Alongside macOS Monterey, Apple today released iOS and iPadOS 15.1 – the first major updates to the operating systems introduced last month. Don’t expect a large collection of changes from this release, though: 15.1 mostly focuses on enabling SharePlay (which was announced at WWDC, then postponed to a later release a few months ago), rolling Safari back to a reasonable design, and bringing a few tweaks for the Camera app and spatial audio. Let’s take a look.
Posts tagged with "iOS 15"
Ever since Apple rolled out the redesigned and improved Apple Maps in Italy last month, I’ve been increasingly switching my usage of maps for exploration and turn-by-turn directions from Google to Apple Maps. I prefer Apple’s overall design sensibilities, I find Look Around drastically superior to Google Street View, and the integration with Apple Maps and the Lock Screen for turn-by-turn navigation is excellent.
However, I still have to keep Google Maps installed on my iPhone for all those times when a particular point of interest (usually a shop or restaurant) isn’t showing up in Apple Maps’ search results. And because the Google Maps app is still installed on my iPhone, every time I tap a search result with an address from Google search, it automatically redirects to Google Maps. I’ve always found this annoying, but now even more so since I consider Apple Maps my primary navigation app here in Rome.1 Now, thanks to a Safari extension, that Google Maps redirect nightmare is finally over.
In the years I’ve spent working on iPad as my primary computer, I’ve learned to appreciate the platform’s advantages over the Mac (a richer app ecosystem and superior modularity, for instance), and I’ve accepted its limitations. Despite the advances in the past 18 months with iPadOS 14, the Magic Keyboard, and iPadOS 15, there are still several areas where iPadOS falls short: I can’t record podcasts on it with the setup I like (unless I deal with some ridiculous cable shenanigans); the Files app still lacks Finder features such as smart folders or the ability to navigate into hidden folders; and, due to Apple’s restrictions, iPad utilities like clipboard managers can’t run persistently in the background like they can on a Mac.
While I continue to believe Apple will have to address these issues in the next iterations of iPadOS, Matthias Gansrigler didn’t want to wait for Apple to let his clipboard manager Yoink run continuously in the background and automatically capture anything the user copies to the system clipboard. So, using a clever workaround made by possible by new APIs introduced in iOS and iPadOS 15, he figured out how to turn Yoink – already a capable and modern clipboard manager and shelf app – into a “true” clipboard manager that, like those you may have seen on macOS, can monitor everything you copy and automatically save it for you. The result is unlike anything else I’ve seen on iOS and iPadOS, and it unlocks the kind of flexibility and peace of mind I’ve long missed from macOS. It’s almost too good to be true, and I hope I won’t cause any trouble by writing about it.
Update: Although Google has not commented on the lack of AMP links in its search results, Danny Sullivan has tweeted that their disappearance from iOS and iPadOS 15 is a bug that Google is working to fix.
Earlier today, developer Jeff Johnson published a story, noting that AMP links have seemingly vanished from Safari on iOS and iPadOS 15. AMP is Google’s cached URL system that’s designed to speed up the mobile web but often ruins website functionality and junks up URLs. I’ve never been a fan of AMP and neither has Federico.
iOS and iPadOS 15 introduced extensions to Safari, and one of the most popular categories has been extensions that redirect AMP links to the canonical version of the URL. I covered two of our favorites, Amplosion by Christian Selig and Overamped, both of which continue to be among the top paid Safari extensions on the App Store.
Jeff Johnson, the maker of Stop the Madness, another Safari extension that redirects AMP links, noticed, while updating his extension, that AMP links had disappeared from Google search results.
Johnson ran some tests:
With this User-Agent [iOS 15’s], there are no AMP links in Google search results, but if I simply change
Version/14.0and keep the rest the same, Google search results suddenly have AMP links again! This is reproducible on my iPhone, in the Xcode iPhone simulator, and also in desktop Safari Mac with its User-Agent spoofed as iPhone.
I’ve done some digging myself, as has Federico, and we have been able to reproduce the same results. I searched Google for an article published today on The Verge. Sure enough, on iOS 14, I get AMP results, but not on iOS 15, where the links point to theverge.com. I ran the same test using Google Chrome, Firefox, and Microsoft’s Edge browser on iOS 15, and all returned Google search results with AMP links. Safari for iOS and iPadOS 15 stands alone among these four browsers and is the only one that doesn’t return AMP links in Google search results.
I wondered what might be going on, so I contacted Google PR to see if they could explain it. I haven’t heard back yet but will update this story if I do.
Meanwhile, Johnson has a theory that seems plausible to me:
So, is it possible that Google has given up on AMP in Safari on iOS 15 because of the popularity of AMP blocking extensions? Who can say, but it’s certainly an interesting coincidence. I can say that it’s a very recent change. I know from my own testing that Google search results still included AMP links for the first week after iOS 15 was released on September 20.
The timing certainly lines up. I know there were AMP links to redirect when I was testing Amplosion and Overamped on the iOS 15 betas and shortly after its launch, but sometime in the past two weeks or so, they have completely vanished from Google search results in Safari for iOS and iPadOS 15. I hope the change sticks.
A quieter release for even stranger times.
In my career as an iOS reviewer, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a response as universally positive and enthusiastic as the general public’s reception of iOS 14 last year. From the “Home Screen aesthetic” popularized by TikTokers to the incredible success of widgets and the resurgence of custom icons, few iOS updates managed to capture the cultural zeitgeist as globally and rapidly as iOS 14 did. The update broke out of the tech community and, perhaps for the first time in decades, made UI personalization a mainstream, easily attainable hobby. For once, we didn’t have to convince our friends and family to update to a major new version of the iPhone’s operating system. They just did it themselves.
The numbers don’t lie: five weeks after its release, iOS 14 was already set to surpass iOS 13’s adoption rate; in April 2021, seven months after launch, over 90% of compatible devices were running iOS 14. Which begs the obvious question: if you’re Apple, you’re planning to follow up on what made iOS 14 successful with even more of it, right?
Well, not quite.
With the world coming to a halt due to the pandemic in early 2020, Apple could have easily seized the opportunity to slow down its pace of software updates, regroup, and reassess the state of its platforms without any major changes in functionality. But, as we found out last year, that’s not how the company operates or draws its product roadmaps in advance. In the last year alone, Apple introduced a substantial macOS redesign, pointer support on iPad, and drastic changes to the iOS Home Screen despite the pandemic, executing on decisions that were likely made a year prior.
Surprisingly, iOS 15 doesn’t introduce any notable improvements to what made its predecessor wildly popular last year. In fact, as I’ll explore in this review, iOS 15 doesn’t have that single, all-encompassing feature that commands everyone’s attention such as widgets in iOS 14 or dark mode in iOS 13.
As we’ll see later in the story, new functionalities such as Focus and Live Text in the Camera are the additions that will likely push people to update their iPhones this year. And even then, I don’t think either of them sports the same intrinsic appeal as widgets, custom Home Screens, or the App Library in iOS 14.
It’s a slightly different story for iPadOS 15, which comes at a fascinating time for the platform.
As I wrote in my review of the M1 iPad Pro earlier this year, Apple needed to re-align the iPad’s hardware and software on two fronts. For pro users, the company had to prove that the new iPad Pro’s hardware could be useful for something beyond basic Split View multitasking, either in the form of more complex windowing, pro apps, or desktop-like background processes; at the same time, Apple also had to modernize iPadOS’ multitasking capabilities for all kinds of users, turning an inscrutable gesture-based multitasking environment into a more intuitive system that could also be operated from a keyboard. It’s a tall order; it’s why I’ve long believed that the iPad’s unique multiplicity of inputs makes iPadOS the toughest platform to design for.
Apple’s work in iPadOS 15 succeeds in laying a new foundation for multitasking but only partially satisfies the desires of power users. Apple managed to bring simplicity and consistency to multitasking via a new menu to manage the iPad’s windowing states that is easier to use than drag and drop. Perhaps more importantly, Apple revisited iPad multitasking so it can be equally operated using touch and keyboard. If you, the person reading these annual reviews, have ever found yourself having to explain to a family member how to create a Split View on iPad, tell them to update to iPadOS 15, and they’ll have a much easier time using their iPads to their full extent.
But after three months of running iPadOS 15 on my M1 iPad Pro, I can’t help but feel like power users will still be left wishing for more. Yes, iPadOS 15 brings extensive keyboard integration for multitasking with a plethora of new keyboard shortcuts and yes, the new multitasking menu and improvements to the app switcher benefit everyone, including power users, but iPadOS 15 is a foundational update that focuses on fixing the basics rather than letting the iPad soar to new heights.
While Apple is probably preparing bigger and bolder updates for next year, there are still plenty of features to discover and enjoy in iOS and iPadOS 15 – some that could still use some refinement, others that already feel like staples of the modern iPhone and iPad experience.
Let’s dive in.
A couple of years ago, Apple transformed Reminders from a simple checklist-style task manager into something far more robust. It was a surprising but welcome update that made the app a good choice as the sole task manager for many users. Reminders is back with more surprises this year, including tagging and Smart Lists features, which I didn’t expect. Both new features work together to make it easier than ever to manage your tasks in Reminders, which by itself makes this year’s update to Reminders worth checking out. However, the update may indicate something broader too: that Apple is more receptive to providing users with greater control over how they use the iPhone and iPad’s stock apps, an exciting possibility that I hope comes to pass.
Tags are brand new to Reminders and probably the most surprising addition to the iOS and iPadOS 15 versions of the app. Tags aren’t anything new to task management apps in general, but user-defined tags haven’t historically been available in Apple’s iPhone and iPad apps.
The design of Reminders’ tagging system makes it easy to get started. When you add a new task, there’s a field just below Notes for adding tags. Just start typing a name for your tag, and when you tap the Space bar, hit return, or type a comma, a hashtag is added to the beginning of the tag, and it changes to Reminders’ purplish accent color. Sorry, no spaces are allowed in your tags.
Apple has opened its public beta program for iOS 15, iPadOS 15, watchOS 8 and tvOS 15 on the Apple Beta Software Program website. macOS Monterey is not yet publicly available, but Apple’s beta site says it is ‘coming soon.’
Developers, who can access betas of Apple’s OS releases before the general public, received the first developer builds a few weeks ago during WWDC. If past practice is a guide, the public betas released today should be identical to the second developer beta released last week.
If you would like to sign up but haven’t, visit beta.apple.com and log in using your Apple ID. It should go without saying that you should only install betas on your devices after you’ve taken appropriate steps to protect your data and are willing to endure potentially buggy software.
For more on what’s in the betas, check out Federico’s iOS and iPadOS 15 preview published earlier today and our overviews of macOS Monterey and watchOS 8 that we published during WWDC. We’ll also have a preview of macOS Monterey when its public beta is released.
Stay tuned for more over the summer too. The MacStories team is working on special preview stories that cover a wide range of features in the public betas as we approach the publication of our annual OS reviews this fall. Federico and I will also be doing special interview episodes of AppStories this summer to dig deeper into what the new OSes will mean to MacStories readers and the apps they love.
For the past three weeks, I’ve been running the developer beta of iOS and iPadOS 15 on my iPhone 12 Pro Max and M1 iPad Pro, respectively. Common wisdom says you’re not supposed to install early developer builds of iOS and iPadOS on your primary devices; I have to ignore that since work on my annual iOS and iPadOS reviews starts as soon as the WWDC keynote wraps up, which means I have to get my hands on the latest version of the iPhone and iPad operating systems as quickly as possible. As I explained on AppStories, putting together these reviews is some of the most challenging work I do all year, but it’s rewarding, I have fun with it, and it gives me a chance to optimize my writing setup on an annual basis.
The result of jumping on the beta bandwagon early is also that, at this point, having used iOS and iPadOS 15 daily for over three weeks, I have a pretty good sense of what’s going to be popular among regular users, which features power users are going to appreciate, and what aspects of the OSes still need some fine-tuning and tweaks from Apple. And with both iOS and iPadOS 15 graduating to public beta today1, I have some initial impressions and considerations to share. You could also see this story as advance work for this fall’s proper review, and you wouldn’t be mistaken: in this article, I’m going to focus on areas of iOS and iPadOS 15 that I’ll also cover more in depth later this year.
Let me cut to the chase: I don’t think iOS and iPadOS 15 are massive updates like iOS and iPadOS 13 or 14 were. There are dozens of interesting new features in both updates, but none of them feels “obvious” to demonstrate to average users like, say, dark mode and iPad multiwindow in iOS and iPadOS 13 or Home Screen widgets in last year’s iOS 14. And, for the most part, I think that’s fine. The wheel doesn’t have to be reinvented every year, and the pandemic happened for everyone – Apple engineers included.
In many ways, iOS and iPadOS 15 remind me of iOS 10 and 12: they’re updates that build upon the foundation set by their predecessors, bringing welcome consumer additions that, while not earth-shattering, contribute to making iOS more mature, intelligent, and deeply integrated with Apple’s ecosystem.
If you’re installing the iOS 15 public beta today and want to show it off to your friends, know this: Live Text in the Camera and custom Focus modes make for the best demos, followed by the new Weather app and rethought multitasking controls on iPad. SharePlay is neat but can feel already dated now that more countries are rolling out vaccinations and returning to a semi-regular social life; the new Safari needs more work; Mail is surprisingly unchanged despite the rise of remote work in the past year. That’s how I would describe iOS and iPadOS 15 in two sentences as of the first public beta released today.
Of course, however, I want to share a bit more about iOS and iPadOS 15 while I’m busy working on my annual review. So for this preview story, I’ve picked three areas of iOS and iPadOS 15 I’ve spent the most time testing and tinkering with over the past few weeks. This year, I’m including a ‘What I’d Like to See Improved’ sub-section for each of the areas I’m covering in this story. I thought it’d be fun to summarize my current criticisms and suggestions for each feature, and it should be interesting to revisit these in the fall when iOS and iPadOS 15 are released.
Let’s dive in.
Sami Fathi, writing for MacRumors on an API change spotted in the second developer beta of iOS 15:
Currently, apps are limited to the amount of RAM they can use, regardless of the amount available on the device. For example, despite the highest-end M1 iPad Pro featuring 16GB of RAM, on iPadOS 14, apps are limited to only use 5GB. 16GB of RAM is the highest amount of RAM ever offered in an iPhone or iPad, and the 5GB limitation means that apps aren’t able to utilize even half of what the iPad Pro has to offer.
In the second betas of iOS and iPadOS 15, released to developers yesterday, Apple is introducing a new entitlement that developers may request that will expose their apps to more memory. Apple says that this entitlement will inform the system that an app “may perform better by exceeding the default app memory limit.” Apple’s developer documentation doesn’t specify how much extra RAM an app may be exposed to and also says this is limited to “supported devices.”
I’ve rarely found myself in a scenario where my iPad Pro needed more than 5 GB of RAM, but I’m also not a professional user of apps such as video or graphic editors that may take advantage of more RAM. This is an entitlement that Apple will need to grant developers who request it, and I’m curious to see how many apps will receive it later this year (or if this option will convince more developers of pro apps to finally bring them to iPad). I find it fascinating – but not surprising at all – that Apple is introducing this possibility while they’re pushing adoption of multiwindow and modern multitasking in iPadOS 15.