iOS 16 review: Apple opens the lock screen

JJust in time for the arrival of the iPhone 14 range, iOS 16 is officially here after spending several months in beta. I’ve spent about the last week testing the final version of the software, and there are plenty of new things to try, including customizable lock screens, Messages app improvements, and some smarter AI tricks. Just as important, it’s not buggy. The latest iteration of Apple’s mobile operating system works with the iPhone 8 and newer models, although some features require the relatively new A12 chip. (More on that later.)

This year’s version of iOS is an update you’ll notice – something that was hard to say for iOS 15, whose most notable features relate to media sharing, focus modes, and SharePlay. iOS 14, now two years old, added widgets to the grid of icons, transforming your homepage experience for the first time since iPhone’s launch. With iOS 16, Apple finally tackled the lock screen.

A personalized lock screen

The lock screen used to have a clock and not much else. Things are a little different now, but let’s start with the clock. The font is bolder and you can even choose the color of the text and there’s room for widgets now. You might not like how the new default font looks (not me), but the good news is that it’s customizable with multiple font styles and colors. You can of course choose photos for the lock screen, which is nothing new, and you can apply filter styles and even choose a mixed selection of photos to cycle through. If the pictures were taken in portrait orientation, you can also enable a layered photo effect where the subject of the photo pops out in front of the clock. If you have an iPhone 14 Pro, read our full review for our thoughts on the Always On Display and of course Apple’s new Dynamic Island.

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There are two different widget areas that you can customize. First is a narrow box above the clock, best suited for single-line text (think: the date, the chance of rain, or your next calendar event). Below that is a box that can hold up to four different widgets – a mix of 2×1 and 1×1 icons. From the lock screen, you can tap these to launch the corresponding widget itself, but don’t expect to get additional information by long-pressing on the icons, which seems like a very Apple way of launching those widgets to expand the information offered. Maybe in iOS 16.1 or iOS 17?

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iOS 16 review

Mat Smith / Engadget

Similar to the debut of home screen widgets on iOS 14, it will be some time before third-party app developers bring widgets into their updates and onto your phone, but I’m sure productivity, fitness tracking services, and others will jump on it become chance. Google, in particular, seems poised to jump on board: its forthcoming Gmail widget will definitely get a spot on my lock screen when it’s available.

The new lock screen also keeps some classic features. You’ll still see signal strength and battery icons (now with a percentage indicator), and both the flashlight and camera shortcuts are still available to tap on. Oddly enough, the battery gauge only gives a visual representation of how charged it is when the battery is below 20 per cent, which is counterintuitive at 50 per cent, for example.

The lock screen refresh also acts as a new way to showcase an iOS 15 feature that can be quite a hassle to set up: focus modes. You can now assign a focus mode to individual lock screens (one for home, one for work, one for sleep), each with their own custom widget layouts and photos. For example, if you rarely change your wallpaper on weekdays, you can set up a fun weekend picture of your family and assign it to your personal focus mode.

Conversely, I have a pretentious motivational quote on a black background when I have appointments to meet and my phone is set to do not disturb. The ability to swipe between focus modes makes it easier to use in everyday life. Sure, I could have done this in the past using the top right drop-down menu, but I didn’t. With iOS 16, I already use focus modes more often.

A better messaging experience

iOS 16 review

Mat Smith / Engadget

Apple’s native messaging app gets some unique tricks, including new visual lookup capabilities. It now takes care of copying and pasting images, pulling designs from photos, screenshots, and more, and turning them into easy-to-share stickers. Long press on the object/animal/person and your iPhone (if it’s an XS or newer) will try to crop it from the background to paste it elsewhere.

It’s eerily accurate for such a lazy method. I love it. The visual lookup capabilities in iOS 16 are even more extensive, with the new ability to remove text from video. Besides self-recorded videos, it should also work with full-screen videos in web browsers.

Messages has also expanded its sharing capabilities beyond SharePlay and Stickers. You can now send documents, spreadsheets, and more, as long as they’re saved in one of Apple’s Office software file types. Hopefully, third-party support for Microsoft and the Google suite is coming soon.

Apple is also making up for lost time elsewhere. Finally, you can edit and retract messages in the Messages app – if you’re quick enough. After you send the message the first time, you have up to 15 minutes to edit it, with the ability to change your message up to five times. You can see all the edited messages from other people who are also using iOS 16 grayed out (blue?) under the corrected message. The withdraw features are only available for iPhone-to-iPhone messages.

Likewise, you can now undo sending and scheduling emails from the native Mail app. (Finally.) There are also other modern features you’re probably already familiar with from Gmail, such as: B. Suggestions if you may have forgotten an attachment or recipient. .

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