The Next iPhone Software Has 10 Awesome Upgrades

Make Forbes your destination for all-things iOS. Stay ahead of the curve with Anthony Karcz when each version hits public beta. Read full details of what’s in the release from me the moment it lands. Kate O’Flaherty looks at the security considerations of each new release. And then read Gordon Kelly’s analysis of whether you ought to install or wait.

Apple iOS 15.2 has been in public beta for weeks now. It really can’t be far off now. My guess is it will land this Tuesday, December 14, though it could pop up before or even after then, you never know with Apple.

In it, there’s going to be a wide variety of new features, from gentle redesigns to seriously important features. Here’s a run-down of 10 of the best ones.

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The 10 Best Things About iOS 15.2

1 Apple Music Voice Plan

This is something that was announced previously, but will reach implementation with iOS 15.2. It’s a lower-priced Apple Music subscription, though not free. Apple Music has never mimicked Spotify’s free tier. It’s half the regular price, $4.99 a month instead of the regular $9.99 price. So, what’s the catch?

Well, the way you use Apple Music Voice Plan is different because you can only use it via Siri—hence the voice in the name. This, of course, is a significant bonus for many, especially when you’re playing music on a HomePod or HomePod mini, for instance. But it is still on the iPhone and iPad, too. Other features of the plan include an option to Play It Again which lets you easily access a list of recently played music.

2 Legacy Contacts

You may not have this top of your list of priorities, but maybe it should be. When a loved one dies, you’ll probably be unable to unlock their iPhone, store for all those precious photos and other memories. Apple has previously sought to respect the privacy of the person who has died, and refused to unlock an iPhone for anyone.

With Legacy Contacts, you can identify up to five people who you’d like to be able to access your iCloud content after you’ve died. You then let the person or people know they have this status and they’ll be given an access key which, once you’re no longer alive, will allow them to access your stuff. If they don’t have an iPhone running iOS 15.2, then you can give them this access in PDF form, for instance. Read more details here.

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3 Messages and Inappropriate Content

The upcoming iOS 15.2 update will bring more privacy than ever before. Previously, Apple announced it was introducing protection against Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM). Apple proposed scanning material on a user’s device and there was a backlash with organizations and individuals fearing that the system could be abused. This system has not been implemented and Apple is considering how it will continue with it.

But now, another feature in the same vein is coming in iOS 15.2. It’s much less controversial. It involves a parental control connected to Messages.

It will use algorithms designed to spot nudity and sexual content—though not to match images to a database of known CSAM content, one of the issues with the original plan. The algorithms are used on-device and do not involve scanning the content of the child’s phone.

Once the parental control is activated, if the iPhone spots nudity, for instance, in an image in Messages, it will blur out the content and instead present the user with a warning about the image. The child can then decide whether they want to see the image or not and additionally gives them the option to message a trusted adult about it.

Apple hasn’t given up on CSAM scanning, but it seems to have been taken aback by the reaction to it. It’s taking its time to implement it and more controversy may follow. But for now, the new parental control is rather less controversial and could genuinely help children make good decisions about what they look at.

4 Find My Improvements

The Find My app is about to have better interaction with AirTag trackers. In the next software, users will be able to actively search for AirTags nearby—previously this was only done passively, that is, if an AirTag which wasn’t yours was in your bag, for instance, the iPhone would tell you and it would eventually make a giveaway sound. Now, you’ll be able to check for AirTags that aren’t associated with your Apple ID, for instance.

Additionally, with iOS 15.2, Find My will be able to locate an iPhone when it’s in Power Reserve for up to five hours.

5 Better Macro Mode controls for iPhone 13 Pro

I love the Macro mode on the iPhone 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max. As you get close to an object, like down to a few inches, the iPhone automatically moves to Macro. But you may not want this, and the update will sort that with an onscreen switch so you needn’t have Macro if you don’t want it.

6 Face ID Will Work when the iPhone Screen is Replaced

This is good news if you’ve ever damaged your iPhone screen and had it replaced by someone other than Apple. Apple had said that Face ID would be disabled when this replacement took place. Now, Face ID will continue to work.

7 App Privacy Report

This is another big change, and Forbes contributor Kate O’Flaherty has covered it in great detail here. It means that you can read a report of exactly which apps are tracking you and what they’ve done. If you don’t like what you see, you can change the permissions.

8 Emergency Calling Trigger

It used to be that you could press the side button on the iPhone five times quickly to call emergency services. This was on iPhones with a Home button on the front. Well, that mechanism has now been restored. After those five presses, there’s an eight-second delay and then the call is made.

9 Improved Notification Summary

Until now, notifications have been summarized in a series of cards presented together on screen, but now it’s been rejigged so that it looks much better. They’re now all collected together in one card.                                                                           

10 Hide my email

Hiding your email address when you sign up to a new app or website has been easy for a while now, you just choose the option to “Sign in with Apple”. Now, with iOS 15.2, you can do the same thing from within the Mail app. Just by tapping on the CC field, an option will appear. Which means you can hide your email address from marketers and the like. You’ll still be able to receive the emails, though, as Apple will create an address for you and forward messages to you normally. Only Apple and you will know the real email address. You need to be an iCloud+ subscriber for this.

Full details of everything that’s released as soon as the update lands, likely this Tuesday, December 14.

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