What are iOS 10's best new features, and what are the differences between iOS 10 and iOS 9? Which iPhones, iPads and iPod touch models can run iOS 10? How do I install iOS 10? What is the latest version of iOS 10?

Welcome to our complete guide to iOS 10, Apple's latest operating system software for iPhone and iPad. If you'd rather read about what we expect to see in the 2017 update to the iPhone and iPad operating system, see iOS 11 release date rumours.

iOS 10 was first announced and previewed at WWDC 2016 in San Francisco on 13 June 2016. iOS 10 was then released on 13 September as a free update to owners of iPhone 5 and later, iPad mini 2 and later, and the iPad 4, iPad Air and iPad Pro models. In this article we will examine the best and most interesting features of iOS 10, how to install iOS 10, and a list of the iPads and iPhones that can run iOS 10.

There have also been a number of updates to the latest version of Apple's iOS for iPad and iPhone since it was launched so we also run through the new features that arrived with each of those updates, as well as what features you can expect to see in future updates to iOS 10.

Read on to find out everything you need to know about iOS 10 and its subsequent updates.

Read next: Advanced iOS tips | Apple rumours and predictions for 2017 | iOS 11 rumours: release date and features

What's in the iOS 10.3 update? Plus: Why you need to back up before installing it

iOS 10.3 is expected to launch very soon - Apple has issued the seventh beta to developers for testing, and there are very few changes from the sixth beta, which is generally a strong sign that the final version is ready to land within days.

iOS 10.3 looks like a pretty hefty update with lots of new features. One new feature in particular will involve the entire file structure of your iOS device being converted to a new system, so before downloading and installing iOS 10.3, the advice is to back up your iPhone or iPad... or risk losing all your data.

The latest iOS 10 update changes the fundamental file structure of your iOS device from the HFS+ file format to the new Apple File System.

Switching to the Apple File System is a good move on Apple’s part because it will bring better encryption, improved time stamping, storage improvements and optimisations and more.

However, Apple File System and HFS+ aren't compatible, so in the background while your phone or tablet updates to iOS, every file will need to be converted to the new format - and once you have moved to Apple File System, you won't be able to revert back to HFS+ without completely reformatting your iPad or iPhone. This also means that if something goes wrong in the update process you could potentially lose all your data!

There are many other new features coming in iOS 10.3 aside from the file format update. We know what is coming because in January Apple released the iOS 10.3 beta to developers, and that beta update included a number of exciting new features for iPhone and iPad users. New features include:

Find My AirPods: this new feature will help reunite you with your misplaced iPhone 7 wireless earbuds.

Siri: There are also improvements to Siri and SiriKit, so Siri can now reveal international cricket game scores and allow you to pay bills, schedule rides with Uber and Lyft, check payments status and more.

Also new in iOS 10.3 will be widgets for the Podcasts app, a Reduce Motion preference in Safari, CarPlay app shortcuts, Apple's new APFS file system, hourly weather forecast in Maps via 3D Touch, the ability to review apps within an app rather than visiting the App Store - and for developers to publicly respond - and a colour-coded iCloud storage summary.

One of the other additions to iOS 10.3 sees Apple introducing an opt-in system to gather data from users to help improve a variety of its services - most notably Siri. Apple emphasises that any data will be secured and anonymised using "privacy preserving techniques," and users who choose to opt-in can change their mind and back out at any time by going to their device Settings, tapping 'Privacy', then 'Analytics', and turning off 'Share iCloud Analytics'. The aim is presumably to improve Siri's voice recognition, as well as the quality of its predictions and suggestions.

Unfortunately, the rumoured Theatre mode is not present in the beta. Forbes contributor Sonny Dickson suggested this mode would have a popcorn-shaped Control Center icon, and his report has triggered speculation about what the mode might involve. While some believe it will optimise video settings for watching films on an iPhone or iPad, others have worried that it's instead intended to help people use their phones while in the cinema or theatre, by dimming the screen and muting sounds and notifications. Apple has refused to comment.

In order to receive and install iOS beta builds you have to be a developer - see how to get iOS 10 and the beta version on our dedicated article.

You can keep up with the iOS version history here.

iOS 10.2 update: What's new in the iOS 10.2 update?

Apple released iOS 10.2 on Monday, 12 December 2016, but what new features does 10.2 offer users? Unfortunately for most of us, the biggest change is US-only: the new TV app, which aims to unify your TV and film watching from across several apps. Still, even if you're outside of the US, there are a few updates worth mentioning.

Emoji have been redesigned to be more detailed, while more than 100 new emoji have been added to the collection, so you can finally shrug at your friends over your iPhone, should the need arise.

There's also a new tool to preserve camera settings so that you don't need to reset them every time you re-open the app, along with a few new wallpapers and full-screen message effects, along with a few other smaller tweaks:

  • Widget for the Videos app
  • Be able to ‘Press and Hold to Speak’ menu under Home Button Accessibility settings
  • ‘Show Star Ratings’ option under Music Settings
  • Have the option to sort Apple Music playlists by title, type and recently added
  • See a introduction screen for Siri

It might be perceived to be a small upgrade but iOS 10.2.1, released on 23 January 2017, is an essential download. The new iOS update fixes a number of potentially devastating security holes, including two instances in which a malicious application could take complete control over your device. Our advice: update at once.

iOS 10.1 update: What's new in the iOS 10.1 update? 

Apple released iOS 10.1 to the public on Monday, 24 October 2016 after just over a month in beta testing - but what does iOS 10.1 offer, and why should we download it? While the update is rather standard for most, bringing with it a plethora of small improvements and bug fixes, it brings an entirely new feature to the dual-camera iPhone 7 Plus dubbed "Portrait Mode". 

What is Portrait Mode? Essentially, the iPhone utilises the pair of rear-facing cameras to analyse the photo and blur the background, leaving users with a photo comparable to something taken by a DSLR. While the feature is still in beta testing despite being released to the public, the feature provides impressive results. You can take a look at a few below, or head over to our dedicated article here: How to use Portrait Mode on the iPhone 7 Plus

iOS 10 UK release date: When did iOS 10 come out?

iOS 10 was announced and unveiled at WWDC 2016 in June, and was promptly released to app developers as a beta testing version, and shortly after to non-developer beta testers as part of the public beta. Since then Apple has steadily released updated beta versions of iOS 10.

This three/four-month gap between the iOS 10 announcement and its final public release gives developers a chance to squash any bugs and add any new features to their third-party iOS apps.

iOS 10 has proved popular since its release. As of 4 January 2017, just under four months after iOS 10's release, Apple reported that 76 percent of active iOS devices are running version 10, with 18 percent on iOS 9 and just six percent on iOS 8 or older versions. Read more: iPhone 7 review

iOS 10 compatible devices: Which iPads, iPhones and iPod touch devices can run iOS 10?

iOS 10 is a free upgrade for the following devices:

  • iPad 4 and later (ie, iPad 4, iPad Air, iPad Air 2, iPad Pro (9.7in and 12.9in)
  • iPad mini 2 and later (iPad mini 2, iPad mini 3, iPad mini 4)
  • iPod touch 6th generation
  • iPhone 5 and later (iPhone 5, iPhone 5c, iPhone 5s, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, iPhone SE)

Read more: Can my iPhone, iPad or iPod touch get iOS 10?

iOS 10 release date and new features: Podcast discussion about iOS 10 features

iOS 10 new features

At its WWDC unveiling, Apple focused on 10 new, redesigned or tweaked areas of iOS 10's feature set:

1. General redesign and user experience

Apple says it has "redesigned the experience of the lock screen". But before we get to that, there's a new feature that will mean you'll see more of the lock screen.

At the moment, particularly with the faster second-gen Touch ID fingerprint sensor in the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, there's a tendency to hit the Home button and blast straight to the Home screen, But Apple has unveiled Raise to Wake, which makes the iPhone light up, and go to the Home screen, when you just lift it up. One of several features where we'll see the influence of the Apple Watch on the iOS ecosystem, incidentally.

iOS 10 release date & new features

Onscreen notifications have become more interactive. There are now lots of 3D Touch shortcuts that let you respond to notifications in clever ways without leaving the lock screen, and plenty of dynamic features that can happen in the notification itself.

You can accept invitations, respond to messages, and stay in a messages thread, live, all on the lock screen. You can see live animated progress of your Uber driver after 3D Touching an Uber notification. And - exactly like on the Apple Watch - you can do 3D Touch press and then clear all notifications. That's a handy one, that.

Control Centre has been redesigned. We didn't see much of it in detail, but it looks like it's either customisable or varies in look depending on the context. At any rate it has multiple screens, so if you swipe from the right you get to a special music section. More generally, you can swipe from the right in the lock screen to bring up the camera. That'll be less fiddly than the small icon you had to swipe upwards in iOS 9. You can also swipe from the left to get a list of customisable widgets.

'Slide to Unlock' has been removed, and instead you'll see 'Press home to open'. Doing so will prompt you to enter your passcode or will unlock the phone if you use Touch ID.

2. Siri

The biggest change to Siri (other than the fact that it's launching on Mac! See our macOS Sierra update for that) seems to be that Apple is opening it up to 3rd-party developers. This means that you'll be able to activate non-Apple apps and functions via voice control.

As an example, Craig Federighi explained that you can now ask Siri things like "Send a WeChat to X" (or, using natural language, "WeChat Nancy that I'll be five minutes late" and so on). There will be Siri support in Slack, WhatsApp, Uber, Lyft, Shutterfly, Pinterest, Map My Run, RunKeeper and lots more apps.

On 19 July Apple added 'App Support' within Siri's settings.

Read next: Funniest things to ask Siri | Siri troubleshooting tips

3. QuickType

Apple is "bringing Siri intelligence to the keyboard". Which mainly manifests itself in the use of artificial intelligence and context cues to offer more suitable and relevant suggestions when typing. QuickType is pretty handy and a genuine time-saver at the moment, but remains unsophisticated. If it's half as good in iOS 9 as the demos suggested, it's about to get a lot better at predicting what you want to say.

What's more, QuickType is going to become more proactive at bringing in data from other apps and offering it as part of your responses. If someone asks where you are, it will offer your location as a suggested response; if someone asks for a person's email address and iOS thinks it knows who that is, it will suggest the relevant contact details.

There will be support for multilingual typing - in other words, not in just one language or another, but in a blend of the two. You won't have to switch keyboards to do this, Apple said, although they didn't offer details. Will you have to tell iOS that you want it to make suggestions in English and Spanish, say, but not French or Italian? Or will it learn your preferences on the fly? We really hope it's the latter.

4. Photos

Like QuickType, Photos has been given an injection of artifical intelligence. Apple says it will use deep learning techniques to analyse faces, places and objects - the company boasted, if we didn't mishear, that 11 billion computations are made per photo - and use its findings to build smart albums for you.

Photos can draw together linked photos and videos by place, people and time, and automatically create highlight reels and trip mementoes; Apple calls this 'Memories'. It demonstrated a good-looking photo/video album created from a holiday, where individual videos had been cut to include the most relevant bits of footage. Federighi was then able to adjust some sliders and see it remade with a different mood and length. All very impressive on stage, but we'll obviously need to test this for ourselves.

Read next: The 25 best iPhone tricks you didn't know existed

5. Maps

Maps gets a new design in iOS 10; like some of the other apps that have been revamped for this update, it looked broadly simpler and cleaner. Apple says the controls are easier to access.

Maps now does more in advance, with the proactive elements we've seen before in iOS coming to the fore. Slide upwards from the bottom of Maps and you get suggested destinations. If you normally go to work at this time, then your workplace will be on there. Another location may be drawn from a calendar appointment for this time.

You can sub-filter when searching for nearby businesses. Fitter for restaurants; then filter for seafood restaurants.

Like Google Maps, Apple Maps in iOS 10 takes traffic into account dynamically, and offers alternative routes on the fly if traffic makes them preferable. Unlike Google Maps (we think), its interface will zoom in and out cleverly, depending on the distance to the next turning and other factors.

iOS 10 release date & new features: Maps

And, like many of the other features here, Apple is opening Maps up to developers. (Openness is a theme tonight.) This means you'll be able to book a ride with Uber and pay for the ride using Apple Pay, all without leaving Maps.

Read next: Apple Maps vs Google Maps

6. Music

As we expected, Apple Music has had a major visual redesign - and to be fair, it looks good. It also gets onscreen lyrics for some songs, although you may have to wait for the lyrics for your favourite song to be added.

iOS 10 release date & new features: Apple Music

Better still, whilst taking Live Photos, your music will continue playing - allowing you to have uninterrupted music sessions.

We really like the look of Apple Music 2.0, and we've discussed it in far more detail in a separate article: Complete guide to Apple Music's new features.

On 19 July, Apple replaced the 'Downloads' section with 'Downloaded Music' within the Music app.

7. News

Quick one, this: Apple News has been redesigned - like the other apps here, it becomes cleaner and simpler. But more interestingly, Apple has added subscriptions in News. (More and more this is becoming the app that Apple wanted Newsstand to be.)

Now there is also a 'Breaking news' notifications from the app. You can toggle the feature from the app's settings and even custom-tune the publications you wish to see push notifications to your device.

You can access paid subscriptions, where you can read an unlimited amount of articles from various publications. There is also a widget for the News app, but given that it's still in beta expect it to be a little rough around the edges and only provide basic functionalities.

8. HomeKit & new Home app

And now a bigger one. Apple is getting serious about smart homes and the internet of things, launching a dedicated app, Home, for controlling all the appliances that are compatible with HomeKit.

If you open up Home, you'll see all your HomeKit-compatible accessories, no matter which company makes them, and you can easily control them all from one hub. Many of these will have 3D Touch shortcuts: you can force-tap and slide on a dimmer app, for instance, to adjust light levels.

There are some really nice features in Home. One is called Scenes, which is effectively a pre-customised set of adjustments across a range of accessories that you can activate with a single tap or Siri command.

In the demonstration, the user is getting ready for bed and taps a button in Home labelled 'Goodnight'. This invokes an entire raft of smart-home instructions: it locks the door, adjusts the thermostat, draws the curtains and so on. Similarly, there could be a 'Good morning Siri' command that gets your home ready for the day.

Home will be built into iOS's Control Centre, and Home notifications will be interactive - Apple demonstrated a door notification that can be 3D Touched, bringing up a live feed of the door camera and the ability to unlock the door.

On 19 July, Apple organised the 'Accessories' option found within the Control Panel of the HomeKit app.

Read next: Best HomeKit devices compatible with Apple Home app

9. Phone

The all-important but often neglected Phone app gets a single big enhancement: voicemail transcription. iOS will convert speech into text so you can glance through a voicemail without having to listen to it. Will be great if it's accurate enough (and remember that it doesn't need to be that accurate, since you're just trying to get the gist; if it's clearly important, you can just listen to the message).

One other update: Apple has pledged to work with third parties to provide more information about known voicemail spammers, so you can be warned when one is ringing.

10. Messages

And to finish up, a huge (if often slightly silly) update for what Apple pointed out is the most frequently used app in iOS. There are lots of small updates here, many of them clearly aimed at a young audience.

You'll be able to use rich links in Messages. Share a link and, as it would in Slack or Twitter, artwork and a precis of the article may be pulled in, so your friends can get an idea of the gist without having to click.

Emoji will be three times the size, and emoji will be incorporated into predictive text: bad news for those who are sick of all the emoji in messages they get from iPhone-owning mates. In fact it goes even further: Messages can scan a message you're about to send and highlight all the words that could be replaced with emoji. Tap them one by one and they'll transform into the appropriate pictures.

iOS 10 release date & new features: Messages

You'll be able to add various bubble effects to your messages, too.

You can make a message (including pictures, if you wish) come up in 'invisible ink', which means it's blurred out until the recipient swipes across it with a finger. This is designed for situations when you want to surprise someone with a nice message and want to delay the moment of gratification for a little longer. We'd hope that iPhone owners won't use this for dumping their other halves.

Other effects include 'Slam', which makes the speech bubble briefly bulge outwards dramatically, and others that make the text initially smaller than normal.

Wait, there's more. You can send handwritten messages; you can use Digital Touch and send your heartbeat (another nod to watchOS). You can use full-screen visual effects on your messages, so that the entire screen lights up with a garish laser show if that's what you want. It's all a bit much for us oldies but, to quote Marty McFly, your kids are going to love it.

Also see: How to use Messages in iOS 10.

Other features: Delete preinstalled apps

Apple didn't mention this in the keynote presentation for obvious reasons - it doesn't want to highlight the fact that users have been crying out for the ability to delete its apps. But they have been crying out for that, and for the ability to get back the storage space they were taking up. (Although Apple stresses that they don't take up much space anyway: "all of them together use less than 150MB".)

It's a huge relief that in iOS 10, you'll be able to ditch many of Apple's preinstalled apps from your iPhone or iPad, but it's worth pointing out that the apps aren't really "deleted" in the strict sense; all that happens is the app icon is hidden, links to functions like Siri are temporarily severed, and user data associated with the app is deleted. But the app itself remains on your system, albeit hidden from your view.

Amusingly, if you want to bring back the app after deleting it, iOS forces you to go through the charade of visiting the App Store, finding the app and 'redownloading it' - but really this could have been accomplished by just flicking a toggle switching in Settings. Apple does it this way in order to keep the user experience consistent.

How to delete preinstalled apps in iOS 10

We explain how to delete (or perhaps we should say, as Apple does, "remove") preinstalled apps in iOS 10 - and some workarounds that let you do roughly the same thing in iOS 9 and earlier - in a separate article: How to delete Stocks, Maps and other preinstalled apps on iPhone or iPad.

Other features: Apple Maps in iOS 10 remembers where you parked your car

If you happen to have a car with CarPlay you'll be pleased to know that iOS 10 now remembers where you've left your car. First discovered by 9to5Mac, Apple Maps now knows when you disconnect your iOS device with your phone from the car's Bluetooth.

The phone will remember where you last parked the car and give you directions back to it, so if you are often forgetful the new added feature is a nice addition. You can also edit the location of the parked car with an updated location and even add more context to the dropped pin, by adding the level/parking lot number.

Other features: RAW images in iOS 10

If you've got an iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, iPhone SE or 9.7-inch iPad Pro, there's good news: you're going to get the option to take RAW images, meaning captured images will offer a lot more level of detail for those wanting to professionally edit the photos. The RAW images will be bigger in file size, of course, so there are down sides.

The RAW images functionality will only be available through the rear-facing camera and you won't be able to use image stabilisation.

Read next: How to use Swift Playgrounds and learn to code

Other features: Safari web policies

On 25 July, Jer Noble published a blog post on WebKit informing developers and users that silent videos will now be available for automatic playback while keeping the ones with audio on pause.

This means that websites can look and feel different, due to the change in iOS policies. For example, this allows GIFs in Apple's mobile Safari browser to automatically playback without the need of user interaction.

This will need to be adopted by web developers for the changes to be felt by end-users, but nevertheless, Apple has relaxed its iOS web policies in iOS 10, which will give developers more control, whilst allowing readers to have a better web Safari experience.

Other new features

You'll now be able to enable or disable the read receipts that were introduced back in iOS 7 on an individual basis. Currently you can only universally change it, but now you'll be able to change it per contact or group.

There are very slight changes to the app and folder animations, which make the folders in your app drawer zoom in from the centre of the screen, rather than the folder's location on your screen.

Live Photos now feature image stabilisation, which will hopefully help make the images a little clearer.

The default Clock app now has a Wake Alarm and Bedtime feature. As well as waking you up, you can choose to be reminded when it's time to go to sleep in order for you to get your desired hours of rest.

Like macOS Sierra and its storage optimisation option, iOS 10 can be instructed to automatically remove files from your device that haven't been used in a long time, such as songs you rarely play.

Game Center is no more, and has been completely removed from the default stock apps - this is the result of apparently less than 1% of people actually using it. There are

The Safari app has also received some love, with the mobile browser now having the ability to open unlimited tabs, whereas in iOS 9 you could only open 36 tabs. Speaking about tabs, you can now close all tabs, rather than individually going through each tab and closing it - a useful feature for those who tend to leave many tabs open at once. To do this in the new iOS 10, tap and hold on the new Tab button within Safari and you'll be presented to close all your Tabs at once.

Within Safari, you can also play in-line videos without having to watch the video in fullscreen mode. This simple functionality allows you to continue reading the given article, whilst having a video play in the background.

You can now clear all of your notifications within the Notification Center, allowing you to quickly clear those Instagram likes...or messages.

3D Touch can be used to rename folders, control downloads and have Siri suggest recommended apps.

With tvOS, you can now use the new Apple TV Remote app, to control your Apple TV.

The iMessage App has received an update with new animated stickers. Classic Mac, hands, hearts and smileys are the four new sticker packs freely available to download. We're sure there will be even more packs available in the future, especially from third-party companies.

Speaking of messages, you're now able to send low quality images through the Messages app, which lets you conserve data.

You can now 3D Touch Quick Action items. This makes using the Quick Actions within your Control Centre a lot faster and easier. For example, you can now change the Flashlight's intensity with three separate levels of brightness - very handy!

Widgets can now work in a larger format. Previously certain apps, such as the calculator or calendar apps wouldn't display properly due to widget limitations. Now with larger widgets, these apps work a lot better in a widget-format.

As Slide to Unlock has disappeared in iOS 10, Apple has provided the option to simply rest your finger on the screen to unlock it. You can find the 'Rest Finger to Unlock' option within the Accessibility settings.

Widgets in the Notification Centre are now accessible through the Home Screen. Previously, you were only able to see widgets through the 'Today' section. That's now a thing of the past, as you're now able to view it in both sections.

When a lightning port with moisture is connected to an iPhone 6s (or later), a warning is displayed. The warning suggests you disconnect your iPhone from the lightning port to prevent any water damage for occurring.

There is a new look on the Control Centre, making it look a lot more elegant on first launch.

You can now see a date within the Notification Centre.

Apple Music now features the star ratings again, a feature which was popular among some users. Apple have also replaced the headphone logo with an output icon.

You can now quick-reply to messages through a fullscreen pop-up.

There is a whole set of new emojis added and a few that have been updated, such as the revolver pistol is now a green water gun.

Dark Mode: The new feature that got away

It was widely expected that iOS 10 would feature a new viewing mode called Dark Mode, with black backgrounds more suitable and restful for nighttime viewing. In the event, Apple announced exactly that, but for tvOS instead, and iOS Dark Mode remains missing in action.

If you'd like to know more about Dark Mode - how to enable it on your Mac or Apple TV, the prospects of it arriving on iPhone and iPad, and some other Settings options in iOS 10 that produce similarly restful effects when viewing an iPhone or iPad screen at night, see How to enable Dark Mode on Mac & Apple TV, and when will Dark Mode come to iPhone & iPad?

WWDC 2016: Podcast - WWDC report

The UK Tech Weekly Podcast dissects the announcements of WWDC, including iOS 10, in its 19th episode. We've embedded the audio below in case you'd like to hear what the team have to say. The WWDC section starts at the 26:30 point.

A new episode of the UK Tech Weekly Podcast comes out every Friday. Follow the show on Twitter for links to the latest episodes.

Macworld poll: Will you update to iOS 10?

Are you convinced by the new features we've discussed in this article? Let us know if you'e planning to install the new OS by taking part in our poll:

For more details about all the announcements at WWDC 2016, head to our dedicated WWDC roundup page.

That's it for now, but if you'd like to read the predictions we made ahead of the launch and see how we got on, turn to the second page of this article.