Apple today launched the first public beta of its upcoming iOS 16 software update so you can try out its new features like a customizable lock screen with widgets, granular controls for different Focus, and an improved messaging experience — for both green and blue bubbles — on your iPhone. Beta testers can also download the pre-release versions of iPadOS 16, which includes like a revamped multitasking interface and changing the display's pixel density, and watchOS 9 with improved arterial fibrillation detection and detailed sleep tracking.
The company first announced iOS 16 last month at its Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC), and has since launched three developer betas since. The public beta allows you to test new features without having to pay $99 for a developer account, and with (hopefully) fewer bugs than the developer beta version. If you want a more stable version of iOS for your iPhone, you'll have to wait until it becomes available for everyone in the fall.
You should keep in mind that these are test versions and some features on your iPhone won't work properly with this version. So you should be prepared for those anomalies if you plan to install the iOS 16 public beta.
To install the new public beta, head to the Apple Beta Software Program website, sign in with your Apple ID, and download the configuration profile for the device you want to install the test version on. Once you set up the profile on your phone, you'll get a prompt in Settings > General > Software Update to download the iOS 16 public beta.
iO16 update comes with many new updates to look forward to with a new configurable home screen with widgets being the marquee feature. You can long-press on the lock screen and start customizing a style by picking a new photo, a font style, a filter, and a depth effect. As noted in a prior TechCrunch story last month, Apple's default wallpaper is limited, so you will have to rely more on third-party images or your own collection.
The 3D layer effect for wallpaper is slightly inconsistent. It works well when there's just one person or object in the image, but if there are multiple objects in the picture, the depth effect doesn't work for every part. But hopefully, this will be sorted in the final release.
What's more, You will be able to set multiple lock screens by combining different wallpapers, styles, and widgets. Apple is also releasing a Live Activities API, that will allow apps to show you ongoing activities — like a score of a sports game and an ongoing Uber ride, for instance.
You can have multiple lock screens to scroll through for different locations, moods, or times — think of them as watch faces (or screen faces) for your iPhone. Plus, iOS 16 allows you to link a lock screen to a specific Focus mode. And speaking of Focus — now it has more filters along with allow and silent lists for apps, triggers like location and time to activate a specific mode, and customized home page suggestions. Apple is giving users all the tools to tune the lock screen and home screen according to their needs, but going through a ton of settings to do that could be confusing for some.
With more information available through widgets and notifications on the lock screen and the launch of the new spotlight button on the home screen on iOS 16 and already existing home-screen widget support, Today View is almost redundant — unless you want a widget-only screen.
iOS 16 will also bring an updated Photos app with iCloud Shared Photo Library for families, so they can have a separate feed of photos taken by different members. Apart from specifying a person or a place to add to that library, you can also switch on a toggle in the camera app to send photos you snap instantly to the shared library.
The new Photos app will also bring locked folders for Hidden and Deleted photos and duplication removal, which can save a ton of space on your device.
iOS 16 has put a lot of onus on collaboration. You can now make shared tab groups in Safari to collaborate with your friends, which is useful if you're thinking about taking a vacation or planning a dinner party. You can essentially use them like Pinterest pinboards for idea building. You can hold the tab button on the bottom-right corner to open the menu, and quickly add the current site to any tab group.
Apple will also let you easily share documents, slide decks, or Safari tab groups in Messages, so others can collaborate on these files. With iOS 16, you will be able to quickly start a SharePlay experience right from the Messages app without starting a FaceTime call. What's more, the company will release a collaborative app called Freeform later this year — on iOS 16, iPadOS 16 and macOS Ventura — where you can add your own notes, include photos, draw out doodles, and even FaceTime someone directly from the app.
If you deal with iMessage a lot, you will be able to edit a sent message (for up to 15 minutes), undo send, and quickly mark a message as unread by swiping. iOS 16 will also allow you do recover deleted messages until 30 days after deletion.
If you deal with green bubbles or SMS messages, you'll be able to filter messages with different categories like 12 subcategories within “Transactions” and “Promotions.” The Transactions category includes Finance, Reminders, Orders, Health, Public Services, Weather, Carrier, Rewards, and Others; the Promotions category includes Offers, Coupons, and Others. All of this will only work for India-based iOS users, bringing them on parity with Android, which had apps like the Microsoft SMS Organizer. If you live in the U.S., you will be able to report spam messages to carriers with a new “Report Junk” that will be visible inside the Messages app under the Unknown Senders category.
Apple is refreshing the Mail app search feature with smart recommendations for search. It will let you schedule and undo send emails, too. The Maps app in iOS 16 will let you add multiple stops on your route and show you transit fares on the selected journey. The OS update will also bring security and privacy-focused features like letting you automatically skip CAPTCHAs, real-time security updates, a Safety Check feature to get away from abusers, and PassKey support for passwordless logins.
Live text now includes support for videos and converts units automatically. You can also translate foreign languages send an email, create a calendar event, call phone numbers, or track flights from the detected text. This is useful to get data off a business card or quickly read food items and convert currencies from a restaurant menu while traveling.
However, the most fun feature of iOS is the new image cutout feature, which lets you “pick up” objects from images by separating the subject and the background. This could be really handy for image editing or even creating stickers of your pets for Messages, Telegram, and WhatsApp.
And if you're not satisfied with all these features, you can look at TechCrunch's list of other nifty features that can make your life easier.
Apple is also releasing the public beta of iPadOS 16 today that can give you a taste of a new multitasking system called Stage Manager. It's a new interface that allows you to concentrate on one app, while giving you the ability to quickly launch another from its sidebar or the bottom-placed dock. This gives you the freedom to have floating windows of different sizes on one screen like your desktop.
iPadOS 16 will also bring some important display-related features such as full support for an external display to set up multiple workspaces, and Display Zoom to adjust the pixel density of the screen so you can display more details in an app while using split mode.
The company is releasing WatchOS 9 beta with improved A-fib detection and detailed sleep stage analysis including time spent in REM, Core, or Deep sleep. The new Workout app will now allow you to switch between different in-activity displays by rotating the digital crown and letting you see different Heart Rate Zones to measure the intensity of the workout.
WatchOS 9 (and iOS 16) will introduce medication logging, schedules, and reminders. For U.S.-based users, the feature will also notify you about critical interaction of medicine — for instance, if it’s not advised to consume alcohol while taking a particular pill.
Historically, Apple's OS updates become available for everyone a week after the iPhone launch — usually held in September. So, if you don't want to try experimental versions of iOS 16, iPadOS 16, and Watch OS 9 you should wait for a few months.