It hasn’t been long since Apple released iOS 16.0 with over 350 new features, but iOS 16.1 is hot on its tail with even more cool updates for your iPhone. While some of the recent upgrades were expected, others are somewhat surprising — and there’s even one that you may not even think was possible.
Apple’s iOS 16.1 update is still in beta testing, but you can install the beta on your iPhone right now if you want to start testing the below features out before everyone else. Some of these features also appear on iPadOS 16.1 for iPad, also still in beta.
1. Larger Numbers for Battery Percentage
On iOS 16.0, Apple finally added a switch in the Battery settings on Face ID devices to enable the battery percentage in the status bar, something Touch ID devices have long been able to do. The update put the percentage inside the battery icon, and iOS 16.1 makes the numbers larger and easier to see. Below, you can see the icons before and after in light and dark modes.
2. Battery Percentage for More iPhones
While iOS 16.0 lets us add the battery percentage to the battery icon in the status bar on Face ID devices, it’s not available on all Face ID models. Specifically, the iPhone XR, 11, 12 mini, and 13 mini are left out, presumedly because of their smaller displays. The iOS 16.1 update adds support for those models, so now all iPhone models that can run iOS 16 can get the new battery icon.
3. Clean Energy Charging
Go to Settings –> Battery, then open up the “Battery Health & Charging” menu, previously just “Battery Health,” and you’ll see a new option called “Clean Energy Charging.”
Apple says your iPhone “will try to reduce your carbon footprint by selectively charging when lower carbon emission electricity is available.” It goes on to say your iPhone “learns from your daily charging routine so it can reach full charge before you need to use it.”
The setting should be automatically enabled by default, but the “Learn More” link goes to a non-existing webpage, which should go live when iOS 16.1 stable is released.
4. Live Activities
Live Activities are finally here. They appear on the bottom of your iPhone’s lock screen, as well as in the Dynamic Island for the iPhone 14 Pro and 14 Pro Max models, and display an app’s most current data, updated in real time.
Live sports games in the Apple TV app is one example of what Live Activities can do. Pick a live game available in your region from the Live Sports section, then tap the “Follow” button. You’ll then see the play-by-play and real-time scores on your lock screen and in the Dynamic Island if you have an iPhone 14 Pro or 14 Pro Max. Right now, I can only get it to work with MLB games.
According to Apple, a Live Activity can only be active for up to eight hours in the Dynamic Island, but it can go as long as 12 hours on the lock screen. So on the iPhone 14 Pro and 14 Pro Max, a Live Activity would disappear from the Dynamic Island after eight hours but remain on your lock screen for up to four more hours. Needless to say, you can stop following a Live Activity at any time.
There are also four different viewing modes for Live Activities in the Dynamic Island: a compact leading view, a compact trailing view, a minimal view, and an expanded view.
5. Live Activities API
Live Activities aren’t just available for Apple’s apps — any third-party developer can incorporate them into their apps using the new ActivityKit framework. Examples of activities you could track include a ride pickup from Uber or Lyft, package delivery from UPS or FedEx, food delivery from GrubHub or DoorDash, pickup order for Starbucks or Target, workout using Nike or Health, and so on.
While developers are now building Live Activities for their apps, you won’t be able to try any out until the iOS 16.1 stable release appears. That’s because developers can’t submit their updated apps with Live Activities to the App Store until the iOS 16.1 Release Candidate is available, the last beta build. You may be able to find beta apps on TestFlight that are experimenting with Live Activities.
6. Download In-App Content Before First Launching Apps
There’s a new toggle in Settings –> App Store for “In-App Content,” which will “automatically run apps in the background to download content before you first launch them” when enabled. You’ll notice the change mostly in games and navigation apps that need a lot of resources to run correctly. The App Store has file size limits, but developers can push the required resources after the initial app installation.
It is unclear if the feature only applies during the app’s initial installation or if it can also install new in-app content in the background after manually or automatically installing an app update. After installing the iOS 16.1 update, this toggle should be enabled by default.
7. Subscribe to Fitness+ Without Apple Watch
Before iOS 16.1, you had to have an Apple Watch to subscribe to Fitness+ in the Fitness app. Now, you don’t need one, but you’d be missing out on all the health and fitness metrics displayed on the Apple Watch during a workout. If you don’t care about that data and just want to follow along to a workout session, Fitness+ is now a viable option.
8. New Shortcut Actions
The iOS 16.0 update added almost 60 new actions in the Shortcuts app, and iOS 16.1 throws a few more in. One is “Get Current Focus” for the Settings app, which returns the currently active focus. The other is “Search in Shortcuts” for the Shortcuts app, which opens Shortcuts and performs a search for the specified text.
9. Better Categories for Shortcut Icon Glyphs
On iOS 16.0.3. and earlier, whenever choosing a shortcut icon, the icon picker would categorize all the glyphs by Objects, People, and Symbols — that’s it. (Left GIF below.) With such few groups, it’s better just to use the search tool.
On iOS 16.1, there are now categories for Accessibility, Arrows, Automotive, Camera & Photos, Commerce, Communication, Connectivity, Devices, Editing, Fitness, Gaming, Health, Home, Human, Indices, Keyboard, Math, Media, Nature, Objects, Objects & Tools, People, Privacy & Security, Shapes, Symbols, Text Formatting, Time, Transportation, and Weather, not necessarily in that order. (Right GIF below.)
10. Delete Apple Wallet
If you don’t use Apple Pay, Apple Cash, Apple Card, or store loyalty cards and tickets in Apple Wallet, you can finally delete the Apple Wallet app. Before, you could only remove it from the home screen, hiding it in the App Library, but now it can be gone for good.
11. Lock Screen Customization Changes
Apple is making the lock screen and home screen customization less confusing on iOS 16.1. Now, whenever you hit the “Customize” button for a lock screen in the lock screen switcher, it will give you a choice between editing the lock screen or home screen wallpaper.
Previously, it would jump right to the lock screen editor when you tapped “Customize.” Then, when you were done editing it, you would get an option to “Set as Wallpaper Pair” or “Customize Home Screen.” You’ll still see those two options when adding a new lock screen.
12. Switch Wallpaper Pairs from Settings
Apple continues to tweak wallpaper management, and iOS 16.1 gives us better options via Settings –> Wallpapers. Before, you could only customize your current wallpapers or add a new pair — you couldn’t switch between all your pairs. The new interface fixes that.
The wallpaper settings will show your current pair of wallpapers, and you can swipe left or right to find the wallpaper set you want to switch to, and you can hit “Set as Current” to make the change. While there’s a redesigned “Add New Wallpaper” button below the previews, you can also swipe left to the very end of the previews and hit the plus (+) on the blank set to build and use a new pair.
13. Screenshot Editor Changes
When you tap on the thumbnail after taking a screenshot to open the editor, everything should look the same until it’s time to exit the editor. Tap “Done,” and instead of a large action sheet that takes up the bottom half of the screen (left screenshot below), you’ll get a smaller contextual menu near the “Done” button itself (right screenshot below).
14. iCloud Shared Photo Library
If you use Family Sharing to share content with your partner, kids, and other family members, iCloud Shared Photo Library is another feature you can now take advantage of. It can be shared with up to five users, and everyone can add, edit, favorite, caption, and delete content.
You can include all your photos in the shared library or use the setup tools to include only specific content based on a start date or group of people. People can also add content manually or share media automatically via a switch in the Camera app, using a Bluetooth proximity trigger, or from sharing suggestions in For You.
Content from your iCloud Shared Photo Library may appear in the Photos widget, under your Featured Photos in For You, or as memory videos.
15. Matter Support
Matter, a new unifying open connectivity standard for the Home app, Siri, Control Center, and HomeKit-based apps, enables secure, IP-based communication among a wide range of compatible smart home devices and accessories.
Designed by the Connectivity Standards Alliance, which includes hundreds of companies like Apple, Amazon, and Google, the royalty-free protocol makes devices and accessories from different companies work together seamlessly across platforms. According to Apple, it will “provide more choice and interoperability for customers.”
Amazon Echo, Google Home, and Samsung SmartThings are just some of the smart home tech that will work with Matter. To use Matter accessories, you’ll need a home hub, such as an Apple TV or HomePod device.
While it’s not there now, you may be able to see all of your connected Matter accessories via Settings –> General –> Matter Accessories.
16. Game Center Improvements
The Contacts app will show your friends’ Game Center profiles, and you can tap through to see what games they’re playing and the achievements they’re accomplishing. There’s also a new toggle in Game Center for “Allow finding by friends” and a new splash screen for it called “Help Your Friends Find You.”
Help your Game Center friends find you more easily based on the name they have for you in their Contacts app. To do this, Game Center will use the email address and phone number associated with your Apple ID.
Multiplayer games that work with Game Center are also expected to work with SharePlay, so you can play games with your friends during FaceTime calls.
17. Lock Screen Charging Indicator Changes
Whenever you plug your iPhone into power on iOS 16.0.2 and earlier, it shows the battery icon on the lock screen with the current battery percentage below it. On iOS 16.1, it shows the current charge above the battery, and when you tap your iPhone to wake it, you’ll also see the current charge above the time to keep you updated on the charging progress.
18. Disable Volume Swipe for AirPods Pro 2
The iOS 16.1 software adds a new switch to your AirPods Pro 2’s settings for “Volume Swipe.” With it on, which was the only option prior to iOS 16.1, you can adjust the volume by swiping up or down on the sensor located on the AirPods Pro stem. With it off, swiping won’t do anything, which is helpful if you keep accidentally adjusting your volume.
There are still a few things Apple said were coming later this year that aren’t fully implemented yet on iOS 16.1, including key sharing via messaging apps, starting Live Activities from a Spotlight Search result, Live Activities for App Clips, and its new Freeform app.
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