iOS 10 is now available to the public for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. Most iOS 9 devices can update to iOS 9, but what benefits are there to running Software Update? A lot actually. Apple has redesigned many of the core apps like Music and News, added third-party app integration into Siri, automatic people and object tagging in Photos, a whole new Lock Screen and much more. They’ve also updated Messages with new animated bubble effects, stickers, iMessage apps, Digital Touch, handwriting input and new emoji features.
This just scratches the surface. There’s a lot of new stuff to explore — read our walkthrough of the best new features and enhancements in iOS 10 after the break …
If you don’t know how to update, check out this guide. iOS 10 is compatible with most devices that run iOS 9 so the vast majority of people will be able to upgrade right now.
iOS 10 runs on iPhone 5 or later, iPad Mini or later and the sixth-generation iPod touch. Obviously, the new iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus come preinstalled with iOS 10 when they launch on Friday.
New Features and Enhancements In iOS 10
Revamped Messages App With Larger Emoji, Digital Touch, Bubble Effects, iMessages Apps and More
Messages has received a big upgrade in iOS 10 with many new features. Messages includes new ways to express your meaning with a handwriting scratchpad, bubble and screen effects to visually adorn your messages with animations, Apple Watch-esque Digital Touch sketches and send quick reactions using Tapbacks.
Send quick notes or thoughtful messages with the new handwriting mode. On iPhone, turn your device to landscape to activate the handwriting scratchpad and use your finger like a pen to write out quick messages. The same feature is available with a button press on the onscreen keyboard.
Bubble and screen effects add an extra dimension to your communications beyond lines of text. Bubble effects add different types of emphasis with various hard-hitting and gentle animations. For example, send an emotional message with a “gentle” effect which oozes gradually into frame. For a more hard-hitting message, use the “slam” effect and other bubbles literally bounce out of the way.
To activate bubble effects, long-press on the circular Send button. Tap on each button to get a preview and then tap again to confirm. The last option is called Invisible Ink. Invisible Ink messages are obscured when sent with a pixellated blur effect. The recipient has to drag their finger over the message to blow away the dust and reveal what it says. Preview these effects in the video below:
You can also do five different screen effects which apply to the whole screen, not just the individual bubble. Choose from balloons, confetti, fireworks, a laser light show or a shooting star. Select these set of effects using the buttons at the top of the screen on the bubble effects view. Bubble and screen effects display to recipients using iPhone or iPad on iOS 10 and Apple Watch with watchOS 3.
Another type of new communication in iOS 10 Messages is Digital Touch. Ported from Apple Watch, Digital Touch on iOS lets users send quick sequences of taps, little sketches and even “your” heartbeat. Press the little disclosure triangle next to the Messages textfield and select the middle icon, the Digital Touch Logo. This opens a canvas with different painting colors and a quick cheat sheet of various gestures. Tap quickly on the display to send taps or drag around to sketch. Hold down two fingers to send a pulsing heart. This should all be very familiar to Apple Watch users as the gestures are identical.
Unlike the Watch, however, the iPhone does not have a heart rate sensor. When you send a Digital Touch heartbeat on iPhone, there is nothing really special about it. It’s a fixed animation and not affected by your actual heart rate. You can also send a ‘heartbreak’ by pulling down your two fingers after the heart appears, a kiss (tap with two fingers) and a fireball (press with one finger).
All of these sketches and little ditty can be superimposed on top of a photo or video too, you are not limited to black backgrounds. Use the camera button to snap a quick selfie or shoot a video before or during a Digital Touch drawing.
Tapbacks are quick Facebook-like reactions to messages sent by others. Rather than reply a generic ‘okay’ or ‘agree’, long-press on a bubble to send an instant Tapback like a Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down. These little stamps annotate the bubble for all conversation participants and are great if you are on the move and don’t wait to tap out a complete reply. Recipients receive notifications about Tapbacks just like any normal message.
Everyone loves emoji and iOS 10 brings several enhancements in the emoji department. As well as 100 new emoji available, if you send up to three emojis as a standalone message, they will now appear 3x larger in the Messages app. A simple emoji smiley reply is more impactful with iOS 10 — it’s bigger.
The QuickType bar above the keyboard will also suggest emoji replacements for a lot of common strings. Moreover, if you write something in the Messages input field and then swap to the Emoji keyboard, the “Emojify” mode is activated. This highlights ‘emojifiable’ words in orange. Tapping instantly replaces the text with a suitable graphical emoji. It’s fun to do but the real-world practicality is probably limited. Still, if you are stuck in a runt and can’t find an emoji for your message … let iOS help you.
With iOS 10, Apple is trying to make the Messages app a platform of its own. It now features its own, dedicated, App Store for iMessage apps. This will include apps that replace the keyboard and offer new functionality as well as interactive apps that can be shared amongst all the people in the conversation. Apple has demoed a restaurant booking app where each individual adds to a shared order that appears as a bubble in the transcript. (Apple is also boosting the integration of the web itself into Messages; links will now display as rich previews with thumbnail art and page titles, rather than just a bare URL.)
View the available iMessages apps by pressing the third button in the input row. This shows a dedicated drawer of apps built for iMessage which can be re-arranged just like the normal iOS Home Screen. Press the ‘+’ button to view the Store to download iMessage apps. One type of iMessage app that will be very popular is stickers.
Stickers are kind of like third-party emoji, but better. Stickers are usually static images, but they don’t have to be: stickers can be animated or even dynamically generated by an iMessage app. They are more than just a photo: they can be peeled off the sticker set and placed anywhere in an iMessage conversation. This means they can dropped standalone, on top of text, on top of parts of text, on top of photos or even on top of other stickers. The recipient will see the sticker in exactly the same place so nothing is lost in transit.
(Monstermoji, featured in the top screenshot, is my own sticker pack. There’s loads of stickers in the store to choose from, with more on the way)
Tap on a sticker to send it as a standalone image. To peel off a sticker, long-press on it and drag it around. Whilst dragging, use another finger to rotate or zoom the sticker up to a larger size. Recently-used stickers appear in the Recents panel, for quick access. To view details about the stickers placed, long press on a bubble and select Sticker Details. This will show the originating app for a sticker and the person that placed them.
By default, iMessage apps appear in a compact view which is about the size of the system keyboard. In this presentation, swipe left and right to swap between iMessage apps and sticker packs. iMessage app, including stickers, also support full-size presentation which makes it easier to see more content at a time. Swipe to a particular sticker pack and then press the bottom-right up arrow to expand into full-screen view. Peeling a sticker whilst full screen will cause the iMessage app to automatically collapse into the compact presentation style so you can place the sticker on a bubble.
iOS 10 iMessage is packed with new stuff but note that much of the new stuff will require the people you are talking to also have iOS 10. Bubble and screen effects will not show on iOS 9 or older software, instead showing lame text messages like “Sent with ‘Slam’ effect”. Similarly, stickers will show up on older software but only as naive image attachments — the full features of stickers will only be available to iOS 10 users.
New Lock Screen Widgets, Today View And Rich Notifications
At a system level, a lot has changed with iOS 10. Slide to unlock is dead as part of an entirely new Lock Screen design. If you are using an iPhone 6s or iPhone 7, the iPhone will automatically wake the screen when you lift the device up. If not, a tap on the Home Button makes the iPhone come alive. To actually unlock the phone and get to the Home Screen, press the Home Button once. Don’t press the Home Button and explore the new Lock Screen features:
The Lock Screen is now split into three sections, the middle is the default and looks mostly the same displaying the time, date, wallpaper and any new notifications. Notifications have been redesigned as floating distinct bubbles and can feature real-time information, photos, videos and more. A sports app could update a single banner notification with the latest scores as the game is being played, rather than pushing one alert for every action.
All of the system apps make use of the new notification features; in addition to Quick Reply, a 3D Touch gesture on the banner will reveal a transcript of the conversation. You can actually chat from the lock screen now! A 3D Touch action reveals buttons and a detailed expanded content view for any third-party app that updates to add this integration.
From the lock screen, swipe to the right to reveal the quick access Camera. This used to be a vertical swipe, now it’s a horizontal one. Back to centre, swipe to the left to reveal the Today view. iOS 10 enables live updating interactive widgets to be accessible from the lock screen as well as Spotlight Search. Sensitive operations will only be revealed once the device is authenticated, with a Touch ID fingerprint or passcode. Apple has added several new widgets of its own too including Upcoming Destinations, frequently contacted people in Mail, and Activity rings for Apple Watch wearers. Widgets are now standardized with compact and expanded sizes, tap to Show More. Apple has obviously updated all of its stock widgets (like Weather or Stocks) to behave properly in the new paradigm.
Like notifications, widgets are also more bubbly and feature white backgrounds. This will cause some friction as developers have been building against a dark background Today view interface for some time; it will take months before apps update to respect the iOS 10 design guidelines.
Redesigned Control Center
Yet again, Control Center has been reworked. This time, the quick drawer has actually been segmented into separate panes. A “Now Playing” panel deals with everything related to music and media playback, the other holds other generic iPhone controls like brightness, WiFi toggles and such.
The iPhone controls settings, the first page, is much the same as before with toggles along the top row and quick access to flashlight, timer, calculator and camera running along the bottom. Night Shift has its own dedicated row now, whilst AirPlay Mirroring and AirDrop share a row.
Whilst it looks much the same as iOS 9, it has been boosted by 3D Touch shortcuts on the quick launch app. You can use 3D Touch to set the flashlight at low, medium or high intensity. You can 3D Touch the timer to start it instantly for an hour, twenty minutes, five minutes or one minute. Jump into a specific shooting mode by firmly pressing the Camera icon. Even the Calculator icon in Control Center will let you copy the last result with a 3D Touch gesture.
The second page of Control Center is Now Playing. This houses controls for music, like play/pause as well as album art and a separate AirPlay panel. This AirPlay panel is not to be confused with the Mirroring options: this is just for managing audio output across wireless speakers.
Automatic Face Recognition And Object Detection Photos
Apple is adding a lot of intelligence and machine learning algorithms to Photos with iOS 10. This includes automatic face recognition of people in your photo library, just like Photos on macOS. This means that full Faces support is available to iPhone and iPad users for the first time. After the system has indexed all your photos (this requires the iPhone or iPad to be connected to power), detected people will be shown in the special Faces album.
Tap on a person to see all the photos the app has tagged them in. You can name the person and drag them into a bar of Favorites to organize them. Apple uses machine learning algorithms to classify the faces as best it can but sometimes it will may mistakes. Delete a photo from a Faces album to untag it. After the initial photo library is indexed, new photos are indexed as they are taken and added to the appropriate collections. With iOS 10, Face albums are not synced between devices so every device manages its own library. Apple has hinted that Faces may sync in future software versions.
As well as Faces, Apple has also added advanced object recognition. This means that all your photos are also tagged based on their content. It is now possible to find pictures of dogs, animals, weddings, beaches, sunsets and many other things without any manual tagging or sorting. Unlike Faces, this metadata is not exposed in the Albums view. Instead, use the Search field and type in something. The object tagging is classified as a “Category”.
For example, search Dogs to find all the images the Photos app can find of dogs. There are over four thousand categories in total, many very obtuse. If you want to get a feeling for the kinds of objects and scenes the Photos app can detect, search the letter “a” in the box. It will show all the categories that begin with that letter. Ignore the other events and results in the search, focus only on the items that are listed as a “Category”. Repeat for the entire alphabet to see everything the Photos app has found in your library.
All of this intelligence happens locally on the device; your photos are never sent to a server in the sky for processing. This means the initial indexing may take some time (and it only happens whilst the iPhone or iPad is charging, to preserve power). Patience is a virtue here: when you first upgrade to iOS 10 it is unlikely to have processed all your pictures for people and objects.
Photos now includes a dedicated Places album which presents your library as a map view. The new Memories tab creates dynamic albums based on computer intelligence and attempts to intelligently group events based on location, time and the people who are in them. Memories are generated continuously as new groupings are found and the photo library grows. Tap into a memory thumbnail to view all the photos in the collection. The Photos app goes one step further and offers automatic slideshow movies of all the images in a collection. These are generated in real time and can be customized with different themes or length. It’s like something you could create in iMovie but integrated into the Photos app. If you want to preserve a movie, save it out as its own item. These can then be shared with others to commemorate the memories.
Brand New Home App For Controlling HomeKit Accessories
The Home app is entirely new and offers complete control over all your HomeKit accessories in the home. Configure Rooms, Zones and more from Apple’s first-party app. It shows little cards for each accessory and you can set favorites to display on the main screen. Tap on lights to quickly flick them on and off. Press firmly with 3D Touch to open the detail screen for an accessory; with lights, this opens a slider to select precisely how bright or how dim. If you have multicolored options, like the Hue White & Color Bulbs, a color wheel will display. For rooms, you can choose your own background wallpaper to quickly identify one from another.
The Home app is also where you set up automation. With a dormant tvOS 3 Apple TV or iOS 10 iPad that stays in the home which acts as a hub, users can set up triggers and rules to control their HomeKit accessories automatically. For instance, when the sun is rising, turn off the lights and switch on the fan. iOS 10 also enables a lot of new accessory types such as cameras and doorbells. The Home app takes advantage of the new rich notifications in iOS 10 too; you’ll be able to view your home security camera from the notification banner on the lock screen.
I really like the summary view on the Home tab; a few lines of text that show the most important information about the house upfront. On a per accessory basis, you can filter what messages display here so it only shows what is most relevant to you.
The Home app is a great addition to iOS, an Apple-sanctioned controller for your HomeKit life that doesn’t require voice activation via Siri. One thing that the Apple Home app can do that third-party apps can’t is integration with Control Center. With HomeKit accessories registered, Control Center will add a third pane after Now Playing. This gives quick access to favorite accessories and scenes, so you don’t have to dig into the iOS Home Screen just to flick a lamp off. The Control Center pane appears once you have configured at least one HomeKit accessory.
Simplified Music App, Apple Music Gains Lyrics, Discovery Mixes
The iOS 8.4 / iOS 9 Music app received a lot of criticism for being complicated and fiddly. Apple has taken that feedback to heart and is back with a whole new design for the application. The app now features clearer navigation. The first tab is your Library. This lists all the music that is “yours”, whether downloaded or just added from Apple Music. Tap the big Playlists item to view Playlists. Tap Artists to see your music filtered by singer, and so on. Albums display with bigger artwork and bigger touch targets, two per row. The default list of buttons can be customized using the Edit button.
Note that Apple has removed the dynamic tinting and translucency effects that flooded the iOS 9 interface. Everything is coated in either white, black and pink. Tap on a song to start playback and notice the new Now Playing view. Transport controls are visible alongside volume, AirPlay, song progress and artist/name labels. (Quick tip: tap the Album name to jump to that album in the app) The view is a transient popover and can be pulled downwards and out of sight at any time.
Pull the other way and reveal Shuffle, Repeat and Up Next options. It’s slightly hidden but it’s a lot cleaner than the iOS 9 Up Next experience which was hidden behind modal views. You can rearrange items in this list Lyrics will also appear in this space, just below the viewport unless scrolled, if they are available. Lyrics are a new feature with Apple Music in iOS 10 and will automatically show if they are found. Lyrics require an Apple Music subscription.
The other tabs of the Music app have also been redesigned with simpler navigation and a cleaner appearance. For You now includes Discovery Mixes which update weekly with music based on your library; these appear as scrolling cards at the top of the screen. The iOS 9 New tab has been renamed to “Browse” to better describe its contents. The Radio view has been given an overhaul too with a priority on Beats 1 and curated playlists. Swipe between the panes to view the different stations and tap to start listening. Beats 1 content is more easily accessible, displaying the current show on air and the upcoming schedule (localized to your timezone) in one tap.
There is still no landscape mode view but, overall, the app is way better than what came before. The huge heavy title typography may be off-putting at first but you get used to them. The iPad app has been similarly reworked with obvious navigation. Apple has an affordance for people who complained about not knowing what music was on device and what music was only in the cloud too. One of the Library navigation options (hideable if desired) is called Downloaded Music: this is a special filter that restricts what music is visible to just what is saved on local storage.
Third-Party App Integration With Siri
Siri is finally adding third-party app integration in iOS 10, so that some third-party apps can participate in responding to voice queries send to the personal assistant. With iOS 10, a Siri API enables six categories of applications to be a part of the Siri experience. This requires developer support so apps will have to be updated to support the new Siri SDK.
Once they do, you will be able to send and search chat messages with apps like WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger, start phone calls from Siri using Skype, search for images in an app like Flickr or use your voice to book a ride with Uber. Apple is also supporting fitness app and payment app integration so you can use apps like Square Cash with Siri to send your friends money … just with your voice.
In the example screenshots above, WhatsApp can handle the message request and display its own user interface inline to the Siri experience. Users can talk to Siri apps with a variety of phrasing, it is not limited to a robotic set of placeholder statements. Apple has designed the API so that the input users can provide is flexible, equally good for all apps in a particular category and will get better over time.
Right now, though, the categories of integration Apple offers is quite limited. Media playback apps are notable exceptions so you won’t be able to ask Spotify to start playing your favorite playlist or have Overcast start the queue of new podcasts in iOS 10.0. Apple executives have indicated that they plan to expand the capabilities of the Siri SDK in future iOS versions but a timeline was not given.
Apps with Siri support are beginning to roll out now alongside iOS 10. Find Siri apps by pressing the “Search the App Store” button at the bottom of the Siri help interface.
Apple News Redesign, Breaking News Notifications
Like Music, Apple News has received a significant redesign (and a new Home Screen icon) with bold fonts and sectioned content. Although Apple News features very little human curation on the main screen, Apple has reworked the algorithm in iOS 10 to delineate stories into titled pages per topic. Top Stories, which is selected by human editors, are shown at the top of the screen its own section with today’s date. Trending features the most popular articles from other readers and Featured is another human curated section of the best content, updated weekly. Videos embedded in stories will also play from the overview screen sometimes, instead of a static image.
New in iOS 10, Apple News supports subscriptions and breaking news. Subscriptions allow users to pay for recurring content, although it isn’t clear how this works just yet and is seemingly limited to select Apple partners. Opt into push notifications to get breaking news alerts from the News app even when you are not using it. The notifications utilise the rich notification API in iOS 10 so you can actually read a lot of the story straight from the banner. Apple News also introduces a Today view widget, so you can view headlines from the lock screen.
Major Maps App Redesign, Better Navigation And Third-Party App Integrations
Maps has received a redesign in iOS 10 with a new interface paradigm. The top and bottom fixed toolbars have been removed. Maps now shows a full screen map with a small popover window at the bottom of screen which handles most of the navigation.
The app is focused on navigation and nearby points of interest, Apple wants to get you where you are going faster. The popover features a search field at all times prompting you to search for a destination. Apple is also smarter about providing likely places to go with Proactive intelligence; these suggestions will be displayed below the search field. For example, if you are looking up a location in another app, Maps will be able to show that same address to you. Maps will also surface home, work or places associated with upcoming Calendar events on the map itself as their own pins. It can even detect where you have parked your car, if you pair with CarPlay or Bluetooth whilst driving.
Like Messages, Apple is also extending the Maps experience with more third-party app integration. Select ride booking and restaurant partners will be able to be shown in the Maps app, enabling contextual restaurant reservations or car services to appear relevant to your current location. Whilst navigating with turn-by-turn, Apple has also improved the camera system so you are more likely to see the road ahead. You can also pan around the map using your finger simultaneous with the turn-by-turn navigation. Maps will also let you search along the route for points of interest like petrol points or coffee shops.
Updated Health App With Simpler Views Into Your Activity
The Health app has not received as drastic redesigns as News or Music, but it has gotten an overhaul nonetheless. It now shows contextual health statistics for the current day, week and year as appropriate. Health data is split into four main classes, Activity, Mindfulness, Nutrition and Sleep. Each section is color coded and features an integrated explanatory video describing what falls under that category.
For example, the Activity section will display Apple Watch Activity rings as well as data points pertinent to activity tracking. This includes things like exercise minutes, flights climbed, resting energy, steps taken and distance travelled. All of the esoteric measurements, like the different vitamin intakes, are still trackable within Health but they are hidden by default. If you want to surface these on the main screens, select Add to Favorites. Hiding so much of the app’s depth by default is a good thing as it makes the app more approachable to use (the new design is far less underwhelming than a long list of random health statistics) for most people.
The Calendar view largely mirrors the main tab, but breaks down the information based on the selected date. If you just want to see how active you were yesterday, the Calendar view supplies that information very easily. I still wish it was easier to see a weekly or monthly summary.
Phone Improvements, Better VoIP App Integration
Apple has enhanced the Phone app with support for third-party VoIP apps. These can show up on the lock screen like normal phone calls with full size profile pictures, although again this will require apps to update to support the new API. Messaging and VoIP apps can also integrate into the contact cards so if you talk to a friend over WhatsApp a lot, it will appear as a quick chat option automatically. The Siri SDK will also enable phone calls to VoIP apps using just your voice.
Apple is also adding a spam call alert API, so developers can let the system know if a number is known as fraudulent or as a spam caller, it will display instead of an anonymous Caller ID. Apple is also launching a beta of voicemail transcription using iCloud dictation, but this is limited to select carriers. It seems to require visual voicemail too, so if you don’t have that you are out of luck. Voicemail transcription shows transcribed text content inline to the voicemail notification.
We’ve tried to cover the main highlights above, but we’ll have continuing walkthroughs over the next few weeks of everything iOS 10 has to offer. iOS 10 is a big update and there’s some other notable additions that deserve a mention:
- Use Apple Pay on the web, on supporting websites in Safari.
- On iPad, open Split View in Safari to view two pages side-by-side.
- iPad Pro 12.9 inch gets a three-pane view in Mail and Notes.
- Organ donor integration with the Health app. This is US only.
- Four new languages for Siri: Spanish (Chile), Chinese (Cantonese), English (Ireland) and English (South Africa).
- Live Photos image stabilization as well as photo filters for Live Photos.
- When highlighting text, Siri will now spell out individual letters with a “Speak” option as well as Speak Selection.
Apple has really shaken up a lot of the core apps with iOS 10 as well as drastic changes to the Lock Screen. All of the redesigns are changes for the better; the new Music app is very good and far simpler to understand with flattened navigation. Once apps update to support all the new stuff, iOS 10 will make a big difference to how people use the iPhone whether that’s through rich notifications or via Siri voice queries.
I think the removal of Slide to Unlock will be jarring to a lot of people, especially those without the latest hardware and cannot benefit from Raise to Wake. The need to press the Home Button again can be a bit jarring and breaks a habit iPhone users have built up since 2007.
In general, though, iOS 10 is as familiar and easy to use as ever. iOS 10 is available now for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. Download it and enjoy all of these new features today. Also check out the other software updates Apple has released today like watchOS 3, which is another great update for Apple Watch users.
FTC: We use income earning auto affiliate links. More.