of it disappearing further and further down in an ever-expanding inbox.
Unsending and editing iMessages
It’s not just emails which you can unsend in iOS 16 as the feature has been extended to iMessages although it doesn’t work in quite the same way, just to keep you on your toes.
Once you tap ‘send’ on an iMessage, tap and hold on it to see options such as ‘Undo Send’ and ‘Edit’. The former, available for up to two minutes after sending it, makes the message disappear with a visually-pleasing on-screen burst.
How unsending works
You’ll see some text on your screen to say that while the message for you has been unsent, your recipient may still see it if they’re not on iOS 16 – and of course you won’t know what they’re on.
If they are on iOS 16, then they’ll see a notification in their stream that a message was deleted; if they’re on iOS 15 or earlier, the message doesn’t get at all deleted. And all the while, you’re none the wiser as to what actually happened for them, even though you have unsent the iMessage.
As for editing an iMessage, you get 15 minutes to make any changes and you can make up to five edits. If the person you’re sending it to is also on iOS 16, then they will see your message change and the word ‘edited’ underneath. To see what it previously said, tap on ‘edited’ and the changed iMessage will be shown in a slightly faded colour. If they’re still on iOS 15, then they’ll see BOTH messages – the original, as sent as well as the edited version, where the message is preceded by ‘Edited to…’
Problems with unsending
This is all very clever but ultimately it has a few flaws.
Firstly, you don’t know whether your recipient is on iOS 15 or 16, so you don’t know what they’ll see. Secondly, your recipient can always take a screen-grab of your error-strewn message before you send a correction and if they have a bad intention, share the message with the errors and not the corrected one. Thirdly, could a contact be irked or annoyed if they see that you deleted a message you sent them and they have no idea what it was about? Finally, none of this works at all if they’re on Android as text messages aren’t part of this system.
This last point could be key. If as a journalist you want to be sure that there’s no confusion about what your recipient actually got from you, or you want to avoid any possibility that they might claim you edited a message when you didn’t – then sending it by text message could well be the answer.
Messages can also be marked as unread, meaning you can return to it later if you’re too busy to reply when you first read it.
One final point about messages, much like for photos, videos and audio recordings, there’s now a ‘Recently Deleted’ folder where you can find conversation threads you’ve deleted and you can even restore them within 30 days.
What’s a Focus?
Here’s a question for you. Have you set up a ‘Focus State’ after this was introduced in iOS 15 this time last year? They were positioned as a souped-up version of ‘Do Not Disturb’, which by comparison is a very blunt way of – as the name suggests – not being disturbed while using an iPhone.
With a Focus State, you could configure the settings such that certain people and apps could be allowed to contact you while you were in a Focus, whereas DND was all or nothing. Where this connects to journalism is if you’re recording some content or live-streaming, it’s wise to cut yourself off from being contacted so as to avoid distracting you or even interrupting the footage you’re getting or sharing.
The Focus feature gains filters in iOS 16 but not in the sense of ‘sepia’ or ‘black and white’, but more control about what you can do with a Focus.
Instead, you’re offered even more granular control over what happens while in a ‘Focus state’.
You can select which Calendar to see – maybe not your work one while on holiday; or which Mail inbox – again, maybe not your work one while away or even to trigger Low Power Mode when running a Focus.
You can tie your new Focus filter to your lock screen so your device gets a different look and feel depending on the time of day, as long as you’ve set different Focus States to run at different times of the day.
There’s a big change too with who and what can be filtered out. In iOS 15, you had to select what you wanted to actively allow, one app or person at a time. Now, you can allow everyone except certain apps or people.
Apple have also made Focus Filters available to third party app developers, which means that when iOS 16 is out for everyone this will go beyond Apple’s apps and more filtering options for more apps will become available.
But will people use it?
When I do iPhone training, the Focus option is new to the vast majority of them. As with quite a few settings on iOS, there are now so many variables, options and decisions to make that it’s likely some people might just not bother and will stick with the binary on and off found in ‘Do Not Disturb’.
In this last section, I’m lumping together (that’s the technical term) a number of smaller changes as well as some which are limited in their availability at the moment either through geography or technology but are interesting nevertheless.
tarting with geography, a nifty new feature is only available if you set your region to the US/Canada and language to English (US). Do that and then you can use Live Captions but otherwise you can’t – yet, as it may well come to other places and languages soon.
The Live Captions feature adds a small widget to your device’s screen (iPhone 11 and newer) which you can tap while playing a podcast, watching a video, making a call over FaceTime and live text of what is being said will be displayed.
The feature works well but not perfectly. As with any auto-subtitling software, it performs best when what it being said is clearly enunciated and well-paced. But in this particular case, I can’t rule out that the mistakes I noticed it made were as a result of the mismatch between the language my iPhone had to be set to for this to work (US English) and the content I’m playing (UK English). Even so, it’s an impressive feature and one which will be useful in terms of accessibility for the hard of hearing.
It even works with the sound turned down which is pretty freaky, as text will appear on screen even though you can’t hear anything. This aspect opens up possibilities for journalists. Let’s say you’ve recorded an interview but for some reason you can’t play it back out loud to listen to what was said and you don’t have headphones (which would be poor planning on your part, but let’s gloss over that). Turn the volume down on your device, turn on Live Captions and then start playing your video or audio recording app. You’ll then be able to read what was said during the interview. Who knows, if it’s ever released for UK English, it might even be accurate.
But one word to say to any mobile journalists hoping to use this as a quick way of subtitling an interview or podcast, this isn’t an option. That’s because the text that is generated is superimposed on screen meaning it isn’t captured by a screen recording.
There are some things Apple announced in the preview of iOS 16 which I’ve not been able to check out as they involve tech which isn’t fully ready yet.
The first is something which developers need to add to their apps – Walkie Talkie. It’s designed to enable real-time communication so when someone sends you a message, iOS shows the app icon and the name of the person talking to you. Once you’ve listened to what they said, you can reply in real time with audio or leave the conversation.
In theory this sounds great but it’s questionable how much this might get used in an era of WhatsApp, iMessage and other instant communication platforms. Plus, being ephemeral audio, there’s no proof of what the other person said to you or what you said to them. This though could be appealing if you don’t want a record of your conversation, although isn’t that what a phone call is for?
If developers are busy working on bringing Walkie Talkie into their apps, they can’t be working on the other big development in iOS 16 as it’s limited to staff inside Apple HQ. The big event in June which previewed iOS 16 showed off a number of features which aren’t in the beta at all.
One in particular caught my eye for what it could do for journalism, called Freeform. It’s a new app from Apple which is designed to encourage collaboration.
In this era of greater working from home, Freeform will give users a shareable canvas they can all work on while chatting over iMessage or FaceTime. No doubt Apple will be hoping the integration within iOS and iPadOS for larger screens will be enough to draw users away from products like Teams, Trello and Canva which are offering similar features?
Landscape Face ID
Many journalists now have iPhones dedicated to mojo work like filming and these devices spend a lot of time in a clamp attached to a tripod, with the iPhone horizontal.
Most of these phones use Face ID to unlock, which means that if the iPhone locks itself after a short delay of not being used, unlocking it was literally and metaphorically a pain as Face ID only worked for a phone held vertically. To get it to function, it was either a case of removing the iPhone from the clamp and turning it to vertical the user had to crane their neck to an unpleasant angle. But a helpful change in iOS 16 is that Face ID works with the phone horizontal and the mojo’s head can remain upright. This is for the iPhone 12 and 13 only, so users of older phones could still call Face ID a pain in the neck.
Battery percentage always shown
How exciting is it that phones with a notch can show the battery percentage on screen all the time?
Perhaps it’s just me but I can’t share the outpouring of enthusiasm I saw on Twitter when this tweak came to one of the later betas of iOS 16 but that might just be me.
Either way, users of iPhones with a notch can now just glance at their screens to see the battery percentage rather than having to swipe to open Control Centre to see it. Well, some of them can. Smaller iPhones like the Xr, 11 and the 12 and 13 mini don’t have the space for this so it’s missed out.
Hang up with Siri
If you’re on a hands-free call, for example while driving, you can now use Siri to end the call by saying ‘Siri, hang up’. Yes it’ll sound a little weird to the person on the other end of the call, but they’ll cope. Or you could just ask the person you’re talking to if they could end the call?
Delete more Apple apps
More of Apple’s own apps can be deleted. It’s questionable why anyone would actually want to delete apps which feel fundamental to how useful an iPhone is such as Find My (for tracking down mislaid iPhones, iPads and Macs) and Clock (do you need me to tell you what the clock is for?) but if you’ve a burning desire never to be able to set an alarm, you now can.
Units are more easily converted. For example, if an American contact sends you an iMessage with the temperature in Fahrenheit, tap on it to convert it to Celsius. This to my mind is not brilliantly implemented as it only works if the message includes the full temperature scale word i.e. Celsius and Fahrenheit, not c and f (Kelvin works too). In all honesty, how likely are you to text someone that it’s 23 Celsius and not simply 23c?
Similar conversions will work for currencies, volume, weights and distances.
Taken a screenshot, for example to share a restaurant menu with a friend or a map with a colleague? iOS 16 presents a new option where you can copy and delete the screenshot immediately. The idea here is that you probably don’t really need to save something as ephemeral as this and have it cluttering up your Photos app. So you can now take the screengrab, tap ‘copy and delete’, then paste it into an email or iMessage and send. The grab will already have been deleted. If you do find you need it again, it’s in the ‘Recently Deleted’ folder in the Photos app.
Remove duplicate contacts
If you have contacts which are duplicates, the Contacts app should recognise these and offer you the chance to merge them into one.
Dictation gets automatic punctuation, where iOS listens to what you’re saying and the flow of how you say it and puts full stops, commas and more where it thinks they should go. But one bugbear of mine remains unfixed. If you say the words ‘full stop’ as in ‘the driver slammed on the brakes and the car came to a full stop’, you still get ‘the driver slammed on the brakes and the car came to a.’ and yes I have written a bug report.
And that’s it for iOS 16. These are the useful and interesting changes I’ve found from beta testing it over the last few months. You might find others you like (or dislike) based on how you yourself use your device after you’ve upgraded. Or you may feel, having read this, that you’re happy with what iOS 15 can do and you’re fine sticking with it.