IOS 16 Review: Apple opens the lock screen

J.Just in time for the iPhone 14 line to arrive, iOS 16 is officially here after spending a few months in beta. I’ve spent the last week testing the final version of the software, and there are plenty of new things to try, including customizable lock screens, improvements to the Messages app, and some smarter AI tricks. Equally important, there are no bugs. The latest version of Apple’s mobile operating system works with the iPhone 8 and later models, although some features require a relatively new A12 chip. (More on that later.)

This year’s version of iOS is an update you will notice – something that was hard to say about iOS 15, whose most important features are media sharing, Focus and SharePlay modes. iOS 14, now two years old, added widgets to the icon grid, and for the first time since the iPhone’s launch, it shook the home page. With iOS 16, Apple has finally tackled the lock screen.

Pros

  • Customizable Lock Screen
  • Visual search is smarter and more useful
  • Touch writing
  • Very few startup errors

Cons

  • Some features require the latest iPhone hardware
  • Others require third party application support

Personalized lock screen

The lock screen featured a clock and not much else. It’s a little different now, but let’s start with the clock. The font is thicker and you can even choose a text color, and now there’s room for widgets. You may not like the look of the new default font (I don’t), but the good news is that it can be customized with a few font styles and colors. You can of course select photos on the lock screen, which is nothing new, and you can apply filter styles and even choose a shuffled selection of photos to go through. If the photos were taken in portrait mode, you can also enable the multi-layer photo effect where the photo object pops up ahead of time. If you have an iPhone 14 Pro, check out our full review for our thoughts on the Always On Display and, of course, Apple’s new Dynamic Island.

There are two different widget areas that can be customized. First, there’s a narrow box above the clock that best suits your single-line text (think: date, chance of rain, or next calendar event). Below is a box that can hold up to four different widgets – a mix of 2×1 and 1×1 icons. On the lock screen, you can tap on them to launch them where you want them, but don’t expect to gather additional information by long-pressing the icons, which seems like a very Apple way of extending the information these widgets offer. Maybe in iOS 16.1 or iOS 17?

IOS 16 review
Mat Smith / Engadget

As with the debut of home screen widgets in iOS 14, third-party app developers take time to put widgets in their updates and on the phone, but I’m sure productivity, fitness tracking services, and more will be jumping on the line. Google in particular seems ready to board: its upcoming Gmail widget is sure to be on my lock screen when it becomes available.

The new lock screen also retains some classic features. You’ll still see the signal strength and battery icons (now with a percentage reading))and the flashlight and camera shortcuts are still available. Oddly enough, the battery indicator visually only recreates the charge state when your battery is below 20 percent, which is counterintuitive when you have 50 percent, for example.

Refreshing the lock screen also acts as a new way to showcase an iOS 15 feature that can be quite laborious to set up: focus modes. You can now assign focus mode to individual lock screens (one for personal use, one for work, one for sleep), each with their own custom widget layouts and photos. If you rarely change your wallpaper on weekdays, you can set up, say, a fun weekend image of your family and assign it to a personal focus mode.

Conversely, I have a pretentious motivational quote on a black background when I break deadlines and have my phone set to Do Not Disturb. The ability to shift between focus modes makes it easier to use them in everyday life. Sure, I could have done this in the past from the drop-down menu in the top-right corner, but I didn’t. In iOS 16, I use Focus modes more often.

Better news experience

IOS 16 review
Mat Smith / Engadget

Apple’s native messaging app comes with some unique tricks, including new visual search features. Now it supports copying and pasting images, extracting themes from photos, screenshots, and more, 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 cut it off from the background, ready to be pasted elsewhere.

This is incredibly accurate for a, well, lazy method. Love it. The visual search skills of iOS 16 are further enhanced with the new ability to remove text from video. In addition to the videos you make yourself, it should work with full-screen videos in your web browsers.

Messages also expanded their sharing capabilities beyond SharePlay and Stickers. You can now send documents, spreadsheets, and more as long as they are saved in one of the Apple office software file types. Hopefully, third-party support for Microsoft and Google Suite is coming soon.

Apple is also making up for lost time elsewhere. Finally, you can edit and undo messages in the Messages app – if you’re fast enough. After you send the message for the first time, you will have up to 15 minutes to edit, and you can change the message up to five times. You can see all edited messages from other people using iOS 16 as well, it will be grayed out (blue?) Under the corrected message. The unsend functions only apply to messages transferred from iPhone to iPhone.

Likewise, you can now undo sending and schedule emails from the native Mail app. (Finally.) There are also other modern features that you’re probably already used to in Gmail, such as suggestions when you forgot an attachment or recipient. .

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