Apple shows love to the Lock Screen with iOS 16

Apple's latest update for the iPhone makes the Lock Screen worth looking at, all while adding tons of features to apps like Messages, Home, Maps and more.

Apple is updating your iPhone again, this time with iOS 16. It’s the company’s latest major upgrade for its smartphone line, and it’s chock-full of new features and technologies. But where the most attention will clearly land is the Lock Screen which, for the first time since the iPhone’s inception, is getting completely overhauled, and it’s by far one of the most interesting overhauls ever to come to iOS.

iOS 16 is here

  • Apple has unveiled iOS 16, which includes a completely re-imagined Lock Screen with customizable widgets, fonts, wallpapers, and more.
  • There’s also a slew of other enhancements like an edit button for Messages, a redesigned Home app, new Live Text features, and more.
  • The new update will ship to all users this fall.

The new Apple Watch-inspired Lock Screen

It’s hard to not draw comparisons to the Apple Watch when you look at the new Lock Screen on iOS 16. From the fonts to the wallpapers to the widgets, there’s a lot that falls right in common with what you can do with faces in watchOS.

You can customize the font the time is displayed in, subjects are separated from their background to add depth, and widgets offer an extremely similar appearance to their Apple Watch counterparts. So while it all feels like a bigger version of the Apple Watch, it’s also a welcome improvement over the stagnant Lock Screen of iOS 15 and earlier.

Apple throws in a suite of new stock wallpapers, including one that can shuffle through your photo library to give you a new Lock Screen throughout the day. Widgets include the weather, battery levels, alarms, time zones, Activity ring progress, and more according to Apple, and developers will be able to make their own that plug into other apps and services.

There’s also Live Activities which will give you real-time information on current events such as sports, workouts, and ride-sharing services. They’ll live at the bottom of the Lock Screen alongside collapsable notifications, which will clear the way for your wallpaper to shine through and make accessing alerts much easier on bigger iPhones.

The new Lock Screen is also compatible with Focus modes, allowing you to have multiple lock screens set up depending on which mode you enter.

Gone are the days of unlocking your phone and immediately bypassing your Lock Screen. Apple doesn’t want you to forget about your Lock Screen any longer and instead spend a little time there, learn something new, and gaze at its beauty. Will this mix of features be enough? Presumably yes, but we’ll have to see how they each evolve over the beta process this summer.

New apps, new features, and new device support

The rest of iOS 16 is about as equally as interesting as the Lock Screen alone. Apple is doing its usual scattering of new features across the operating system as it does every year, and there seems to be a lot here to like.

In Photos, Apple is adding a new iCloud Shared Photo Library that gives families an easier way to share pictures and videos of specific people, locations, and more with each other. Up to six people can have access to the library and contribute to it, as well as make edits. I can already tell this will likely become a hit in many Apple-centric households.

Messages is getting an upgrade with three new features: the ability to edit and recall sent messages, recover deleted messages, and mark conversation threads as unread. Apple said it’s also bringing SharePlay to Messages so users can watch content together while texting in real time.

The Mail app gets a hefty upgrade with email scheduling, reminders, and Follow Up suggestions as well as a complete overhaul of the search experience. Wallet is getting a new Apple Pay Later feature which will let users pay for things via four installments over six weeks with zero interest or fees, and it works wherever Apple Pay is accepted. Keys and IDs in the Wallet app will also get expanded support, and apps will be able to check your ID if its features require it.

Live Text in iOS 16 is getting upgraded with video support, currency conversions, and text translations. Meanwhile, Visual Look Up can now separate a subject from its background and allow you to place said subject in apps like Messages to send to friends. There’s also improvements to Focus modes which now work in apps like Safari, Calendar, Mail, and Messages to only show content you want to see in certain scenarios.

You can also set up multi-stop routes in Maps, as well as sync those routes across your devices, get transit updates, and view a wider range of three-dimensional immersive maps such as Las Vegas. Apple also announced an easier setup process for Family Sharing, the ability to use both the keyboard and Dictation when typing, a redesigned Home app with support for Matter, an expansion of the Fitness app to all users (even those without Apple Watches), support for running shortcuts in Siri right after downloading an app (no setup needed), and much more.

My takeaway

There’s no way you can say iOS 16 is a minor upgrade. While previous versions of iOS have felt somewhat muted due to their lack of any sort of UI overhauls or ground-breaking features, iOS 16 feels almost the opposite. It’s jam-packed with so much stuff that it’ll take a while to spot everything new. It’s also likely that these new features will appear sporadically during the beta process, as is the case with most iOS updates.

When does iOS 16 drop?

Apple will release iOS 16 to all users this fall, with a developer beta being made available today. A public beta will launch next month.

I guess I should install it, huh?