iOS 16 Beta Delivers on Aesthetics And Convenience

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(Image: Apple)Summer is an exciting season for those who are willing to take on a bit of risk to experience the newest iPhone operating system before it becomes mainstream. Like last year, Apple’s latest iOS beta has been made publicly available just as temperatures are beginning to reach their annual highs. And iOS 16 has proven itself a cool drink of water, with its revamped lock screen interface, new communication features, and other miscellaneous improvements.

One could easily argue that iOS 16’s most widely anticipated feature is its customizable lock screens. These work much like Apple Watch faces, if you’re familiar: tapping and holding on the lock screen reveals a carousel of options, which will be mostly empty until you’ve configured your designs. Opting to add a new lock screen opens a menu full of photo, weather, astronomy, emoji, and color gradient-based wallpapers, which you can customize to your heart’s content. That’s no hyperbole: you can layer filters over your photo wallpaper, change the font on the time and date, add widgets, and even enable or disable a depth effect, which makes it appear as though the central clock is layered in with your photo’s depth of field. While previously you would have needed to unlock your phone to check the weather or your fitness insights, you can now do this hands-free with a single glance to your lock screen.

Even without such convenience, the new options are beautiful and expressive. (Easter egg alert: early adopters will notice that Apple threw in a 4K version of its 15-year-old clownfish wallpaper as a lock screen option.) Once you’ve got a few designs nailed down, you can swap between them with ease—again, just like the  Apple Watch. You’re also given the option to create a matching home screen, though the new options here are relatively limited. (Widgets, after all, have been a customizable home screen feature for quite some time.)

It’s within individual apps that the rest of iOS 16’s new features reside. The Mail app, for instance, allows you to unsend an email you’ve sent in approximately the last 15 seconds. Mail has caught up with major email providers like Gmail and Outlook by allowing you to schedule an email in advance. It’ll also ask if you’re sure that you want to send a message without an attachment if you’ve mentioned one in the body of the email—not particularly revolutionary, but useful for us forgetful folk nonetheless.

Apple’s new “Live Activities” gathers alerts and information at the bottom of the screen instead of covering the entire lock screen. As the name implies, Live Activities can also provide real-time updates for ongoing events.

Communication blunders have their fixes in iMessage now, too. A hotly-debated new iMessage feature allows you to edit messages you’ve sent in the last 15 minutes. While this is framed as a way to correct embarrassing typos, some joke that it could be used to “take back” unread disses or drunk texts. But changing a sent message puts a little “edited” stamp under the text in question. (It’s unknown, for purposes such as Judge Judy court cases, whether the original text is still visible on the back end.) You can also unsend messages up to 15 minutes after you’ve sent them, but you’ll likely get a warning that states recipients with older interfaces might still see the message, so you’ll still want to think twice before sending that “U up?” text.

iOS 16 introduces a slew of productivity features ideal for students and those who work remotely. Improved dictation, Live Text for video, and Safari tab grouping and sharing are surprisingly intuitive and make on-the-go work a little less clunky. Colleagues can share notes and Pages documents in iMessage now, which mitigates the necessity of constantly switching between apps. Meanwhile, if you’ve been intrigued about Freeform, you’ll have to wait: Apple’s new whiteboard-like collaboration app won’t be made public until later this year.

Other miscellaneous features include easy Apple Pay order tracking and the ability to play mobile games with Nintendo Joy-Cons. Taking a break from your Apple Watch no longer requires you to sacrifice your Fitness rings; having finally realized that you almost always have your iPhone with you anyway, Apple now lets you close your rings with movement tracked on your phone. You can “hand off” your Facetime call from one device to another, thus eliminating the need to tell your friend you’ll call her right back when you get sick of holding up your phone. Finally, a privacy tool allows users to rapidly reassess or revoke shared privacy settings. This feature was made with domestic and intimate partner violence victims in mind.

(Image: Apple)

If my perception of iOS 16 appears to glow a bit, that’s because it does. The interface’s add-ons are convenient, easy to use, and well-integrated. The only downside I’ve experienced so far is a slightly bumpy jump from app to app; transitions seem to stutter a bit, though that might be the “beta” part of the iOS 16 beta talking. Overall, while Apple’s previous iOS drops left quite a bit to be desired, iOS 16 seems to have brought its A-game. The new interface delivers on what are arguably Apple users’ top priorities: aesthetics and ease of use. While the new lock screen designs are pretty and exciting, nearly every other new iOS 16 feature is designed to make work and play a little easier—and so far, even in beta mode, it works.

Those who are interested in participating in the cleverly-named Appleseed beta program can sign up here, though it’s important to note that the Terms and Conditions of participation are…extensive. While most major issues are ironed out by the time a beta becomes publicly available, there’s always a chance that a budding OS could fry your data—so change up your lock screens before everyone else at your own risk.

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