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iOS 16, watchOS 9, tvOS 16, and HomePod Software 16 Now Available

Apple has released iOS 16, watchOS 9, and tvOS 16. To see if your devices can upgrade, read “The Real System Requirements for Apple’s 2022 Operating Systems” (9 June 2022). While the betas have been remarkably stable this year, we recommend that most people delay a few days before updating in case of serious problems. Plus, that lets you avoid any confusion if Apple’s update servers are overwhelmed at first. And again, iPadOS 16 and macOS 13 Ventura aren’t due until next month.

If you’re staying on iOS 15 for now, be advised that Apple has released iOS 15.7 and iPadOS 15.7 to address 11 security vulnerabilities, including a concerning kernel vulnerability that “may have been actively exploited.”

Two quick pieces of advice before you update to iOS 16:

  • Make sure you have plenty of free space in Settings > General > iPhone Storage. On my iPhone 11 Pro, the release candidate was 4.84 GB, so you’ll need more than that.
  • Back up your iPhone to iCloud (Settings > Your Name > iCloud > iCloud Backup) or to your Mac using the Finder (click your iPhone name in a Finder window sidebar and then click Back Up Now).

Let’s take a look at each update.

iOS 16

By far the most significant update of the trio, iOS 16 boasts a slew of new features, most notably the customizable Lock screen. You can create multiple Lock screens, each with a different wallpaper. Additionally, you can add up to five Lock screen widgets, one above the time and up to four below the time. Their small size makes them feel more like Apple Watch complications than the iPhone’s  Home screen widgets.

Lock screen widgets

Another significant update to the Lock screen is Live Activities, a new type of notification that updates in real-time, though Apple is now saying that the feature has been delayed until later this year. Examples of Live Activities include sports scores, shipment tracking, and food delivery updates. Live Activities may be particularly compelling on the iPhone 14 Pro thanks to the Dynamic Island, which displays them on either side of the Face ID and TrueDepth camera sensor package (see “Apple Unveils Four Models of the iPhone 14,” 7 September 2022). For now, the easiest way to see Live Activities in action is to set a timer, but developers will quickly take advantage of this new functionality.

Timer Live Activity

You can also tie a custom Lock screen to a Focus, so switching to that Focus changes the Lock screen and vice-versa. Apple also improved Focus. Previously, you had to select each app or contact whose notifications could break through the Focus. Now you can instead set a Focus to allow all notifications except those from specific apps and contacts. Apple has also introduced Focus Filters, which let you hide things like email and calendar notifications, which could be useful if you have clear delineations between your work and personal life on your iPhone.

The much-touted iCloud Shared Photo Library feature has been delayed, except for those who installed the beta. We believe the delay stems from the need for compatibility with the upcoming iPadOS 16 and Ventura, not anything wrong with the feature.

Other significant features added in iOS 16 include:

  • Options to edit, undo sending, and mark conversations as unread in Messages
  • The capability to undo sending some messages, and to schedule sending email in Mail
  • Support for passkeys, which let you log into sites without a password. A few sites, most notably eBay, already support them (see “Why Passkeys Will Be Simpler and More Secure Than Passwords,” 27 June 2022).
  • A rewritten Home app that supports the upcoming Matter home automation alliance (see “Home Automation Standard Gets an Official Name,” 17 May 2021). Don’t worry, it’s not radically different from the Home app in iOS 15.
  • Significantly improved dictation that lets you dictate and use the onscreen keyboard at the same time
  • Medication tracking in the Health app
  • A redesigned Books app that you may find confusing at first

iOS 16 also offers lots of small new features. We’ll be covering them in more detail in the coming weeks, but for now, here are three quick things to try:

  • Keyboard haptic feedback: Go to Settings > Sounds & Haptics > Keyboard Feedback and turn on Haptic. When you type, you get a tiny bit of haptic feedback with every virtual keystroke.
  • Lifting subjects out of photos: If you have a recent iPhone with at least an A12 processor, try touching, holding, and dragging the subject of a photo in apps like Photos and Safari. You can then switch to another app and drop in the subject. The feature has a lot of rough edges (literally) but is fun to play with.
  • Merge duplicates: Photos has a new library that automatically detects duplicate photos and movies. In Albums > Duplicates, you can tap Merge to pick the higher-quality item and combine relevant metadata.

If you can’t wait for our coverage in TidBITS, check out my comprehensive book Take Control of iOS 16 and iPadOS 16 to learn about all these new features and more.

Take Control of iOS 16 and iPadOS 16 cover

Install iOS 16 in Settings > General > Software Update.

watchOS 9

watchOS 9 is a much more modest update than iOS 16. The main difference I’ve noticed in daily use is how notifications are now displayed as banners instead of taking over the entire screen when you’re using the watch. When your wrist is down, they still display fullscreen. Here are some of the other improvements:

  • A Low Power Mode that disables certain sensors and features while maintaining core features like activity tracking and fall detection
  • Four new watch faces to try and likely discard in favor of the one you use now: Lunar, Playtime, Metropolitan, and Astronomy
  • Workout improvements, including new workout views, heart rate zones, customized workouts, and new metrics like running power, stride length, ground contact time, and vertical oscillation
  • Integration with the Medication tracking feature in Health
  • Improved sleep tracking that identifies REM, Core, and Deep sleep stages
  • A redesigned Compass app with more information and zoomable views, plus a view including latitude, longitude, elevation, and incline, and an orienteering view with waypoints and backtracking capabilities
  • AFib history that tracks how often the user’s heart rhythm shows signs of AFib
  • Background applications now prioritized in the Dock
  • The capability to create events from the Calendar app

I see no reason to delay upgrading to watchOS 9 once you’ve upgraded your iPhone to iOS 16. You can install watchOS 9 in the Watch app in General > Software Update. Your watch must be on the charger, charged to at least 50%, and be near your iPhone.

tvOS 16

Every year, Apple seems less interested in the Apple TV platform as its cross-platform Apple TV+ service grows. As far as I know, here is everything new in tvOS 16:

  • Support for Nintendo Switch controllers (also in Apple’s other new operating systems)
  • Support for HDR10+
  • Rich video previews in the Apple TV+ tab of the TV app—basically ads for Apple TV+ shows
  • Intensity Metrics notifications in Apple Fitness+
  • Support for the upcoming Matter alliance

Whether the platform has simply matured or is being neglected, there isn’t much else to say. You can install the update in Settings > System > Software Updates or just let it update automatically sometime soon.

HomePod Software 16

I have no idea what HomePod Software 16 does. Apple’s release notes only mention “general performance and stability improvements,” the waffling language generally reserved for small updates. HomePod Software 16 should install automatically, or you can force the issue by opening the Home app in iOS 15 or iPadOS 15, tapping the Home icon in the upper-left corner, scrolling down and tapping Home Settings, and then Software Update. In iOS 16, touch and hold the HomePod’s accessory tile and choose Accessory Details. Scroll down and tap the gear, and then tap Update.

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