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  • Writer's pictureKevin Poindexter II

iOS 15 Features and Hidden Tips

Updated: Sep 21, 2021

Part 1 of the known and not so known features found in Apple's newest software release

credit: Apple

Apple just finished this year's iPhone event and you now have your hands on the final version of iOS 15. Sure on outside it looks the same but there are a lot of changes they've made and The Xiryrus Man has your back discovering what's new.



Focus Mode

credit: Apple

We're all pretty invested in the time we spend on our mobile devices and to a growing number of people the time they spend on said device is important. You may be in the middle of an important project, watching a movie, or finishing that final boss in Angry Birds and if you're like me you don't want an unexpected call to ruin your focus. Apple's fix to that is a new mode they call Focus Mode and with that you can customize what apps and contacts are allowed to notify you.

iOS 15 comes pre-configured with three modes: work, personal, and sleep. The names of these are self explanatory to their purpose and you can customize them or add your own. You'll find the settings for Focus Mode in your Settings and by tapping on that you see the three modes and classic Do Not Disturb.

Tapping on the plus icon brings up a screen asking what do you want to focus on which is where you can create a custom focus or use presets. These presets are made to allow notifications from apps which match the category of said preset. There's even a focus for driving that blocks distractions while you're driving. The Driving focus can auto enable itself for those that have Apple Car Play enabled vehicles. When in Focus Mode you also have the option to share your focus status with other iOS 15 users. With this option enabled people that attempt to message and/or call you will see that you're in focus thus letting them know now may not be the best time to distract you.



Live Text

credit: Apple

Here's a pretty cool feature I've been using a lot since the first beta. Live Text enables you to use the camera to scan words the same way you would for QR codes, only this is better as you can do more than just lookup a single word. By opening your camera app and pointing it at the word you want an icon will appear at the bottom right of your screen.

This lets you know that the Live Text feature has recognized the word. You'll see brackets around the recognized text and by tapping on the icon iOS will bring that text into focus. You then have options on what you want to do with the text. My favorite use of this is the translation feature where iOS will translate the text for you. You can even have the text spoken in your native language as well as its original language. Live Text works with single words, sentences, and paragraphs. You can also use the feature to lookup text found in pictures, videos, and within apps.



Detailed Information in Photos

I found this one on accident but I love it. iOS 15 now comes with a feature that provides users with an information panel for their photos. This panel gives you detailed information about the photo where you can see things like what device the picture was taken on, the location, aperture, and even pixel density. Included in this is iOS ability to recognize who is in the photo and what. That's right. It's not the most accurate as of this post but say you have a picture of some flowers, when you activate the information panel iOS will recognize the said flowers and by tapping on the plant button that appears it will attempt to tell you what kind of flowers are in your picture.

Pretty cool huh? The feature works on plants, animals, music, text, and geographic locations. There are two ways of finding the information panel. You can either swipe up from the photo or video you're currently looking at or tap on the circled i button.



Hide My Email

Here's something that should be great for adding a layer of safety to your web browsing experience. The Hide My Email feature works by creating an email address that you can use when you're filling out subscriptions or order forms online and you don't want that merchant to know what your real email is. iOS will create an email address, and when someone sends messages to that address iOS will forward that message to you. Think of it as how a proxy hides your IP address (another feature in iOS 15 I'll cover later) this feature hides your email.

The great thing about this is you can delete the fake email address without it affecting your real, and ending those annoying spam messages. You'll have to be an iCloud+ user (if you're subscribed to iCloud you already are one) and to find this feature you go to your iCloud settings, tap on Hide My Email, and iOS will walk you through the setup. You can setup more than one proxy email and even label them so you know which is used with what merchant and where they forward messages to.


Background Sounds

Personal rant: why did Apple bury this soo deep in the settings? If you're a fan of ambient sounds you're going to love this. To find it open the Settings, tapping Accessibility, scrolling down to Audio/Visual, and last Background Sounds.

There are currently 6 sounds for balanced noise, bright noise, dark noise, ocean, rain, and stream. The sounds can be enabled to play on top of other media you have going or play individually and each setting has its own volume controls for you to customize how loud or quiet you want the sound to be. Apple says this feature is great for when you want to minimize distractions and help you to focus, be calm, or rest. Since finding it I have found myself using it more. Listening to music while playing sounds of rain or the ocean while working is perfect.



Safari Extensions

credit: Apple

Extensions have been around for a long while and if you're not familiar with what they are simply put a browser extension is an added feature or function a user can add to their browser which makes doing things in your browser simpler. Extensions can block unwanted ads, play and recognize music playing on a page, and even automatically apply discounts for you when shopping on certain stores. There's many a great benefit to using an extension and this feature is (finally) being added to iOS. By going to Settings, selecting Safari, then Extensions you'll see all of which you have installed currently.

If none are showing all you need do is tap on More Extensions to be taken to a dedicated section of the App Store just for Safari Extensions. As of now the majority of what's available are content blockers and security services. I suspect that as time progresses developers will add more. Once you've selected and downloaded the extension you want you may see a setup guide when you open the associated app. You can activate the extension from the same settings in Safari as before. Activating the extension will allow it run in the background. If you want to remove the extension you can either turn it off or delete the associated app altogether.



Add Hotel Keys to App Wallet

credit: Apple

Since the adding of an ultrawide band chip in the iPhone 11 companies have been adding their own uses of this technology. This chip allows your phone to communicate with specific hardware in the same manner you use NFC. This is how your iPhone recognizes AirPods or knows when a HomePod is near. Hotel chains are taking advantage of this and have made it so you can use your phone to unlock your room. They do this by sending you a digital key which is then added to your Apple Wallet.

credit: Apple

Once your phone is near the reader for said room it uses the UWB chip to wirelessly open the door, all without you ever needing to take the phone out of your pocket.

Car manufacturers such as BMW and Telsa are doing this and there's even a few home smart lock companies that are soon implementing this feature into their hardware.



Translate Text in Safari

Remember earlier when I was talking about you can translate text within photos using Live Text? That same functionality has been added to Safari. There isn't much to explain on using it as you'd select the word, or words as how you'd do to copy them and then select the option to translate.

A window then appears showing you the text in its native tongue and its translation into English or whichever language you specify.



FaceTime with Anyone...

Side note: I was going to name this "FaceTime with Android and Windows Users" as that's what this really does but let's be real....are there any other smartphones/laptops out there besides iOS, Android, or Windows?.....don't answer that :)

This is another simple concept and to be honest very useful feature as it bridges the gap between Apple and other devices. Should you want to FaceTime with a 3rd party device user all you would need do is open the FaceTime app and select Create Link. This will open the sharing table where you'd select a contact to send the link to. Upon opening it they will be taken to a screen where they'll enter in their name and create a FaceTime session with their fellow iOS user. This feature works the same way when setting it up on a Mac or iPad.


And there you have it. As stated this is part 1 of known and hidden features in iOS 15 and I hope you've found it useful. Be sure to check back for the sequel and if you haven't please subscribe so you'll be first to know when new articles are released. I'll have a video version of this posted on my YouTube channel for those that'd like to see some of this in action. Thanks for reading.

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